Anthony J. D’Angelo said, “Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” I believe that’s true. It’s important to keep learning, because if someone stops learning, they will eventually grow stagnant. This can be very detrimental, especially when it comes to writing. I have personally experienced several stagnant phases during the 20-some odd years I’ve been writing. I passed these phases off as writer’s block, but now I realize that most of those dry times occurred because I had put learning into the back seat. I relied on what I thought I knew instead of trying to keep up the flow of information from new sources
From my own observations about myself, it seems that I have a knack for making mental connections. One way this manifests is with quotes, especially quotes from movies/cartoons/TV shows. If you’ve talked to me for any length of time, you have probably heard me quoting a movie. I often can think of a quote to match the conversation or situation.
I have also noticed this tendency to make connections when it comes to hearing teachings from various Bible teachers. If you don’t know me that well, I’ll mention right quick that I have attended and graduated from a Bible school, and I am a licensed minister. I love it when I hear a teaching and my mind immediately brings up related things I have heard before. When that happens, usually a bunch of things start fitting together. What’s even cooler are the times when those connections trigger revelation. I’ve made some truly awesome connections after listening to Dr. Caroline Leaf because although her teaching tends more towards the scientific, so much of what she says fits in perfectly with what I’ve heard from the teachers at my Bible school.
My tendency to make connections is instrumental when it comes to writing. Many of the writing ideas I get come from exploring various “what if” scenarios, but a lot of those spawn from the connections I’ve made after watching movies/TV shows or reading. More recently, I’ve also been using ideas spawned from my time in Bible school because I’m currently writing a Christian YA Sci-Fi novel. I am constantly thinking about what I’m taking in through various media outlets, and I’m cross-referencing the new information with what is already in my mind.
Now, what does all this have to do with being a lifelong learner? I have found that I make mental connections automatically, but it seems to be more beneficial when I seek information out on purpose. When connections just happen, the benefits tend to be hit-or-miss. I may occasionally catch the connection, but I often won’t act on it unless it really blew my mind to start with. However, when I am seeking to learn on purpose, the connection has a greater impact.
I have often heard that writers need to read as much as possible, especially within their areas of expertise. If you’re a YA Sci-Fi writer, then you should be reading a lot of YA Sci-Fi books. I would also recommend watching related movies and/or TV shows, but I do highly recommend reading related books. The reason for this is because it will help you brainstorm specific ideas that relate to your own work. I personally love watching movies of different genres, and I may even get ideas from random movies, but I tend to get ideas I can use from movies that relate to my writing. The effect is compounded when I read books within my genre because there are several factors in play, such as the content and the format.
As a writer, I believe it is important to keep learning. Keep consuming various forms of media, especially within your areas of expertise, and it will help you to generate ideas. I’m not talking about stealing ideas, I’m talking about being inspired by what you see and hear. The more you are able to stimulate your imagination in a productive way, the more you will be able to keep flowing, and the less chance you have of growing stagnant.
I believe it is also important to keep studying your craft. Read books or blogs about writing, or listen to podcasts. There are so many sources to learn from. One thing I love about the internet is that it allows many authors to be more available to their readers, and I’ve had the pleasure of being able to speak and interact with several of my favorite authors through Facebook. I highly recommend following your favorite authors through social media, especially if those authors are in your niche. I also recommend finding a couple of people who write or teach about writing, and follow them as well.
Use all the tools you have, and keep learning. The last thing any writer wants is to become “blocked.” There may be many reasons for that happening, but I personally believe that if you keep learning on purpose, it will help stave off stagnation.
For those of you who are writers, can you relate to what I’m saying? Have you experienced “writer’s block” after you have spent time focusing on other things instead of things related to your craft? If so, how did you deal with that experience? Have you ever gotten some really good ideas from media sources? Are you going to challenge yourself to continue learning so you can be a more productive and happy writer? Also, if you know of any good writing teachers/coaches who have blogs, let me know, and I will check them out. Please comment below, or feel free to send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.