Thursday, March 28, 2013

Never Stop Learning

Imagine what it would be if we never learned.

Through our five senses--and even a sixth--there are countless ways we learn.  From the moment we take our first breath, we are constantly using information that comes to us from those senses.  Our brains are using this information to teach us.  As newborns, we quickly learned that a cry will bring comfort, whether it's food, a dry diaper, or the security of a parent's arms.  We become toddlers, whose first steps become walking.  From hearing others, we learn speech, and soon learn that when we're good, we are often rewarded, if only with a smile.  We continue to grow into a child making friends, then going off to school, where we begin to understand what learning is.

In school, we learn to read and write, to calculate numbers and what is out there besides what's in our little corner of the world.  We learn how we're each different and yet the same in many ways.  Some embrace the knowledge and continue to learn throughout life.  Those who struggle, often give up, but even so, learning continues.

As writers--one of the many branches of artistic creativity--we must keep learning.  As the world changes, so must we.  Learning is the key to doing that.

When reading articles and how-tos online, I often print the ones I want to keep for reference later.  Right now, it's a hodgepodge of topics, but the plan is to sort through them and keep the files updated.  I've learned that although I might not agree with everything, there's often a tidbit of information that I can not only use, but grow into something more. Learning.

In the 15+ years since I first began to write for real--you know, writing with a focus on  publication...someday--I've learned more than what one would think the human brain can hold.  And yet I still pursue more knowledge, because there's no way to know everything.  I'm not the only one.

Several of us in our local writers' group have begun delving into GMC.  I know, I repeat myself about that subject, but there are countless reasons why, the first being that it's important.  Although the group had gone over this many years ago, sharing it with members and revisiting has fallen to the side.  But with new members coming in the past couple of years, and questions being asked about things that pertain to GMC, it seemed like a good time to look at it again.  We're doing it on our email loop for the past week and a half, and people are learning new things.  Doing it on the loop means we're not set to a specific time and length, and we're able to share more and with greater specifics.

It all comes down to helping.  If I'd chosen to go it alone those many years ago, I might still be struggling to get a manuscript in front of an editor.  Fate stepped in with the advent of the internet for un-savvy people like me, who didn't know a byte from RAM, and I discovered a chat room for romance writers.  In that room, I met several people who became close friends.  One in particular was a RITA Finalist in RWA, who didn't chat much because she was working on her entry, in case an editor requested the full manuscript.  We met up in person a little over a month later in Dallas at RWA's National Conference and became friends.  She knew a lot more about writing romance than I did and helped me along the way.  Together, we were part of a few different critique groups, learning with others the ins and outs of romance writing.  We met others online via email loops full of writers.  Four of us who were closest sold within a year of each other, but I can guarantee that if I hadn't had the supreme luck of finding that chatroom and took the plunge to enter it, that wouldn't have happened for me.

Anything done well takes time.  A large majority of writers had written for several years before finally selling that first manuscript.  Working with other writers--and meeting new friends--to achieve that dream is as good as the dream itself.

Today, there are more opportunities than ever to meet other writers and find a handful that are just right for you.  It may take some time to learn which are the best for you, but it's worth the time.  When it comes to published authors, they may not have the time to take to teach individuals, but if asked for where to find help and information, they're usually happy to oblige.  All it takes is asking.

Yes, I'm still learning, sometimes because of mistakes as simple as not enough conflict or characters who don't jump off the page the way they need to, and sometimes because I need a refresher course or different way to do something.

If you want to learn, too, get involved.  There are writers' groups all over the country to join, there's Facebook and Twitter and Google + and more where new acquaintances can be made.  Articles online can be invaluable for someone looking for information on writing, as can a local library.  It doesn't take money to learn, when it comes to writing, but it does take desire.  I hope yours is growing, every day.
Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.  ~ Chinese Proverb

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