Alternative Learning, Alternative Doing

As I touched on last week, I’ve entered a new stage in my writing where learning more about editing and self-publishing are more the focus. For me, taking any step is a unique experience because I learn in a different way than many do. Finally learning and accepting that fact has been a great aid.

Maybe it was my upbringing or maybe it’s my INFJ personality type or maybe it’s even my horoscope sign (Taurus). Probably, though, it’s just me, who I am. I’m okay with that.

Take pride in whatever makes you different—it’s what separates you from the rest.

I’m not one for hard and fast rules or standardized approaches. I spend considerable time learning a system that’s about as comfortable as a tinfoil dress. It’s new, it’s shiny, and there’s valuable information contained in the system, but in the end it constricts, cuts, and scratches.

I bristle at systematic approaches. Instead, I have to use my creative nature to evolve my own system using what I learn from others, and what suits how my brain works.


Courtesy: Pixabay

I should’ve learned this in school, but I didn’t. Each year I’d look forward to science classes. Each year I’d flounder. Class would begin and the first piece of fascinating information would allow my imagination to steal my focus.

Daydreaming was my biggest enemy in school.

I’d leap from a basic concept to what if? Twenty minutes later I’d realize I was just absent for half of the class.

On the other hand, I excelled in history. It was a story. In science I’d forget processes, but in history I’d remember dates with precision. If I could fit something into a story I’d remember it, especially if there was a visual element that stuck with me.

All of this was a clear indication I should be a writer, right? Nope. I flailed in english. The key, which no one recognized, was the lack of a visual element. I’d remember how a word should look—mostly. Spelling tests became my year-long dread, and it didn’t help that I missed a lot of time due to illness.

Junior high school and diagraming sentences? Eek! I was still sick a lot and attended three different schools in three years in three different towns in two different states.


Courtesy: Pixabay

My fifteenth year changed everything. It was the year I changed schools and states—yet again—but I’d remain there for all three years. I also, finally, encountered insightful teachers who recognized the creativity that’d long been ignored or disparaged.

I also read Lord of the Rings.

In one year all that I thought I knew about myself—was turned upside down. At the same time my home life was at its worst I discovered ME.

All this, I imagine, is similar to what other kids go through when trapped in a rigid system that doesn’t allow for learning by other methods.

Even at my last job all this still held true. About four months along, and after being passed around, one manager told me she had some unusual assignments and I might just be the one to do them.

She was right.

I excelled working for her. Our talk right before Covid struck stuck with me:

I can’t begin to understand how you do anything you do. I just know that, in the end, you’ll get it how I want it. That’s why I’m going to explain how I want this to turn out and let you figure-out how best to do that.

That’s why my drafting methods had to evolve, and why my editing has to do the same.

Photo: CA Hawthorne

Photo: CA Hawthorne

When drafting, the basis for my outlines is narratives. Spreadsheets and templates didn’t work for me. Looking back, I should’ve recognized this sooner. When studying for tests in college, I learned the material best if I approached studying like it’d be an essay test.

All this isn’t to say that I ignore advice and approaches. Quite the contrary. I gobble them up and assimilate them to form my approach. At present I’m going through Intuitive Editing by Tiffany Yates Martin, which is excellent. Too, one hour/day is devoted to reading advice online. That’s been my approach for almost a decade. I take notes.

To this point, my macro focus when editing has been consistency and continuity. Now, that’s from the perspective of what I’ve learned from drafting the last two books. 

That isn’t to say that I ignore other problems like nonsensical sentences and typos. All along, though, it’s been my approach to not polish yet. Tiffany Yates Martin agrees:

Hold off on polishing your prose till you’ve made sure everything else is as solid as you can make it.

Knowing myself and how I do best has been, perhaps, the most critical lesson these last years. Even if I adopt most of what someone else teaches me, I still have to get there in my own way. It’s taken most of my life to learn the lesson, but at least it’s coming at a critical time.


About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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2 Responses to Alternative Learning, Alternative Doing

  1. I totally get the issue of grating with the ‘required’ way to do things! I had similar issues in my schooling and later. In my case, if I knew the concept or organising principle first then the details always fell into place; whereas the school relentlessly taught only the details without explaining the principle. It wasn’t much different at university and I was finally spat out the end of the education system having spent years fighting it. The main lesson was yeah, you’ve got to run with what best works for you – not the ‘one size fits all’ approach that society conditions us to regard as ‘the right way’. I suspect there are as many ‘right ways’ to approach things – especially writing and editing – as there are people.

    • Absolutely! Whenever I explain my processes I always stress that people should pick and choose elements that work for them. Make it your own! To think I was in my mid teens by the time part of my english learning was to (wait for it!) write. Suddenly, the sytem that had been labeling me as average, at best, decided I was above average. Go figure.

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