Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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August 25, 2021

Dear Writer: Keep Learning

by Tasha Seegmiller

This is my last post for Writers in the Storm. I can’t say forever, because forever is a long time, but I am stepping back as a regular contributor. I want to thank everyone who has commented on my posts in the past and those who have shared great insights. <3

I was recently in an online discussion concerning a new presenter in the MasterClass series. There were several people who were excited about the new presenter but wondered if the curriculum they would have access to would be too fundamental for their current level. It’s a valid question, in particular when it comes to a class that will require a $90.00 commitment.

About the same time, I attended a training where a psychology professor talked about progression, improvement, and learning. He discussed three areas that have to work in harmony with each other for learning to really have an impact: cognitive, behavioral, and affective.

While I could try and explain what each of those mean, it is easier to simply ask the questions he asked us:

  • What do I know about ________?
  • What do I do about ________?
  • How do I feel about ________?

How this applies to writing...

Let’s break those down with some writing ideas. Ask the same three questions and substitute one of the following:

  • Character development
  • A particular character (especially if feedback indicates that character is weak)
  • Pacing
  • Sentence structure
  • Setting/World Building
  • Internal Arcs
  • Emotional Arcs
  • Fill in the blank with the ominous part of writing that you love to hate.

Doing this practice will give us a baseline of things to consider. I don’t recommend focusing on this too deeply while in the midst of drafting – deep analysis and intentional creation can make a brain go nuts. But, if you are an outliner, this kind of practice could work well before starting.

If you lean more in the “write as I go” or the “figure it out later” camp, this is the kind of consideration that works well before launching into an edit.

And in the interim? Well, ask the next series of questions.

  • What do I want to know about ________?
  • What do I want to do about ________?
  • How do I want to feel about _______?

The nature of some of these questions may also take you into the authorial parts of being a writer accompanying the ideas about craft.

In addition to the writing ideas listed above, consider the following:

  • Book swag
  • Marketing
  • Building an author website
  • Pitching a conference class/panel
  • Entering contests
  • Writing a synopsis/pitch/query letter/blurb
  • Guest posting
  • Book events

At this point, most writers are able to break down where they are strong and where they need some help. Essentially, we are able to place our knowledge and awareness on various places within the four stages of developing a skill.

(Image credit: Noel Burch & GWS Media graphic redesign.)

And this brings me back to the original paragraph in this post. Are we ever at the point where taking a class wherein basic writing skills are taught wouldn’t be beneficial?

Well, that depends on individual answers to the following questions:

  • Relative to what I knew about ________, what do I know now?
  • Relative to what I was doing, how do I do/create/engage with ______________ now?
  • Relative to what I felt about __________, how do I feel now?

Sometimes, the value of taking a class that might be basic presents a new way to think about something that has eluded us for a while. And sometimes, the value of taking a class that might be basic is that we get to really see how we have grown. Word count is great for lots of things, but taking time to reflect and understand what we have learned needs to have its place as well.

Final Thoughts

There are several ways writers can continue to learn, whether through reading blogs like this one, books about craft and creativity, online courses like MasterClass, or workshops. The key is to keep learning and to continue reaching.

Because, as we have heard, just because a writer figures out how to write one book doesn’t mean the knowledge transfers seamlessly to subsequent efforts.

What have you done to continue to grow as a writer? How do you like to recognize your growth? Please share your story with us down in the comments!

* * * * * *

About Tasha

Tasha Seegmiller writes about womanhood, families, mental wellness, and faith. She is a graduate of Pacific University’s MFA program and teaches composition at a regional university in the high mountain desert where her husband and three kids live.

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

18 comments on “Dear Writer: Keep Learning”

  1. Sorry to hear you're stepping back, Tasha.
    On learning, your questions are excellent. I must try to remember them.
    I've been writing for about 10 years now--seriously, that is. I've got 10 books published, and another waiting in the wings. I still avidly read everything to do with the craft of writing, and learn more every day. I don't think you ever stop learning, but must be open to realise that.

  2. My learning has entered the spot-checking phase: I learn something because I just figured out my knowledge and skills have a particular hole. Most everything else, after 25 years, is more in the unconscious competence square - I don't have to think too hard to use the skills - but when I run into a road bump, I know enough to stop and figure out why my auto-drive doesn't just go up and then down.

    I say that without bragging - it's just putting in the work, reading the books and blogs, and becoming aware of which skills I'm using.

    And it's a good thing, too! I'm getting older, and leaning new stuff would make me even slower than I already am. But I hit those bumps less frequently than when it seemed I was doing the equivalent of a climbing wall, but horizontally.

    Good luck with your current and future endeavors. Keep writing.

  3. Good luck, Tasha, and thank you for the wisdom you've shared here. I love that graphic--it shows me how I've grown. I'm mostly in the conscious competence box, and it reminds me how hard I've worked to push through the earlier two boxes. I may never reach unconscious competence, but I'm OK with that.

  4. Amen, Tasha. Advanced writing classes are harder and harder to find, and they are $$$, but nothing is going to stop me from learning. If I'm not getting better with every book, I am failing. Thanks for this. Hugs, friend.

  5. Great post, Tasha. I've attended several outstanding masterclasses, and highly recommend. Thanks for your wonderful contributions to WITS and the writing community. We'll miss you! Best wishes!

  6. Best wishes as you move forward. Your posts are always helpful.

    I belong to several online writer groups with lots of information and I have some craft books to rely on.


  7. I actually really love many of the "back to the basics" writing courses, and I really get a lot out of my Masterclass membership. One of the things I've noticed, since I'm constantly required to learn new things for my day job (tech writer/copywriter/corporate storyteller), is that shorter classes with just one or two applicable tips take me further than the long multi-day courses. I've had to breathe and recognize that I'm usually at overwhelm before I even sit down, which helps me immerse for those quick 1-4 hour webinars. And I've noticed that doing it this way, in small bites, really amps up my fiction writing.

  8. Sorry to hear you're leaving WITS as a regular. This post hit home to me because as a longtime member of RWA and a couple of their chapters plus other writing groups, I have taken every imaginable workshop on the craft and business of writing over the many years (thanks, OCC!). Every time I sign up for yet another class on dialogue or deep POV or world building, I take something away, some valuable nugget or two that I mine into gold. Maybe it's because the different teachers present the subject in a fresh way. Maybe it's because I'm not the same writer I was back then. Now I'm quite familiar with my weakness and strengths. My love of learning is unquenchable.
    Hope to see you back here at WITS soon, Tasha.

  9. Thank you Tasha for the submissions. I'm a huge advocate of continual learning. If you are not learning, you are moving backward. I bought an editing program just this morning. I talk with other authors all the time. I subscribe to Mentorbox, Youtube, Wondrium (the great courses), Scott H Young, Joseph Michael, and other learning programs that are less expensive than Masterclass.com :D. Even my company provides Pluralsight and Linkedin and MyOnlineTrainingHub. I'm constantly listening to audibles. I hope someone finds some of this interesting. I know I'm ahead of the game. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. What new editing program did you just subscribe to? Do tell! My husband loved Pluralsight when his work bought if for him, and I loved when LinkedIn bought Lynda.com and made it so easy to learn from within the app. I've never heard of Wondrium so now I'm off to take a peek at that.
      Thanks for sharing!

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