At different times I’ve considered writing to be my hobby, my dream, my passion, and my profession, and while all of those labels are accurate; I think writing has also become a very unique form of education, a program where I am both the student and the instructor.
For many, reading is a leisurely activity, but what about when you’re reading a story so that you can write a review? When I’m reading for a review, I move much more slowly. For each chapter I write a brief summary, noting the major events, conflicts, and any striking characteristics of the writing, positive or negative. It’s an in-depth analysis that helps me perceive how scenes build up towards larger patterns, creating overarching themes and motifs.
Similarly, nonfiction can be entertaining. I’ve certainly enjoyed learning how other professions practice their craft, but it’s always casual. I never worry about retaining the information, in contrast with when I’m learning more about writing. I take copious notes, and as part of my process I read over my notes, consolidating them into something more comprehensive. In some ways the product resembles my own textbook on writing and storytelling, though I doubt it will ever be “complete”.
Once I started blogging I found many new sources of articles and ideas, as well as the opportunity to discuss and debate with others via comments. Granted, writers’ groups provide some opportunity for discourse, but anyone who takes the time to write a blog post about a topic definitely has something to say. Through comments we’re able to have a lively discourse, evolving our understanding of the topic.
Writing stories remains the core of it all, the reason behind all the rest, but the need to continue learning, analyzing, and discussing cannot be overlooked. Taken together, I’m struck by how “writing” becomes much more than a solitary activity, or even a symbiotic relationship built on mutual support and constructive feedback. It’s a program of study reminiscent of those found at colleges and universities. The most striking differences are the fact that the program never ends, and that we are both student and professor. We determine our own curriculum, and we set the bar which we ourselves must meet if we are to complete a specific “course of study”.
What do you think?
Do you ever feel like you’ve enrolled yourself into a program?
Do you ever feel like you’re in the middle of a “class” or “study” on a specific aspect of writing?
This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.
31 thoughts on “Discussing Writing as as a Lifelong Education-Author Toolbox Blog Hop”
I have a sort of off-the-cusp question for you, tied into this: how do you choose which books to review and which books you read for pleasure, since you read differently when you’re reading a book to review?
Since starting the blog, almost every book I’ve read has initially been a review. I would say half I go back and reread for fun afterwards.
As for how I choose, often I look for either a book that someone I know feels very passionate about, or a book that, I hope, will have something to teach me. Coraline and Bob Drifter are two examples that I chose for fun, while Lovecraft, Synners, and Schismatrix were all books I read to learn from.
Gotcha! I was more curious than anything else.
If I may, how do you choose whether or not to review a given story?
Oh, I just read for fun and then if I liked it, I write a review for it. I’m pretty quirky with mine, so it’s low pressure. Occasionally, I might get books from a publisher/author/agent they want me to review, so I’ll read and review those regardless of whether I liked it or not. But I’m always honest!
Great post! Writing has certainly been an educational experience for me (and one I’m trying to formalize a little more), but I do have a bit of the “both student and teacher” feeling whenever I write and read now. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you as well. And I agree. I think one of the most important aspects of a strong writer is the willingness to embrace the never-ending journey of discovery and learning. Even if one could “learn it all”, there’s simply too much for one person to remember it all. That’s why I’m such a firm believer in taking notes, and why I’m such a big fan of the Find function in programs like Word.
I definitely put on my teacher hat when I’m giving feedback and my student hat when I’m reading studying more about the craft.
But I feel like I have learned more about what makes good writing by giving feedback to other writers over reading craft books. I feel like the craft books reaffirm what I have already noticed
I often find that craft books provide a solid pattern or convention, but it’s the individual experiences that really help me see the truth of what they’re saying.
I also agree with you that experiencing both sides of the relationship, whether it’s reader and writer, or author and editor, is very helpful. Everyone sees things through the lens of their own perspective. Many times, while providing feedback to others, I suddenly realized how “this” mirrored one of my own experiences.
I think I’m a student and maybe a T.A. at best. 🙂 Maybe I should give myself a doctorate in a few years though. I’ve never had one of those. Great post!
Oh, and just a note on the visibility of your post. If you add a keyword like ‘toolbox’ or ‘#authortoolboxbloghop’ to your title, other participants will know exactly which post to click on. 🙂
In many ways I think I only give myself the title of instructor because most of the time there’s no one else in the room, and someone has to accept the mantle.
I am actually studying creative writing now in my Masters degree. But yes, I’m always learning. There’s so much to learn about writing and in the process of writing. The world around creative writing changes so much, too. We shouldn’t write now like the classicists did for example, because it’s no longer on trend. The publishing world has also changed enormously. Also, I learn a lot about other subjects during research for stories. While writing the beginning of a memoir for an assignment, I also learned a lot about my brother and mother, even myself. Without learning, I think I’d shrivel up and die!
It’s good that you enjoy learning so much. I tend to feel the same way. The fact that there is no end can be troubling, but it’s also a reassurance that the path is clear.
I think writing is an ongoing education. We’re never done (kind of like building a social media platform!). Knowing that is freeing, because then I don’t have to feel bad that I don’t know it all. I just have to concentrate on learning the next thing.
Very true. Heck, sometimes I forget things, and have to refer back to my notes. I think there’s an old saying that a person has to learn and forget something 3 times before they can master it.
Hi Adam. Great post. I think the endless education is one of the things that has kept me driven to pursue writing as a profession instead of just a hobby. I knew I was constantly learning, but I never realized how much it is like “going to school” with the community. That is a great insight and probably yet another reason I love it. Can’t wait to learn more from you in the future!
Many thanks. If I may, consider browsing through the Discussion and Writing archives, as well as the Writing Index.
Joining the writing community is like a separate life, connecting in away I never could in the day-to-day. Sure I learn and I share and I do all I can help, because there was a time that is what several kind people did for me. I’m paying it forward. 🙂
Anna from elements of emaginette
It is a wonderful opportunity to connect with others, without being limited by geography.
Each time I learn something new on the craft, I reassess my past and current works to see if they have any similarities from what I have learned and is my own work better or worse for it. But the best part is learning something new always makes me itch to write better. I love that I can see my writing solidifying, becoming more significant with each new lesson. I enjoyed reading this!
Ohmygosh, so much this! I view being a writer the same way, and was excited to read your perspective. I love that, in this industry, the more we learn, the more we need to know. May we never stop growing.
Hi Adam, Yes, writing is a form of continuing education. If we ever think we know it all, we should stop writing. There’s always more to learn to help us improve. I’m impressed with the process in which you read for review. I review nearly every book I read, but I’m not as compulsive as you are. I tried to read it as a “reader” would versus as a writer would. Somewhere I read that the brain acts differently when reading vs. when writing. In other words, when we read, our brain is not actually in learning to write mode. We’re in reader mode. What I learned was that to use reading as a way to learn to write, one must read compulsively as you do. To read as a reader, one need not do so.
Clearly you’ve got it figured out. As for me, I’m still enjoying my pleasure reading. If I decide to read to learn how a writer created plot or developed theme, I will need to re-read my favorite books.
Thank you, though, as you say, I don’t think anyone has it all figured out, and my review process is far too time consuming at the moment.
I have a review process similar to yours but I make life easier by (though it makes me sad because my true love is physical, written books) using my kobo and kindle apps as much as possible to be able to highlight text and make notes right then and there and continue on so it is not such an extended process.
Reasonable. I also tend to take notes while reading. I have my book or Kindle in front of me, and I sit at a computer with a Word document open, pausing to jot things down, and write up a little “what did I think” after each chapter. It’s definitely fun to really get into the thick of “why and how” a story works, particularly the masters who really know what they’re doing. Every time I reread Herbert or Sanderson I feel like I learn something new. 🙂
Oh, I always have my little notebook with me as well! And how couldn’t continually learn from Sanderson? He’s fantastic!
Indeed. If I may, do you have a favorite from among his work?
Also, any favorite books or authors you generally recommend, if I may?
I loved the Mistborn trilogy… but, is it sad to say that some of my favourite books written by him were his “Alcatraz vs.” series?? Don’t ask me why.. but, a absolutely ADORED them!
I have too many books and authors that I have loved, but some of the most recent would be
Books: Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Catling’s Bane by D. Wallace Peach (which I just finished and really enjoyed!)
And Authors I would say Anything by Brent Jones, Scott Meyer or Hadena James just to name a couple from different genres!
Thank you. I’ll have to look into those.
I recognize D. Wallace Peach. I follow their blog from time to time.
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