Posted by: Kathleen Mix | August 17, 2011

School’s in Session

Most schools have been closed for the summer, and students are now preparing to return to classes. Writers, however, rarely take a vacation from learning. Most of us, whether beginners or seasoned authors, are constantly striving to improve our craft. But not in a traditional school.

There’s no minimum educational requirement to be a writer. An MFA may help your career if your dream is to write literary fiction, but no degree can guarantee success. Also, many people put off writing until later in life. They may have a college degree in an unrelated field and be earning a living as a doctor, teacher, butcher, baker, flight attendent or CEO. They need the income from their day job and can only write during a lunch hour, at night, or on weekends. Therefore, few of us have the luxury of enrolling in a post-graduate degree program; most learn writing at the School of Hard Knocks and design our own curriculum.

A few lucky people decide to write a book, sit in front of a keyboard, transfer the words in their mind onto paper, and their work finds immediate publication. Most of us need to work harder and longer. We enter contests and seek critiques from other writers, hoping they will help us identify the areas of our work that need improvement. Once we’ve narrowed down the areas where we’re weak, we seek information and advice on those subjects. From grammar and sentence structure, to creating more rounded characters or developing believable plots, we’re continually trying to improve.

Learning to write well can be a long process. But writers are not unique in that regard. Lawyers, engineers, CPAs, and medical professions must dedicate themselves to years of training. They know there’s no shortcut to expertise and that, when they’ve mastered their professional skills, their effort will be rewarded. Sooner or later, a writer’s time studying his or her craft will be rewarded too. Summer may tempt us to play hooky from learning. But we learn to write by writing. As writers, our school is always in session.

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