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Writing Help that Suits YOU

3 June, 2014

 Help!

 Personal drive helps writers move closer to reaching their writing goals. But even if you are passionate and dedicated, you may find the writing path hard if you lack certain skills and knowledge.

Luckily, writing help is widely available and comes in many forms: Classes and workshops, books and magazines, mentoring, blogs and websites. But as the ancient Romans warned, caveat emptor–buyer beware. Writing education is a huge and lucrative market, with few quality controls. When considering avenues for gaining writing skills and knowledge, you may find it helpful to focus on the following 8 questions below.

In considering educational opportunities, it helps if you can establish where you hope to go with your writing. Do you see yourself writing mainly for the sheer fun of creating? Does writing help you make sense–of your life, or the society you’re in? Is your intent to make writing your career?

1-What is the cost—and expected benefits?

Costs range from zero to exorbitant. What are you willing to spend? And what do you expect to get in return, in terms of increased knowledge and skills? If the educational experience doesn’t specify learning outcomes, ask.

2-What delivery mode suits you?

Are you looking for something convenient and comfortable? Or do you feel like stepping outside your comfort zone? Do you appreciate the ‘any time, any where’ convenience of an online class? Want a traditional classroom experience? Like the individualised attention of a mentor? Or do you find that you do best with independent study, creating your own reading list of articles, websites, blogs and books?

3-Duration?  

Educational offerings range from a couple of hours to classes that run for one or more years. What duration is realistic in terms of the time you have to pursue writing education?

4. Level?

The spectrum ranges from writing basics for beginners to masterclasses, with competitive selection. What’s your next realistic level in terms of writing education? If you’re interested in a masterclass, it pays to find out the expected class size, the topics to be covered, and the kinds of activities that will be provided.

5-Scope?

Is the scope of the educational offering broad, e.g., the short story in the 21st century, or narrow, e.g., how to write a professional synopsis.  What best suits you at this stage in your writing education?

6-Teaching expertise?   

Writers, editors, writing educators—all offer educational opportunities. What kind of expertise do you expect, and why? Successful professional writers are not automatically inspiring, helpful teachers, so it pays to investigate.

7-Preferred learning mode?

For a learning experience to be positive, much depends on how well it aligns with your preferred learning mode.  When you process information, do you depend on the visual, aural, kinesthetic, or logical?

The teacher of my French 1 class made us listen to the language for two weeks without opening our textbook. I’m predominantly a visual learner, so I was adrift. It was only when I could see the dialogue that French began to make sense. But you can gain insights when you move away from your dominant mode. At university, I usually wrote research papers. A professor suggested submitting a visual art project. The new way of processing information gave me insights I would otherwise not have considered.

  • Visual.  Reading, note taking, observing, and getting visual information (charts, maps, pictures, diagrams, demonstrations).
  • Aural.  Talking books, CDs,  lectures, discussions.
  • Kinesthetic. Action-oriented activities, e.g., roleplaying, making models, interviewing.
  • Logical. Identifying a subject’s underlying  ‘system’ or logic, e.g.  explanations, well-structured information, theories.

8-Interpersonal? Or intrapersonal?

We differ in terms of how much interactivity we are comfortable with. If you are strongly interpersonal, you may learn best when you work with others. E.g., informal discussions, and question-and-answer sessions. If you are strongly intrapersonal, you may prefer minimal interaction with others. E.g., structured online classes, books on writing, individualised help from a mentor.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. 4 June, 2014 1:56 am

    Interesting. I thought my dominant learning mode was visual, but it’s logical. I don’t care as much that something works as why it works.

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    • 6 June, 2014 9:09 am

      Yes, that’s how I would describe you. You’re very good about assessing the realities, such as how the publishing industry works. As a sometimes logical learner, I’m surprised at new writers who do not want to learn anything about the logic/conventions of the genre or form they’re writing in.

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  2. 3 June, 2014 8:44 pm

    I’m definitely a VISUAL learner first. And definitely NOT an Aural learner. I have difficulty in keeping track of and retaining information if it’s just been spoken. I suppose I could be ‘kinesthetic’ second in that it helps me learn if I can do the activity as well as just read about it….. though I am NOT what you’d call an active energetic interactive person at all!

    And I definitely far prefer the individualized mentoring system. And online too, as I don’t like classes or having to function with other people and their movements around me. I’m very sound-sensitive, easily-startled and easily distracted, so absolute peace and quiet and stillness is ESSENTIAL if I’m to achieve any learning at all.

    I don’t know about the ‘logical’…… I tend to be more emotional/instinctive than rational/logical. If something’s being explained to me – whether it be spoken or in writing – I MUST have examples, but whether this counts as ‘logical’ I don’t know.

    I’m not ambitious – I write for therapy: thrashing out my feelings and thoughts and opinions on issues; putting these down into – and seeing! – lovely black-and-white typed words on the screen, and hopefully perhaps making these into a story, with a strong parodical ironic slant, almost like a ‘comedy of manners’ (though whether I’d qualify for this, again I don’t know).

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    • 6 June, 2014 9:38 am

      A face-to-face class certainly changes the learning dynamics–increased noise, shifts in conversation, the group dyamics, etc. In Australia, university students often have a formal mass lecture, followed by smaller, interactive tutorials. Providing two different kinds of learning helps engage with the learning preferences of a wider range of learners.

      Examples may be a part of learning that is beneficial no matter what kind of learning mode we prefer. But it’s also likely that there are cultural differences in terms of the amount and kinds of examples that seem useful. That would be interesting to investigate!

      The writing education market is HUGE, and it would be easy to become a course junkie. But when we know how we learn best, we can narrow our educational search to what suits our needs.

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