Education: How much is enough?

Many people think writers have more education than other people. Well, yes, they do. But the real question is what and where did they receive their education? The 'what' comes in handy to craft the stories. The 'where'? It is everywhere.

When writing begins, the crafting starts.

Crafting a story begins with an idea. Then we put the words on the page. The words may be planned and tidy or messy and sloppy. The parts of a sentence may be all neat and orderly or slapdashedly placed with fragments and words misspelled. It doesn't make any difference. The important part is the story. The education with words will come, either in the beginning or by the end.
If one is educated in words prior to writing, then one might be able to craft phrases that are lilting and heartfelt, colorful and imaginative, maybe even correct in their grammer. That is the eyes, skin, and hair of a story. There is also the way a story moves, breathes, and sighs to contend with. Quite often those with minor word educations can toss the characters around like smitten beauty queens languishing in a pirate's berth or men of action throwing the reigns to the ground as they dismount with sword at side, never realizing that throwing yourself off a horse with a sword on your belt might cause a little difficulty as it gets caught in the saddle or jabs a horse's parts. See, now that poor writer has to figure out how to get their hero to the ground on his feet and not jab a portion of their horse's anatomy while dodging their steeds sidestepping hooves. Education strikes again. This time about horses, swords, and getting on or off a horse. Do you know why horses are mounted from the left side? To avoid the issue just described. A left-handed swordsman would need to give it go from the right side. A writer of such a story would need to familiarize (another word for educate) himself about horses, riding, swords, and how to use them.
How about education in fire arms? There was once an entry for a writing contest that had a huge hole blown in a door because someone inside the store was shooting at a raccoon that had mysteriously managed to be in the store. A huge hole blown in a wooden door might look great in a movie, but it can't really happen. Any door strong enough to be on hinges isn't delicate enough to have a huge hole blown in it by a shot gun. Shot guns shoot shot. Shot is usually pellets. The largest pellets are usually the size around as a little finger. There might be nine of those in a shotgun shell. How could you make a hole in a door large enough to step through with only that? So what is the real lesson--veracity. The stories have to have believability.
How about education in reading theory? One is the suspended disbelief theory. That theory teaches us that when a reader picks up a piece of fiction to read that they are ready to suspend disbelief (not toss the book down) long enough to have a false belief in a story. This suspension of disbelief happens most notably in fantasy, science fiction, and historicals. Those types of books have to make enough logical sense for the reader to maintain their fiction as believable. A writer will need to be educated about logic.
A writer will need to be educated on how to do research. Most of us didn't wake up one morning knowing how to do it.
If a writer didn't know about grammar, spelling, and punctuation in the beginning of their writing careers, they will certainly need that education by the end. They are the blueprint markings that make sense of a story.
It is possible to be overly formally educated with words. Often the problem is that words that come to the paper are too stilted to make fine reading. This kind of thing happens because writing a novel is messier. They are not like essays or instructions for how to put hair dye on your hair. The writing has to make entertaining sense or pack emotional impact for the reader. A novel that reads like an essay might put a novel reader to sleep. An ad for hair dye might be exciting, might have a little mystery, it might even have a satisfactory ending, but the length--ah, too short.
Quite often those of higher schooling get a little snobbish about who can write and who cannot. Quite often those of little formal schooling get caught in a tailspin of despair thinking they don't have what it takes to write. Everyone and anyone may write a fantastic, well loved story. The education, which can come from anywhere at anytime, combined with desire, and drive is that which is needed to craft a fantastic, well loved story.


Sharon N said...

Learning the craft, researching your ideas and putting it on paper is the thrill of telling a believeable and exciting story. I agree with you. Everyone who has the desire and puts forth the effort can write.
Thank you for a great blog.

Pat Davids said...

Nina, you are dead on. We never stop learning as writers or at least we shouldn't.

Starla Kaye said...

Nina, another excellent post with lots to think about. I like to believe I never stop learning in life, especially as a writer.