In a couple of weeks, I’ll be returning to the University of Dundee to complete the MLitt in Writing Practice & Study. Some people have asked why I need to take a course when I’ve already been published and read aloud at as many events as possible. To answer this, allow me to draw an example from the movie industry.
There is a group of older A- and B-list actors who used to be at the top of their game. If they were in a film in the 70s, 80s, perhaps even the 90s, you knew it was probably going to be good. If these guys show up in a picture nowadays, it feels like they’ve stopped making the effort to improve their craft. I use the word guys deliberately here, as this phenomenon doesn’t seem to affect actresses nearly so much.
I don’t want to suffer from that sloppiness. However much I know, there’s always one more lesson ready to be learnt. In fact, I drafted this entry on a train ahead of a talk by children’s author Michael Rosen, and he happened to make a similar point.
I think you can always learn something new, however minor, from every event – especially if it’s through necessity. For example, I spoke last week about reviewing books for the first time, and I learnt a lot from that, including: the DURA house style, some of the editors’ preferences, and even how to use the Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word. My third and final review was published yesterday.
Even if the only lesson you take away is not to repeat the same action, your time is never wasted. That’s especially true if you also come away with a great anecdote or a free pen. Or a Masters degree.