Writing Help: Dive or Wade?
To improve our writing, we have different help options to choose from—workshops, courses, teachers and mentors, books, blogs, websites. But with so many help possibilities, we can feel as if we’re drowning in possibilities.
How do you assess what best suits you?
Dive or wade?
Some writers like to dive straight into the help pool, immersing themselves in many kinds of writing assistance. They zap through innumerable books, workshops, and websites. If they decide to try a writing group, they may join not one but several.
Some writers find it exhilarating to get their hands on so much information and help in a short period. For others, the informational deluge is confusing, stressful, and can lead to a loss of confidence.
Wading is a preference for some writers, and for others work and other commitments make it the most practical option. They start at the shallow, comfortable end of the writing help pool, perhaps reading a few relevant blogs and books, participating in a short workshop, attending a one-off lecture. As they grow more confident about their needs and interests, they strike out into deeper, adventurous water. They may enrol in a long-term course or sign up with a mentor. This approach is positive and does not overwhelm learners, but some find the learning process frustratingly slow.
Writing help works best when it fits your needs. Rather than focusing on cost and convenience, assess your
- present capabilities
- current interests
- long-term goals
Your present capabilities
What do you think are your strengths are as a writer? Where do you need to improve?
Your current interests
Jot down the last five major items you have read.
You may be surprised. Some people daydream about writing poetry but tend to read modern novels. Others may decide to break into the potentially lucrative romance market, when the reality is that they are drawn to reading essays. And some don’t read at all.
With this knowledge, you can decide if you want help options that support your present writing interests, your future interests, or both.
What drives you, makes you passionate to write? Knowing your drivers can hep you identify the learning options that best suit you. Maybe you get a kick out of experimenting with ideas and storylines. Or capturing personal experiences. Or perhaps you like the technical challenge of a particular form. Or find research satisfying. Or discover reading your work out loud is the most enjoyable part of the writing process.
Your long-term goals
What do you ultimately want to achieve with your writing in terms of these outcomes:
* Material—books, poetry collections, screenplays, etc.
* Financial rewards—money, more or better career opportunities
* Recognition and readership—local, regional, national, international
How long do you expect to write? For example, once you’ve written your life story is that it for writing? Or do you see yourself writing as long as you have the ability to do so?
What happens when you are faced with obstacles and lack of success? Setbacks make some people more determined to succeed. Others accept the obstacle—OK, I’ll never crack the NY Times best-seller list—modify their goals, and keep writing. And others stop writing and find another, rewarding interest.
Is it still . . .
Whatever writing help you choose, regularly evaluate it to consider if it still meets your needs and interests.
Participating in a writing group may be useful at first, but as members come and go, you may find that its educational value for you has weakened. Continuing to join basic workshops may be comfortable but not challenge or provide new information.
For your chosen help option, ask yourself—
- Is it still moving me closer to my writing goals?
- Is it still helping me identify my writing strengths and weaknesses?
- Is it still helping me become a more skilled writer?
- Is it still providing other benefits, e.g., networking with other writers?