Never stop studying your craft – Joanne Phillips
By Joanne Phillips
When I announced my intention to study for a Masters in creative writing, the response from my fellow writers was a resounding “What for?” As a self-published author of four novels, already building a writing career and a loyal readership, I know I’m an anomaly on my MA course. Shouldn’t I already know everything there is to know about writing? How can I publish novels and call myself a writer if I still feel the need to study my craft? ♥
Okay, so first of all let’s dispel the myth that creative writing can’t be taught. It can, and it is, in universities and colleges all over the world. Second, my personal belief is that however good you are (or think you are), there is always more you can learn. I have been writing all my life – I’m now 44 and I started writing stories in middle school. My first novel, Can’t Live Without, took six years to write and edit. (My last novel took six months – you get quicker with practice, that’s for sure!) It had interest from an agent, but that didn’t pan out, so I jumped on the Kindle revolution and self-published in 2012. Can’t Live Without has sold over 25,000 copies and been downloaded by over 60,000 readers. It’s a good book … but I know I can do better.
Writers are on a creative journey, and every book they write should be better than the one before, or at the very least it should be pushing them beyond the comfort zone of churning out the same old same old. I’m a learning junkie, it’s true. Give me the chance to stretch my brain and I jump at it. I’ve studied writing with the Open University, by distance learning, at my local college, and with more than one writing group. Every time I take a course I travel a little further along the road to becoming the brilliant author I know I can be … one day. My writing changes, it gets tighter and clearer, the characters jump off the page more vividly, readers become more involved in my stories. I know this because I get emails from readers all over the world, and this makes the hours of study worthwhile.
So what does this mean for new writers? It means don’t be afraid of writing rubbish. Know that even when you’ve written several novels you should still consider the possibility that what you’ve written isn’t very good. Attend as many writing courses as you can, and commit to doing it forever. In every profession, from doctors to hairdressers, there is always the need to keep learning. Why should writing be any different?
Joanne Phillips lives in rural Shropshire with her husband and young daughter. She’s the author of romantic comedies Can’t Live Without, The Family Trap and Cupid’s Way, and the Flora Lively series of contemporary mysteries. Before becoming a writer, Joanne had jobs as diverse as hairdresser, air hostess and librarian. She’s a fan of super-dark chocolate, iced coffee and Masterchef. Joanne can be found at www.joannephillips.co.uk and she blogs about writing and publishing at www.writersjourney.co.uk.