Posted by: Kathleen Mix | June 8, 2012

An Important Lesson

An interviewer recently asked me to share the most important lesson I’d learned in my path to publication. A timely question, since June is graduation month and thousands of high school and college graduates are suddenly free from textbooks and exams. They probably believe all their years of study are behind them. But if they stop learning, they will be making a large mistake.
The lesson I’ve learned in my path to publication is that in writing, as in life, no one should ever stop seeking more knowledge. When I started writing many years ago, I believed I’d eventually reach a point where I would master the art of the novel and be able to quit studying technique. I poured over how-to books and studied articles on characterization and dialogue and plot. I read stories describing the career paths of best-selling authors. I attended workshops and conferences and soaked in every morsel of advice.
Many years and six published books later, I’m still doing those same things.
Now I understand my writing will never be perfect. I strive for excellence, try to make each book the best it can possibly be. But I realize practice and education are career-long necessities. A technique I read about five years ago and failed to understand may suddenly make sense if I hear that same information next week. That new knowledge may allow me to improve my next manuscript.
The more I learn, the more I realize how much is left to learn and how important continuing education is to keeping my career moving forward.
Many things have changed as a result of my study. Now when I read a novel, I notice how other authors make me empathize with their characters or hook me on the first page. When I see a movie, I’m aware of the story structure and appreciate the art of a master screenwriter. When I watch a well-written program on TV, my mind is attuned to the foreshadowing and the body language of the actors.
Writers can find valuable lessons in textbooks and workshops but also in their everyday lives. The world around us is a cornucopia of insights waiting to be seen, lessons waiting to be heard, and examples waiting to be understood. To avoid stagnating as a writer or a person, we must be lifelong students. We need to keep looking, listening, and learning.



  1. All very true, Kathleen – we can go on getting better, and reading lots and often is probably our number one tool!


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