School of Write
Mary Bailey wrote: “What discourages me is the huge emphasis on continuing education, joining writer’s groups, attending conferences, etc. This really puts a crunch in the budget!”
Good point, Mary. Believe me, I understand about having a tight budget. But this is one of those times when I will encourage you to make a paradigm shift. If a writer doesn’t see the value and even the necessity of continuing to learn, then I suspect that writer may not be treating writing seriously enough. And if you’re stuck on the financial cost, you may not be taking advantage of all the options available to you.
Continued, lifelong learning is the norm in many professions. Schoolteachers are required to put in a certain number of hours of learning each year. Lawyers are required to continue their education if they want to keep their licenses. Doctors and all kinds of counselors and therapists have similar requirements. It’s a drain on the time and finances, yet it’s required because none of us can ever afford to stop learning.
Now, you may think, “That’s different. Those people are already making money in their careers. I haven’t made a dime off my writing yet.” I understand that. But look at it this way. If your goal was to be an Olympic athlete, you’d spend years and hundreds of thousands of dollars training for it – never making a dime from it. If your goal was to be an EMT, or a paralegal, or a realtor, or a notary, or a hairstylist, or any number of specialized vocations, you would take it for granted that a certain amount of education is a prerequisite, and that it will cost both time and money.
Plenty of published authors spend a considerable amount of their time continuing to learn by attending workshops and partipating in writing clinics and critique groups. But mostly I think we emphasize learning mostly for those who aren’t published yet. I think it makes sense that if you haven’t “graduated” then you’d probably benefit from continued education.
As a writer, I hope you accept this lifelong journey of learning. There are ways to learn that don’t cost money, they just take time. (See my post “How Do You Learn to Write?” and be sure to read all the comments.) Other ways take both time and money. Determine what works for you. Try not to get hung up on the financial cost but instead look for options that fit your budget.
Just don’t handicap yourself by being discouraged at the need for a continuing mindset of learning (and networking). Embrace it!