Write, Revise and Edit.
Paragraphs are the building blocks of a story but Write, Revise and Edit are the key tools of any writer. As one who journals, very early in the game I accepted the reality of the situation. To take it to the next level, perfect my craft of writing, would require a big time investment and mental commitment on my part to practice, practice, practice and practice some more.
One option would be to take a class. At least that environment would foster the discipline to practice more regularly even if it were just for the duration of the class. But even at that, the thought of enrolling in a traditional classroom setting evoked the shivers. The long late nights, tests, carrying your weight in group assignments, commute to class etc. And of course the big one,
having my work critiqued. A good thing right but even couched as “positive criticism” does not eviscerate my innermost fears nested in the depths of my gut. Fears of not being good enough, a waste of my time and that of the instructor and the list goes on. Criticism in my mind is criticism. In my mind’s eye I could just see my draft with all its random markings – scribblings all over of more “Whys” than “positive” comments from the instructor. The mere thought of this, my confidence already beginning to wane.
Talk about bringing back the emotions, emotions that were buried, or so I thought, in the darkest recesses of my memory.
But this is different. Absent is the pressure to make the grade just for meeting the course requirement and giving the instructor the satisifaction. This was for about me; my own personal enrichment. But the question still remained “did I really have what it took to make this commitment”. Where in the world would I find time in my schedule to fit in just another item?
My solace was in the fact that someday my dream of transferring the text of my journal entries onto the pages of what would be my story would somehow materialize notwithstanding these obstacles (mental, imagined or otherwise). How? I had no idea. But, I was not giving up on my dream (or delusion), all the same.
Fast forward, one fine morning, years later on my train ride into work with the warmth of the sun streaming through the oblong train windows, soothing my face. Casually flipping through the pages of the local metro daily with no planned endpoint in mind, I stumble upon the mid-section; a segment that profiled a number of what I can best describe as “I have a packed-schedule too but I can still improve myself mortals” (aka overachievers in some circles – just kidding).
Something was different.
The satisfaction, the sense of accomplishment was almost palpable. They had completed courses in jewelry making, voice-over training etc. etc…you know interesting stuff and the recurring theme in all of this was self-improvement, personal enrichment, lifelong learning. I was hooked.
Hours later, I was on it. I pulled up their website and for the next few seconds the world was at a standstill. At least in my world. What was unraveling (in slow motion) before me visually, was definitely music to my ears (imagine that). A listing of different courses including and yes! you guessed right, Writing courses.
As quickly as my fingers could, I clicked on the course description tabs and you know what jumped out at me was; “If you’ve always wanted to write but have no idea where to start, this course will demystify the process for you.” and even more exciting was the fact that they run an average of 6 weeks with 24hr remote access to materials and best of all I could learn from the comfort of my own space.
Course Requirements – a computer with an internet connection and of course payment of the course fee. SWEET!!!
Therein lies the genesis of a beautiful relationship with First Class Learning Inc. First Class, Inc. is a non-profit lifelong learning program that specializes in short-term, seminars packed with practical information. Their motto: “Take a class today, Know more tomorrow!” captures it all.
Lifelong learning (noun): the provision or use of both formal and informal learning opportunities throughout people’s lives in order to foster the continuous development and improvement of the knowledge and skills needed for employment and personal fulfillment.
Here are some things I enjoyed about my Lifelong learning course in Creative Writing.
1) Obviously the convenience of access to the course from the space of my choice.
2) Galumphing and Bricolage – My two favorite exercises.
Galumphing which means to move or run clumsily. Stephen Nachmanovitch, describes it as “the seemingly useless elaboration and ornamentation of activity. It is profligate, excessive, exaggerated, uneconomical. We galumph when we hop”(Free Play). In the context of creative writing, describing a movement as a hop instead of walk, captures the exaggerated element of the basic movement of a walk.
Bricolage from the french word Bricoleur which means to putter can be likened to a handyman making do with available materials. It is the skill of making something from available things.
In creative writing it would be pulling something out of nothing with great gusto. The goal is to write as much as you can say in 5 minutes about a mundane item. For example, this could be any one of a hairpin, keychain, chalk, paper, ink, coin.
Long gone are the days of access to learning being limited to the traditional classroom setting. Geograhic limitations are no longer a barrier given the latest communication technologies. The student can convienently have class while propped up in bed under their comfortable covers. However, is the online or virtual classroom setting for you?
Diane Hamilton in Choosing the Right Online Classes For You outlines some factors to be considered by a prospective student in determining if he or she is a good candidate for online education. Ask yourself the following questions:
Are you self-motivated
Do you like accelerated learning?
Do you like technology?
Do you have a physical disability that makes traditional learning difficult?
For me lifelong learning, it is the fun, the arbitrariness, freedom, the personal enrichment, the ability to explore along the way. Rather than focusing solely on how the final product will turn out, this also encourages not losing sight of the lessons learned along the way. Ultimately, finding that balance, middle ground between the two, only makes for a richer and more rewarding experience. In many respects the lessons of lifelong learning are guided by similar principles of writing. Write, Revise and Edit.
And while at it, how about throwing in some je ne sais quois, umph, gusto! galumph! into the mix. Now, Imagine that, the numerous possibilities!
You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives
– Clay P. Bedford