I’ve done a lot of studying this year.

Book learnin’:
How to Make a Living as a Writer by James Scott Bell (June)
Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland (June)
The Comic Toolbox by John Vorhaus (Aug.)
The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell (Aug.-Oct.)

Online courses:
Camp NaNoWriMo (four weeks, July)
How Writers Write Fiction MOOC, the University of Iowa IWP (eight weeks, Sept.-Nov.)

Small Press Expo (Sep.)
Nerdcon: Stories (Oct.)

Meat-space classes:
DC Sketchers urban drawing, Capital Hill Arts Workshop (eight weeks, Apr.-June)
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Georgetown University (eight weeks, Sep.-Nov.)
Beginning Improv, Unified Scene Theater (six weeks, Nov.-Dec.)

I was always good at school. I like having an announced structure and timetable presented by an authoritative entity. Instead of hunting down new information on your own, you pick a topic and it’s presented in digestible chunks by someone who knows more about it than you do.

My eight-ish months of classes weren’t only about reliving the soothing embrace of education. While I hoped the classes would be an interesting exploration of new ideas or skills, I had another agenda. They were also a secret test of my own level of knowledge. I wanted to put myself in the room, literally or virtually, with people I thought knew more than I did and see how my experience stacked up.

There was plenty I didn’t know, and it was great to get exposed to new ideas. I was able to apply knowledge from several of them right away, and saw tangible results (e.g. the first draft of my second novel, a kick in the pants to self-publish the first novel, noticeably lowered stress). Others introduced me to things I didn’t put to work right away, but will be stored for future use.

I also learned about some things I wasn’t interested in. I gave them a try, but they weren’t a good fit. Being able to cross something off the list of possibilities is pretty useful (e.g. the literary fiction genre in its current incarnation is not for me).

My enthusiasm for learning changed around mid October. At first, I thought I was tired of learning. That I had reached my saturation point of best practices and assignments. But that wasn’t the whole story. I was running into advice and ideas I was already aware of, had heard multiple examples of, and, in some cases, completely disagreed with.

Turns out, I’m not a noob any more.

I’ve still got a class going that finishes up in December, but it’s for fun. I’ll be taking an organized instruction break after that. It’s time to trust what’s already sloshing around in my head and put it to work.


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