Saturday, April 16, 2011

Can You Learn Too Much?

I spent eight years gaining both a Bachelors Degree of Elementary Education and a Masters Degree in Educational Technology, so you can safely assume I am a true advocate of educating one's self. In my nearly eight years as a teacher I have repeatedly stressed to my students that knowing as much as possible about various subjects is a good thing. That immersing themselves in knowledge can improve their lifelong success, and better prepare them to identify potential obstacles and the means by which to eliminate them.

In this vein, I have practiced what I preached. I allowed my curiosity to guide my investigations into any number of areas from neurology, brain chemistry, Feng Shui, and cooking, to those elements related to writing and publishing. Numerous books, blogs, classes, and discussions have been used by me to figure out how to improve my writing; to increase my promotional efficacy; to build a website; to identify the agents, editors, and publishers with whom I'd like to work. I admit this information afforded me insight into both myself, my writing, and the path I want to carve out for myself in this industry.

With increased knowledge, a person is able to do so much more in his/her life. Teachers who develop new methods of reaching their students and accommodating the individual needs within the classroom, utilize their newfound techniques to achieve success as soon as possible. Educational research suggests it takes a minimum of eight repetitions for a new technique/method to be assimilated by a student. With this in mind, practicing new writing techniques will allow writers to add more tools to their toolbox in order to create their stories; to sculpt characters that seem to leap off the page.

I believe that this is true -- for some writers. But not all.

Case in point -- me.

As much as I love to learn new things, I've begun to realize that, for me, it is possible to learn too much. All this new knowledge I've gained has been both boon and bane for me. It has allowed me to see the things I do well and the things I need to improve. Unfortunately, it has also created a barrier between myself and my creativity. It has built a wall blocking me from the stories waiting to be released. It has established, within me, doubt in my natural ability to develop compelling characters with intricate tales. It has made me hesitate, often to the point of shutting down, when new ideas come to mind. With each stumble, I pull away from my natural inclinations to apply my newfound skills, mistrusting myself more and more, doubting the voice within me that tries to inspire my stories.

This in turn makes the voice within me grow ever more reluctant to talk, to offer suggestions, to open the lines of communication between my characters and my conscious. Which has left me floundering about trying to figure out what is wrong. If I have all these newly acquired skills, it would suggest that my writing should flourish, bloom, expand into the venues I'm aiming for with my career, right?


So, now I'm not back to Square One, but Square Negative One Hundred (in my estimation). I am stuck trying to climb out of the pit all my learning has dug for me, and re-establish a level of trust with my intuition and creativity. All those wonderful new tricks will eventually be used, but not until I've assured myself, my voice, and my characters that I trust them to communicate their stories without my attempting to shut them down because they don't "fit" with my new tools.

Here is my caution to anyone out there working on learning the craft of writing: Be careful how much you take as "gospel" and how you apply it.


**This was also published on my Quintessentially Qwillia blog on Savvy Authors**

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