How Do You Know When You’re “There”?

Yesterday, I ran across some promo for the Clarion program, which teaches Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. I read through the requirements, the FAQs. And I seriously considered doing it for a few minutes.

An intensive course in SFF writing that has turned out people like Octavia Butler, Marjorie Liu and Vonda McIntyre? Oh yes, yes, yes. I started contemplating how I could take six weeks of leave from my job – and, not incidentally, my salary – and from the man and fur family. After all, the blog I read talking about how fab the program is, said it required sacrifices. Uh yeah – that pricey tuition and the non-refundable $50 application fee.

And then I realized, erf, that the workshop would interfere with me attending RomCon and RWA National. Not to mention the release of my own fantasy novel the first week of July.

Then it hit me – what the hell was I thinking?

It reminds me of when I was a brand-new grad student. I’d graduated from college in May and showed up at my new school in August, to start my PhD in physiology. With great excitement, I’d pored over the course offerings and had picked out (way too many) classes I figured I should start with. I met with the department head, to discuss this class schedule, my research plan and my Teaching Assistant assignment. He told me, that, given my excellent background, they wanted to put me in charge of the entire physiology lab program. Stunned, I looked at my list of proposed courses and told him I’d been planning to take the physiology course and lab. He laughed at me and said I was way past that.

And they put me in charge.

Now, I won’t say that I didn’t learn a lot as I went along. The old saying about the teacher being one step ahead of the student is not far off the truth. Still, it turned out that I knew more than I thought I did.

The rest I learned by doing.

It’s tempting to think that the fab writing workshop will hand us the keys and open the doors. I’m an absolute believer in ongoing education, too. The workshops also have a vested interest in convincing you that you need them if you want to succeed. Still, there comes a time when you have to simply plunge in and learn by doing.

And doing.

And doing.

Accept no substitute.

10 Replies to “How Do You Know When You’re “There”?”

  1. I’m with you about “doing”. I always pick up something valuable at a workshop or conference but I only get the words out “on paper” (in the computer really)and build my universes when I’m sitting at home, writing!

  2. This is very true! I come across this dilemma myself every month when I see these postings for great workshops…and yet then I remember that I’m GIVING one of those same workshops

  3. Great analogy, Jeffe. I totally agree. Teaching really is the best way to learn. I’ve read studies that show that if you are forced to teach something after learning it that your retain much more of it than if you just learn it. I think that’s the concept behind the rather diluted “class presentation” assignment that so many professors give. Nice post.

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