As I go along in the writing process I do what I usually do when I want to learn something–I set out to read everything I can on the topic. I read about writing. How to plot, how to go with it and not plot, structure, grammar, character development, etc. I enjoy reading about the experience and process of other writers and I enjoy reading good works by others. I’ve also read about grammar, although, it doesn’t show from my blogging. I’m ok with that. My blog is my conversation with myself and flows as it comes to me.
My way of learning is to see what is out there, try some out, and gain some experience. Knowing multiple ways of how something can be done helps me to build a base of knowledge and I believe that that, in turn, gives me freedom in the end. It gives me more ideas to pull from. I will be reading something and think, “Oh, that will never work for me! But this one over here, totally my way of doing things.” So I try it. Then later, after I’ve gone for a while I realize, “Wait. That thing back there that I wrote off? Maybe there is something to it,” and I incorporate a little bit of that. I find my own style from what I’ve learned from others.
I consider this way of initial learning to be my survey, 101 classes. I don’t have to sit through a semester of writing exercises taught by one person with a set way of doing things. I can blow through many methods, and take what I need, not having to spend time hashing out something I’m not interested in. I’m not saying that there isn’t value in learning from others who have different ways that what I think I don’t want. But this way, I’m not stuck in time and commitment when I don’t want to be. I can always go back to those other methods to explore. I know I can learn anything I want to, on my own.
I have moments when I think that this is copying, or not being original, and have always been reluctant to put it out there, to the extent that I don’t put all of the writing books I’ve read on my goodreads account. I mean, what kind of creative person scours other peoples techniques? A true creative just sits down and lets it flow, and it’s genius when they’re done, with no help from anyone else, right? They’re naturals at it if they’re really an artist.
Then I tell myself, that is ridiculous. Everyone has to learn somehow. Great if you’re one of those that just gets it and does it. We often think, when a new sensation hits the big time (in anything) that it’s magic. They somehow just have the gift, and while that may happen, I believe that behind that breakout novel, or incredible artistry, there is still years of work behind it. Somehow they learned it. Maybe they took classes, maybe they’ve studied others, but the bottom line is, they’ve worked hard. They didn’t just sit down one day and think, I’m going to write a masterpiece and boom, here it is.
So, I’m outing myself. I study others. When I read a book and a great sentence or paragraph grabs me I think, “I want to do that!” I don’t copy it, but I study it. When a plot takes a twist I think, “YES! I want to get the reader like that too!” I seek out advice and soak up everything I can find. I file it all away. I don’t sit down and go line by line trying to emulate a person, or their style, but I take it in and try to remember what it is that I, personally, like. I let it percolate in my mind so that by the time it’s my turn, it’s jumbled enough that it doesn’t come out the same.