Can Too Much Learning Hurt Your Creativity and Writing?

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© R Mitchell

Carrie De Simas

Editor in Chief @ GoneWithTheWord

Years ago, I submitted my first attempt at a trilogy in proposal form to Harlequin. Within a few weeks, I received a request for a partial back and quickly sent in the first six chapters of the first book.

In my mind, I saw my books on the bookshelves, my name in print and my bank account with more than the current twenty dollars in it. But what came back to me was a lengthy rejection. Later, I learned that this lengthy letter was a good sign because the editor saw in my writing something to encourage.

So I joined a writers group and began the task of learning the tools of writing creativity.

Sounds like an oxy moron. Learning tools and creativity.

For the next few years I learned about world building and deep point of view. I learned about the publishing industry and marketing. I learned and learned and learned.

As I learned, I wrote. But it became more structured, more organized and more arduous. The fun had faded.

I consulted how-to books to properly outline my story plot. 

I reviewed character books to flesh out and deepen my heroes.

I submitted drafts to fellow writers and reviewed all their feedback before writing more.

Except, the more I did these things, the less I wrote. The more I learned, the more my fingers froze over the keys of my computer.

Whereas once I wrote for the love of the story in my head, now I wrote based on a set of rules and guides that I had accumulated. What had once been an act of love had now become a task of work.

I stopped writing. Not only for these reasons but for also for the reasons many people hit the pause button on their personal interests: life.

During this hibernation period of creativity, I picked up freelance jobs to keep the art of writing (albeit not fiction) in my life. Then, one day, I began to write again. Without overthinking, planning or processing. And it was fun again!

I’m a huge advocate of learning. I take courses, read various industry magazines and sponge up documentaries. But learning has to be in a kind of moderation as well.

There are all sorts of rules to writing fiction that can be learned. And for every rule, there is a success story of someone who has broken it.

Hunger Games made violence into the Young Adult market hot.

Nora Roberts is a master of head-hopping.

Richard Paul Evans self-published when it was still considered a dirty thing to do by industry standards and he became a bestseller.

Sentences should not be run-ons. Yet James Joyce wrote a sentence that tops 4,000 words.

Learn the tools. Master them if it helps. Remember though that creativity is lodged in the right side of the brain and logical thinking on the left.

My advice: write from the right and edit from the left.

More importantly: love it. 

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