Thursday, November 18, 2010

Those Who Can't Do, Learn

I thought I was done with books after graduation.
Education at its Finest

Yesterday my highly qualified University Professor told me, "What's great about this story is that it lets you understand the characters. It lets you establish an emotional connection with them. We don't know how the writer did it. But she did. And the story is great."


Excuse me teacher, but am I not in a Professional Writing class? Am I not supposed to be learning exactly HOW the writer did it?

I am. It's in the course description.

So now, I'm wondering how qualified my Professor really is. Cuz, sorry teacher, I do know how the writer did it.

I keep staring at the key.
The Illusion

She made the characters funny and compassionate. She showed them dealing with everyday problems. She showed them dealing with hardships. She created empathy within the reader.

My teacher didn't realize any of this after reading the short story. No. All she noticed were its effects.

She reminds of most readers. Those who can't see past all the smoke and mirrors that writers use to conjure up a good story.

Now, I'm always welcome to learn from them. They make good points. They notice where things don't flow, which character's aren't likable, which plot twists don't work. But I'm not sure I should be paying $20 dollars per hour to gain that kind of knowledge.

I can post a story online and get the same kind of feedback that my teacher was talking about in class. I can post a story for FREE.

A pic of Dido. My teacher's pet.
An Old Fossil

Would I make a better Professor for this class? No. My teacher has been teaching since the dinosaurs died out. She knows things I'd have to spend many painful years learning. Like: how to handle rude students, stupid students, and even those too smart for their own good students.

That's valuable knowledge. But it's not the knowledge I want or need. I want to be a writer. No. (Scratch that. I already am one.) I want to be a great writer.

That's why I went to University. To learn how to write like a pro. To learn from the best.

So, am I learning?


The Panda knows how to relax.
The Benefits of Boredom

I have grown a lot as a person since I've gone to University. I've become better at understanding people, society, and my own place amongst them. I have learned to take responsibility for my life.

This has made me a better person. This has made me a better writer.

I owe my University for that. But what did they actually teach me about writing?

Besides some rhetoric (persuasion techniques), they taught me nothing.

Now don't get me wrong, this is a good University. The teachers are understanding, experienced, and witty. And many of my class mates are learning a lot.

What makes them different from me?

Most of them haven't been writing for the last 6 years of their lives. They haven't found a brilliant writing partner to help them learn and grow. In fact, their writing experience is limited to high school papers and emails. They know they want to be writers, and they're trusting this school to teach them how.

And it will, eventually.

But if you want to learn how to write quickly and effectively...if you want to be a great writer...then don't wait for classes and teachers.

Heavy books killed my back.
Home Schooling

You know the saying "Show, Don't Tell?" Same rule applies here. Teachers are going to tell you how to write. In some cases, they'll tell you things you already know. No. You need to experience writing. And the only way to do that is to write.

To write on your own time. At home. At a cafe. During a boring class.

Just. Write.

Write and learn from your mistakes. Get feedback from friends. Join a a writing group. Submit to a few publishers. A few competitions.

Trust me, you'll learn faster than anyone could teach you.

Lightsaber prototype
Take up the Pen

I'm not saying that you shouldn't go to University, or take writing workshops. No. Those are useful. You will learn from those.

But if you want to be more than a baffled reader. If you want to be a writer. A great writer.

Then stop waiting for that knowledge to come to you. Its out there.

Seek it out. Use it.

Using this may help.
"Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute! Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Only engage, and then the mind grows heated. Begin, and then the work will be completed."--Jean Anouilh


  1. "I want to be a writer. No. (Scratch that. I already am one.) I want to be a great writer."
    You already ARE a great writer. But I love that you keep pushing yourself to further greatness.

    Also, you should write more on this amazing writing partner of yours :) hehe

    And yes, when I was in college, my journalism prof told me not to major in journalism. "You already are a great writer, go learn about something else and just keep writing."

    It's advice that stood me well. Especially since I was already working for a large daily paper at the time.

    Love your post.

    As always.

  2. Awesome post. :) I'm a writer and aspire to be great but I understand there's a long arduous journey to that point.

  3. Great post! I think people have a disconnect about what schools and universities are designed to do, they're not there to make you great at anything, their just giving you the foundation you need to succeed, the rest is up to you.