Learn by doin’

I recently reread William Martin’s Citizen Washington (I am a big, big, BIG Washington/American history fan) and one of the characters, Hesperus Draper, has a motto that we all can live by: ‘Learn by doin’.’

Why do I bring this up? Well, it applies to writers too, no matter the skill level. I am of the belief that every time I craft something new, I get that much better. What I wrote last year could very well suck in comparison to what I write today. It can go the other way too; last year’s hot idea might just burn that much brighter than today’s. Again, passion plays a huge factor in that. But I’m focusing on skill levels this entry, particularly the methods used to maintain them.

I mentioned my older sister’s experiences with Publish America in my Writer Beware post. She’s moved into screenwriting since then, even has put together her own small show– public access of course, but hey, it’s a start. Now, I don’t doubt her passion for what she does. She’s been submitting pieces to various contests, and has received rejections for all of them. Rejection is a part of life in this field. It sucks, hell it can be a knife to the heart for some, but I believe each rejection must be taken as a learning experience. I also understand it’s not an easy concept for all to accept. My sister is a perfect example of what happens when rejection is taken as a personal attack on her idea. I recommended that she take another look at what she’s been submitting to see if the content needs to be updated, that sort of thing. I also stressed the importance of research. If she is truly serious about her work, this is a vital part of it. It could also be what makes or breaks it. Any writer worth their salt can smell an under-researched product a mile away. Look at how Fifty Shades of Grey was ripped into by people actively practicing the BDSM lifestyle. Its commercial success aside, it’s still a poor representation, and those people have every right to criticize it.

Let me give you an example of how I use research. I was working on a story where my main female character was pregnant, and I had wanted to describe what happens during childbirth. Now, since I don’t have any children of my own, and I didn’t want to utilize what I had seen in movies (which tend to be overly dramatized anyway) I took to the internet. I asked mothers what they experienced. This helped me craft a realistic scene, and readers could tell it’d been researched.

Another example: Gabriel, the MC for my current project, is as different from me as can be. He’s shaped by all he’s endured, including time spent in a psychiatric ward during his youth. Me? All I know about psyche wards are from the movies. Sarah Connor and Randle McMurphy aren’t the kind of source material I wanted. So, once again I turned to the internet, and it did not disappoint. If you’re interested, please check out A Day In the Life of A Mental Hospital Patient. While this particular section of the story wasn’t large, I still wanted to convey a sense of understanding.

Research is my favorite part of the process. I love to learn new things, and nothing feels better than applying new knowledge to something, be it my writing or another aspect of my life. It shows dedication. I’ve browsed material for a lot of fellow indie writers, and I can tell that most share this same feeling. We’re all eager to showcase our talents. Let’s be honest here: if you’re not serious about your project, how do you expect others to be? Learn by doin’, friends. Your efforts will be noted. And they may be just what you need to make it over the finish line.



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