Always Be Curious (The ABCs of the Writing Life)

Recently, I was speaking to a small group of writers and one asked, “What would be one piece of advice we should follow for the rest of our writing careers?”

I said, “A. B. C. Always be curious.”

Another way to put this is, “Always be learning.” I’m a firm believer that writers need to always have a “back-to-school” mentality.

When you think you know it all, it will be the beginning of the end for you.

Here are six things we can gain from always going to “school”:

  1. Anticipation. The joyful feeling that something great is going to happen.
  2. Dread. The accompanying feeling that something awful is going to happen.
  3. Fun. Put the first two together, and you have an adventure. (If we change the words, we could have Anticipation-Angst-Adventure!)
  4. Renewal. Learning something new becomes a part of you. And you become different or renewed each time.
  5. Growth. Growth happens over time and through much work and perseverance. Ronie Kendig spent eight years from the time she first began pursuing publication to the date her first novel was released. That is perseverance.
  6. Reward. There is never a “graduation” ceremony from the school of writing. It is a lifetime experience. But the rewards are great because words can change lives.

If you can, if circumstances allow, I would encourage you to attend a writers conference some time in the next 12 months. It can be like going back to school–but in a fun way. (See #3.)

12 Responses to Always Be Curious (The ABCs of the Writing Life)

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 4, 2021 at 5:24 am #

    The day I thought I knew it all,
    ’bout my aeroplane and flyin’
    showed pride going ‘fore the fall
    and I flew into a power line.
    Big bright flash and big deep boom
    and the world went kinda hazy,
    and in the face of my own doom
    I realized that I’d been crazy
    to treat miraculous with contempt
    (I’d lost that child-like wonder)
    and naught was left but to lament
    that I might soon be under
    the ground that rushed to claim my hide,
    seeing flowers from the wrongest side.

  2. Roberta Sarver October 4, 2021 at 5:46 am #

    Another great one, Andrew.

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 4, 2021 at 6:33 am #

      Roberta, thanks so much! It’s been a life of high adventure and low comedy, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

  3. Kristen Joy Wilks October 4, 2021 at 6:17 am #

    Yes! Such an important thing. Even through the raising-wild-little-boy years, I always went to one writer’s conference every year. Since I started that in 2004, that is a lot of learning and your knowledge base just grows every year even if you don’t remember half of it, ha! Yeah, we couldn’t afford the big ones, but there was always a small regional conference within six hours of home. Now, with so many great options online, it is even easier to learn something new every year.

  4. Damon J. Gray October 4, 2021 at 6:49 am #

    Yup. I go to at least one writers’ conference each year. Looking forward to the Mount Hermon conference coming up soon.

  5. OLUSOLA SOPHIA ANYANWU October 4, 2021 at 7:24 am #

    Thank you so much for this.Blessings!

  6. Virginia Graham October 4, 2021 at 8:38 am #

    Thank you, Steve, and thank you to all my writing friends for this great adventure!

  7. Elliott Slaughter October 4, 2021 at 8:50 am #

    One good part about COVID is that a lot of writer’s conferences went online. I’ve attended four conferences in the last eight months, and that (along with a number of accompanying critiques) has really accelerated my pace compared to where I would have been otherwise.

  8. Rebecca Barlow Jordan October 4, 2021 at 10:08 am #

    Great post, Steve. For over 20 years I had a recurring dream: I was always going back to school. I kept asking the Lord what that meant. (Inevitably I decided God was telling me the same thing as your post today: Always be “in school”–always learning and wanting to learn more). God has taught me something about perseverance through the years, as I’m sure He does all writers. Remember that year I had 1000 rejects? God is good and so faithful. I love learning!

  9. Judy Wallace October 4, 2021 at 12:16 pm #

    Great post I loved the always be curious and never stop learning part. I believe curiosity, imagination and learning go together. They help add some fun, excitement and adventure to the lonely hours we spend writing.

  10. Kelly Fordyce Martindale October 4, 2021 at 6:27 pm #

    I attended two conferences this year and I haven’t had a moment’s rest since. It’s been hard getting back into the game since being out of it since 2002. So much has changed but that, in itself, has given me a new appreciation and fire in my belly. I need to learn to better manage my time and my energy and to do what God says to do FIRST! God bless us all.

  11. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. October 6, 2021 at 12:49 pm #

    I’m working on perseverance right now, Steve!

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