Thursday, September 5, 2013

School is in Session

When we think of learning, we think of school.  But that's really narrow-minded.  School is only one part of learning and not even the first part.  We begin to learn the moment we're born.  We shouldn't stop until we breathe our last breath.

We learn by instruction, doing, and keeping our eyes, ears, and minds open.  That last--keeping ourselves open, is probably the most important, because without it, instruction and doing will often fail.

I'll be the first in the line that's formed for those who have learned by mistake.  That doesn't mean I give up.  I keep trying.  I keep learning.

Knowledge is like the tip of an iceberg.  What we know is above the water, and it may seem abundant, but below the water is the real stuff.  That's what we don't know, but should learn.  Add the ocean water surrounding it, and it seems endless.  Learning is endless.

One of the ways I learn, other than by all those mistakes, is sharing with others.  Yesterday evening, I attended my critique group meeting.  There are four of us, all writers.  Two of us are published, and the other two are on their way to being published.  None of us would ever say we know everything.  All of us share and continue to learn.

How do we learn?  For me, it's three things.  Seeing, doing, and sharing.


As I'm sure I've stated before, I'm visual.  Seeing things helps.  That's why I always took copious notes in school.  Hearing it just didn't do the trick.  Writing it and seeing the words or drawings or whatever was needed, helped embed it in my brain aka learn.  I find that a bit strange, because I loved being read to as a child.  Of course, once I learned to ready on my own, it changed and became better.

I've critiqued with others for over fifteen years in both written and verbal form.  Written works better for me, whether on the giving or getting end.  In our group, we each read our work to be critiqued.  Sure, I can do it, but give me a paper with print on it, and I'll do a much better job.  Still, something is better than nothing, and sometimes hearing something will make a good thing or a not so good thing jump out.  Yes, we writers are storytellers, but we tell our stories with the written word.  I am eternally grateful to writers.  I might miss the good stuff, otherwise.


When I came home from critique group last night, my daughter was watching a spin-off of Dance Moms on TV.  I don't watch a lot of TV, myself.  I have a few favorites that are must-sees, but I don't watch every night.  Not that I've always been that way, but to have the time to write and read, I gave up a lot of TV.  One of the judges--if you've ever watched Dance Moms, you'll know who this is--never sugar coats anything.  She's blunt, sometimes to the point of rude.  But the point I see and that she made on the show last night was that the young people who are dancing at competitions are professional dancers.  It isn't easy, it often isn't fun, and it takes a lot of hard work, learning routines, steps, and all the other things that go along with being professional.

After the program was over, I turned to my daughter and said,  "If they can't take the judge's criticism, they need to find a new dream."  Harsh?  Yes.  True.  Yes.  Those young people will have to learn that there will always be criticism.  "It's like getting rejections," I said.  "It hurts.  It can really hurt.  And often we (writers) will quit or at least want to.  Many of us don't.  We simply try harder, keep learning and working toward our dream, whatever it may be."

That's "doing."  Those revisions, those critique groups, those contests we enter, and those rejection letters we collect on the way are all a part of learning.  We learn and grow and make changes.


After joining RWA and my local writers' group, I discovered that the people involved in writing, especially romance writers, are over-the-top generous.  The sharing and helping goes on wherever you look.  Conferences and conference workshops, writers' groups, critique groups and writing friends are always there to lend an ear, a suggestion, a hand to pull us up when we're down.

I've already stated that I'm a pantster turned plotter.  Over almost twenty years of writing, I've created and learned how to plot in a way I can understand.  Like me, it isn't perfect.  It didn't come instantly.  Everyone has his/her own way to do it.  I'm always looking for ways to tweak "my way," especially when I hit a bump in the writing or plotting.  I ask others how they go about planning their story.  Often, there's a small grain of something I can use to help make my plotting and writing better.  And I'll share the way I do it, too.  Isn't that what sharing is all about?

Never, never, never be afraid to ask questions.  That's one of the best ways to gain knowledge.  And when the table is turned and a question is asked, offer your own experiences, good and bad.

We'll never know everything, and that's okay, because it's nice to keep learning.  An "aha" moment is worth it's weight in gold.  Happy learning!
The world is a university and everyone in it is a teacher.  Make sure when you wake up in the morning you to go school. ~ Bishop T.D. Jakes

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