This column is devoted more or less to the writer’s life, but any regular reader will notice certain reoccurring themes that have little direct relevance to the craft or business of writing. One of those is education. Though my sister has been a teacher in the public schools all her adult life, and my father-in-law founded an experimental high school in the early 70’s, I have no real personal investment in education, aside from hoping my two sons will get something resembling one by the time they have graduated high school.
The other day, I was reflecting on all I have learned since ending my formal education. I learned how to raise sons, one with what we call “special needs” and one without; I learned about marriage and politics (which are not necessarily related); I learned how to act and how to write sketch comedy; I learned how to tell the difference between a pinot noir and syrah by the wine’s color and fragrance; I learned how to write music; I learned how interview people and how to edit videos. Oh, and I also learned how to write fiction, poetry, and essays.
Not once in all this learning did it ever cross my mind that I should find a classroom where I would sit in a chair while an instructor guided me and a group of other students through the basics of whatever it was I was trying to learn. Not that this is such a horrible way to learn something, but apparently it is not the way I learn something. Apparently, I like to just do the thing, make my mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and then do the thing some more.
In short, I had to leave school in order to learn in a way that was natural to me. Which brings me back to writing: Learning is the very natural act of pursuing what is of interest to us. Is this not writing? And what brings more joy to a writer than discovery, that moment where you learn where it is you actually wanted to go when you began your story, poem, play, or memoir? All writers have gone back to school, but it is in a classroom of one. Here we are the student again, the teacher is the story, and fortunately no diplomas are ever given.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com