One of the interesting things about writing as a career is how much of it is self-taught, more than many of the arts and much more than any science or business career. Yeah, anyone in any career need to know how to learn from their real-life experiences, but nothing seems to have that aspect quite so much as writing.
When you're young, you learn to read and write in school. You keep taking English classes after that to keep your skills up. If you're an English major in college, you take extra English classes that look at both reading and writing, and there are creative writing classes available to take--but none of those things make you a writer. Novelists in particular won't find many creative writing classes that focus on their craft.
So today, I thought I'd make a list of some of the things novelists need to teach themselves on their own, things that we don't learn in school.
I'm sure there are more, but those are the ones that stand out to me. Going into writing as a career takes a ton of work outside the classroom. You don't write novels as class assignments. You don't get a good set of beta readers through your teacher. The majority of the traits needed to be a writer aren't developed in the classroom. Everything about the publishing industry that you need to understand has to be researched in your own time and constantly kept up with as the business slowly changes. You have to write and edit and send queries in your own time and it's a very complicated and involved process.
I have been a career woman since I was ten, basically, because I decided to become a novelist. And everything I have learned to get me even this far I have done on my own. I got a wonderful push years ago in my GATE class when a marketer from a small publisher got brought to teach me those things, but even those were fragments, a skeleton of what I know now.
It takes outside work to be successful in a job like this, a lot of it. Being good in school has gotten me decently far in life, but being dedicated outside of it has gotten me even further. So to anyone who wants to be a writer, know this: you're not gonna learn it in school. Even a Creative Writing major means little unless you've already established a foundation that you're working off of outside school. Here's what you really have to do: Read. Write. Edit. Research. Repeat.
In the end, it's pretty satisfying to see what you've accomplished, all on your own.
Thanks for reading, guys, and please do come back next time for thoughts on the Bechdel Test.
Any thoughts about the educational system and lifelong learning?
Image via diamondenvy.com.
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