One interest of mine is the distinction between what might be called ‘pushed-in learning’ and ‘pulled-in learning’. The first of these is the usual one of learning by going to a set place, at a set time, and having the content-of-the-day pushed towards you. A lot of formal education/schooling follows this pattern as does much of traditional in-service training. The alternative is getting involved with some activity then realising that there are things you need to learn as you go along – and pulling this learning, as needed, from whatever sources seem most appropriate.
Like many aspiring writers, I have been on short courses or attended one-off workshops. These have been of variable usefulness. None were a waste of time but none gave me what I was looking for, when I was looking for it (or if it did, I had to sit through quite a bit of other stuff in order to get to where I wanted to be). ‘How-to’ books on writing have similarly been of some use in giving technical advice but no one book has been ‘The One’. None changed my approach to writing to any great degree.
There have been debates about the value of longer, more intensive Creative Writing courses. On one hand there are those who argue that creativity cannot be taught (but maybe can be encouraged and developed). Others suggest that such courses, with set expectations about what counts as ‘good’ writing, tend to turn out writers in the same style. At the same time, a sustained exposure to ideas about writing, the opportunity (and expectation) to really get down to some disciplined writing, exposure to the views of others, and the time to study the mechanics of the industry etc – all can be useful in forming a writer’s style and future.
The majority of really-useful learning, for me, has been pulled in. When I got to the stage of having some texts that could form ebooks, I started to look for the person who could teach me how to get them up onto Amazon’s Kindle site. I had imagined sitting next to some expert who would take me through each intricacy, step by step. As it turned out, the best advice I got was ‘For goodness sake, Geoff, just have a go. Here is the website you need. Work it out from there’. The Kindle Direct Publishing site set out the process. If I got stuck, I went back over the process. Within a short time I had some ebooks up there and was confident enough in the process to be able to describe it to others.
It has been the same with most other technical things:
- setting up and using WordPress blogs
- using keywords, tags, and categories to set things out in a sensible way on my website
- how Twitter works (and the things that it is less useful for)
- different approaches to marketing or promotion (in ways that fit with my style)
I am no industry expert on any of these but I have pulled-in enough understanding to be able to do the things I want to do, in the ways I want to do them. On the way I have also learnt a great deal about things that turned out not to have immediate application but which sparked of tangential ideas. I am used to having several puzzles in mind at the same time and it is surprising how often a search for solutions on one puzzle threw up things that were valuable in relation to some other one.
I will still go to the occasional seminar or conference. I will still read around a topic. I will still ask others for their views, I will still Google away around a theme. I will, however, tend to pull all this potential for learning together just when I most need it.