Even if nobody reads these words, I will still write them.
I don’t mean my fiction only. I mean this space, this blog of book reviews, essays, and writing thoughts. I would write it even if you were not reading.
Your blogger was not always an IT-guy/writer. Once upon a time, I was a science teacher. While I ultimately decided that the classroom was not for me, that experience shaped my worldview. Even without looking at the research, you probably know, instinctively, that the more ways you interact with a given subject, the more you learn about it. Listening alone is the worst way to learn, you’ll only retain about 20% of the content that way. Visuals bump retention up to around 40%. Experience, action, doing something, anything increases retention to above 80%. From there, repetition and experimentation pushes most people to potentially 100%.
So, the only way to master anything is to do it.
Book reviews in this space help me to read consciously. Knowing that I am going to write about it, I find myself noticing the nuts and bolts of some of my favorite authors’ writing styles. I try to pick up on foreshadowing. I look out for stereotypes and cliches. I reflect on what I am enjoying about a particular work. Normally, these thoughts would fade with time. Anything I read more than two years ago I remember only in sweeping generalities. (Seeing this in print, I might have just lost the debate with my wife over whether it’s good to reread books. She is a rereader. I am not.) Recording these thoughts for this blog cements them in my mind.
Reflections are similar, but with a strong emphasis on theme and subtext. All truly memorable books carry a message beyond the facts of the plot. It could be argued that every written work carries a subtext whether the author intended to or not. Thinking more deeply about the books I have read recently has pushed me to think about the next level in my own writing.
The meat and potatoes of this blog, the Writer-to-writer Thursday articles are everything that I would want my students to do to check their understanding: restate what you’ve learned in your own words and apply it. They are homework, practice, and notes all rolled together.
So, if you have the inclination, writer/reader, I recommend blogging. There are drawbacks, of course. The time I spend writing here is time not spent on fiction. But that’s ok.
There are other ways to explore and reflect on your own progress:
- Journal – like a blog, but for yourself.
- Free write – write whatever fiction you want with no intention of ever publishing it. Focus on a particular skill you want to hone. Keep it short. Step away for a short while to gain some objectivity. Then, see how you did.
- Join a writing group – There is no substitute for getting outside opinions, whether online or in person.
I am on this journey with you, reader, and I am open to ideas. How do you check your progress to cement your learning? Let us know in the comments.
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