Thursday, July 10, 2008

Professional Development--A Season For Everything

"How long have you been writing?"
"Did you go to college for it?"
"How did you learn to write?"

The three questions above are probably some of the most popular, frequent, and consistent that writers of all stripes get asked (I wish I could say, "get asked by their adoring public," but it's usually some half-pickled, barely-known co-worker at an office party who will then leer when it's brought up that what you write is romance). But the questions are valid ones, and when asked by the genuinely curious--or the aspiring themselves--they inevitably lead to discussions on where you accumulate your knowledge of the writing craft. Because for anyone who scratches the surface even a little, it becomes apparent that writing is both art (which can't really be directly "trainable") and craft (which can). And when you put writers in a room together--especially ones in as commercially-oriented a genre as romance), you inevitably get discussions--and then classes--on craft. We can't change our talents, but we can teach ourselves and each other to hone our strengths and combat our weaknesses.

But inevitably, the longer you spend in this world of ours, the more you see--and perhaps become--someone who has accumulated vast tankloads of "learning." And perhaps you have something to show for it--your writing has improved, your knowledge base is expanded. But maybe your career hasn't shown it (yet). Maybe you haven't moved forward as far as you expected, and maybe you still have that little insidious pipe-dream meme in your head that there is some Big Secret to making it as a writer--some magic formula, pill, method, or tool that will suddenly catapult you into super-stardom (such that it exists for writers). Or more dangerously--something that will magically make the writing of your stories faster, easier, and better without effort (and boy, aren't we all holding out our hope for that, eh?).

If you find yourself in this place (and I have myself, more than once), it might be time for you to stop the learning. Yeah, you heard right. No, not forever, but for now, because there comes a time when you have to put the book away and actually do the thing. All that knowledge that you've accumulated from your wonderful classes, and books, and workshops, and worksheets, and forum discussions, and blog posts (including this one--I exempt not myself, LOL), can't do anything for you until, well, you do.

In my own process of writing and learning, I go through cycles where I absorb anything and everything that piques my interest about craft, or inspiration, or process, or whatever...and then my brain reaches some sort of saturation point, and if I don't start writing--and therefore attempting to put into practice all that I've learned, I can't seem to learn anymore, either.

Many times, even the stuff I've recently learned doesn't make its way into my writing for months or even occasionally years. My brain just seems to have to process and digest that which I've learned, and mull it over and ferment it. Only then, after it's aged (much like good cheese, and writing and cheese for me seem to want to go hand-in-hand, LOL), will it find its way into what I do and how I write. It's a very organic process, and organic processes do go according to season.

--Xandra

3 comments:

Savanna Kougar said...

It is an organic process.
And to add, you could spend a lifetime studying how to ride a bike, and watching people ride bikes, but until you get on one, you ain't learned nothin'.
Pen in hand, write. Or fingers on the keyboard, wrtie.

Savanna Kougar said...

Also, check your spelling, lol.

Angela Verdenius said...

sit and write it is the best way to start!