As I touted the Southeastern Writers Association annual workshop (June 16-20 on St. Simons Island, Georgia) to a fellow writer recently, he interrupted me by saying he thought it “presumptuous” to assume that a professional author could “teach” writing to someone.
That took me aback, but in way, I suppose he was correct. I’ve listened to enough writers over the years to know that no single author has all the answers. In the end, each of us who has become professionally published has learned the craft by “putting our butt in a chair and fingers on a keyboard”—to repeat what one of our 2017 workshop instructors, Debra Dixon, has often said. Writing, for most of us, is a trade learned by doing. And doing and doing.
But that learning-by-doing requires tools and techniques passed on to us by those who have used them. No, no one writer possesses all the answers. Some have more than others, but the important thing I’ve discovered is that I can learn something from every single writing instructor I’ve listened to.
There was no specific writer who taught me how to write, although a couple probably had more influence on me than others. I learned how to write by listening to instructors and then applying certain of the approaches each espoused. I didn’t accept the entire syllabus of any single teacher. I picked and chose from all and developed my own style. I couldn’t have done that, however, without the tools passed on to me by others.
So, yes, the idea any single writer can teach you to become an author is presumptuous. But it is not presumptuous to believe that you can learn from other writers.
Looking back from where I am now as an author, I wish I’d begun attending workshops and conferences earlier than I did. I truly believe it would have saved me a lot of time and frustration in my trek to publication.
My workshop of choice, not surprisingly, is the one put on by the organization I head now, the Southeastern Writers Association. See you June!