Monday, October 26, 2015

How Teachable Are You?

By Andrea Merrell

No matter what you do in life, it’s important to be teachable. Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines teachable as: capable of being taught; apt and willing to learn. Looking further into the word apt, it means: ready, likely, inclined, well-suited, unusually qualified, keenly intelligent and responsive.

Whether you’re learning a new job, perfecting your craft, or trying to improve at your favorite hobby, you must be open and willing to embrace new thoughts, ideas, and methods to help you move forward.

This is especially true for writers. As the writing and publishing industry evolves and changes rapidly, we must keep up or be left in the dust. The Bible talks about those who are always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7-8 NKJV). We can actually apply that Scripture to every area of life.

As I prepared for my first writers’ conference, I went to a local critique group ready to publish the next best seller. My manuscript was 14-point Comic Sans, single-spaced, and full of bold words in all caps. It contained lots of exclamation points and was thoroughly sprinkled with clichés. I had even designed the front and back cover. That extra gesture was meant to put me over the top. Where it put me was back to square one (clichés intended).

The group lovingly and patiently explained proper formatting, along with many other important tips. Embarrassing? Absolutely, but I would have been more embarrassed if I had attended the conference without the benefit of someone’s guidance. My mistakes didn’t mean my words or effort had no merit. They simply meant I had a lot to learn. I could have walked away from that experience hurt, frustrated, and ready to quit before I even got started. Even though it was hard to accept and process all the things I had done wrong, I will be forever grateful to those who pointed me in the right direction.

We all have to begin somewhere. Then comes the decision to put forth the time, effort, and money to gain the necessary knowledge and skills. There will always be those who know more and have accomplished more. The important thing to remember is not to envy those people, but learn from them—their successes and their failures.

We all need teachers, instructors, and mentors. For writers, learning is a lifelong journey. It’s a process, not an event. It takes time to learn the basics and master the skills we need to make our words sing. We will go through peaks and valleys—times when the words come so fast we can hardly keep up, and times when we search for even one coherent thought. That’s when we keep pressing forward, putting pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard. Here are a few ideas to keep you on the learning track.

Critique Groups

Be an active part of a local critique group. If one is not available in your area, maybe it’s time to start one. There are also groups available online. Sometimes  we have blind spots when it comes to our own writing, so getting honest feedback from others—even those less experienced than us—will help tremendously. Don’t be afraid of correction and constructive criticism. It will ultimately make you a better writer.

Writers’ Conferences
Plan to attend at least one writer’s conference—or even a local workshop—each year. This will not only help you learn new techniques to improve your writing, it will help you build a network with others in the industry. Conferences can be expensive, so start a “conference fund” and save throughout the year. Scholarships are also available for many conferences.

Helpful Blogs
Subscribe to blogs specifically geared toward writers. These helpful sites are full of information to keep you inspired and motivated. There are many, many good ones and you can do a Google search to find them. Here are a few of my favorites:

Do you have other blogs or websites you would recommend? We would love to hear your suggestions about what has been most helpful for you.

(Photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.)


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