Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Thoughts on Workshops, Clinics, Books, Articles and Critiques

I was reading an article yesterday from Hunter Rawlings in THE WASHINGTON POST, titled, College Is Not A Commodity. Stop Treating It Like One. A colleague of mine from a college that I do adjunct work sent it to me via Facebook. While the article was focusing on the issue of "What truly makes an education valuable", I was thinking about it when it comes to all of the resources available to authors to improve their writing.

Rawlings comments that students need to make a "commitment to breath it [the learning] in and be enlivened by it." He goes on to say that "Students need to apply themselves to the daunting task of using their minds," In other words, the learning is coming from what they put into the education and not just from the curriculum or the teachers. This directly applies to all of that learning available to authors.

There is a pretty good bet, if you are someone reading this article today, you are one of those authors who scans the Internet, reading blog posts, articles and discussion boards for that golden nugget of information to move you one step closer to being published or selling a ton of books. You might be someone who takes workshops. But, what you have to remember is that learning is not just going to happen. You are going to have to think about how it applies to each of your individual writing situations.

I find that, too often, writers seem to believe there is one solution for everything. For example, they are learning to write their query letters so they dive on an agent's website known for talking about query letters. They read it and then take it for the gospel truth. In reality, all they did was copy a pattern but they didn't really take the time to THINK about why the author of that query did that specific thing in the query. If someone tells them something else, they immediately shut down proclaiming the "new information" is wrong because the prior person said something else. What the author failed to realize is this "new information" was just another approach. Again, what the author failed to do was to THINK at why this new information applied to a different situation.

When I do critiques of, say query letters, I will often insert comments such as "While there are differing opinions on this, I recommend..." I do this to remind people to be able to use the material from the critique they found useful, or, if they don't like that approach, they can ignore it. This idea is just one of many ideas.

But this argument goes a step further, and is something I get really angry about. I get really frustrated when an author does get to be finally published, and, for some reason, he or she now feels they don't need any further education. It is as if the education was only good to get to that published stage, but now, the author is THE EXPERT. Far from it. There is always learning to be done.

We see this in education as well. When people earn that Master's Degree or their Ph.D. they suddenly feel as if learning is below them.

If authors really want to make it out there in this competitive market, they need to realize that they have to continue to learn, and more importantly THINK. They have to take course and workshops, even if it is "below" them. They get out of it what they put into it.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, continued learning is the key to everything. I read in an article once, some study that compared people who had not gone onto college to those who had their degrees. Many of the former felt the lack so keenly that they kept learning on their own, whereas many "quit" after they got their degree. In some follow-up test (this was years ago, so the details are fuzzy), the ones with degrees scored lower than the ones without degrees.