As you know, I finished my writing class recently.  Some of my classmates wondered what they actually learned during the class.  Some of them thought they learned nothing.  They felt that they gained no new knowledge, that they were in the exact same place they started. (to be fair- people felt this after the first class as well.) Now, I felt I learned from both classes.  Does this mean I was stupider than others in my class?  (careful…) Or do I just view learning differently?

I think teaching/learning writing is difficult to quantify.  Can you teach someone to write?  I think you can be taught basics.  I think you can learn how to structure a story, how to write dialogue, how to set a scene.  But is that teaching someone how to write?  Well, it depends on how open minded you are.

I went into each class with a very open mind.  I listened very carefully to what the teacher had to say.  After each class, I would think about the lesson as I read whatever fiction choice was on my ereader.  I would look at how the author actually  put into practice the lessons that we learned.  If we learned about moving a story forward, I would pay attention to how an author actually moved the story forward- how they got from place to place, idea to idea.  If we talked about description, I would look for how the author didn’t rely on adverbs and adjectives, how they looked for different ways to set a scene.  Then, when I would sit down to write, I would try to incorporate what I learned.  Because, I actually felt I learned something.  And my writing got tighter.

I’m going to give you the two lessons I’ve never forgotten:

  1. Man v Man.  Man v Nature. Man v Himself.  That’s it.  Every story boils down to one of these three elements.  That’s it.
  2. Who, what, when, where, why, how. The old journalism prompts.  Use them.  That’s how you make one of the stories your own.

I think people want a cheat sheet, a checklist of what they are “supposed” to do. They think if they memorize this writing playlist, they will produce an amazing work. But writing is not like that: you can’t memorize “rules” and spit out a magnum opus. You have to write from the heart, you have to put the story that’s buried in your soul onto a page. Yes, there are guidelines, but they’re just that: guidelines. No one can teach you to actually be a good writer. Only you can teach yourself how to write.

Look at my lessons.  Memorize them.  Then write your story.  Don’t expect someone else to “teach” you to write your story, because it’s your story.  Your rules.  Your words.  Your story.



34 thoughts on “What Did You Learn Today?

  1. I learned a fair bit when I took my English GCSE which as well as math was necessary for my science course. Btec Applied science medical levels 1 & 2.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hell, I am constantly learning! No education is ever wasted, you get out what you put in. If you think you already know the subject being taught then your mind is closed. I find I have learned writing styles from you, my mother, and many other authors; it is up to me to find what works for me. Thanks for all the insight.

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    1. Good insight. It is harder to teach adult students new tricks but if their mind is open or our mind is open, we can learn. It teaches you a lot about another person if they don’t learn anything new. Their mind is closed.

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      1. I teach adult ed part time. Usually, I have very appreciative students and I go out of my comfort zone frequently to accommodate working adults. I had one who was kind of nasty with my review. He was like “I didn’t learn anything….” He was a Deputy in his late 40’s. I was a little annoyed and this was the first time someone (adult) reviewed me this way. My husband told me, “Brush it off. Good thing you are not a politician.” I guess you didn’t give him an A. Hmm. I need to write a column but I am glad you brought this up. It sounds like you got a lot from the class.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Great post! Great pointers! I learned a good amount in my writing classes so far (I’ve got two more to go). I think you’re right in it’s how open one’s mind is to learning these writing lessons and techniques, and then working on applying them. It takes practice, which is what we do when we write every day, I’d say. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think your fellow classmates learned more than they admit. Even if its the “same old thing”, it’s reinforcing what you already know. And seeing how some people write, they NEED that reinforcement! And I agree with your two lessons. It’s really basic when you get down to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds like you learned a valuable lesson. And I think you’re also right that it just depends on a person takes in a class to learn; not necessarily right or wrong or stupid; just in-between. I liked this post. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us! ~Kelsey 😄

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’d add Man versus Machine to your list. I learned that in college, along with the ones you listed. Back then I didn’t get it, but as I’ve grown older I’ve come to understand that struggle.

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  7. I think a person can always learn something new if they are oopen and willing to learn. But I also think that it depends on ehat type of writing they plan on writing when they were finished with the class. Different styles take different lessons. I have a hard time writing stories, but I feel I do okay writing my journals because its different. There are different goals intended for each one.

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