I attended NorWesCon42 this year, and while there were a number of amazing panels, insights, readings and friendships, what I want to talk about is education. Specifically, an education in writing. I have not had a formal education as a writer, and often at my lowest, I feel like I have had none. That is a lie. My education is pieced together from a thousand places, and disseminated this way, it is easy to overlook it.
I attended a really helpful panel this year on where writers come from with authors Craig Laurance Gidney, Kat Richardson, Caroline M. Yoachim, and Yilin Wang. All of them had different backgrounds in their writerly education, and the most important thing they stressed was that there is no correct path to a career as an author.
And because it has taken me so long to accept that I am not alone, that I have built an informal education for myself out of conventions and books and time in the chair writing unpublishable nonsense, I want to pass this key on to you, whoever you may be.
However you got here, whatever method you used to learn your craft, and wherever you are on the path right now YOU ARE VALID.
Fanfiction is valid. Writing books are valid. Workshops are valid whether they last one hour or six weeks. Your friends who read your work and give you feedback, whether or not they are also writers; they are valid resources (and golden and beautiful souls and you should hug them next time you see them.) Writing awful things and tearing them up and making them into new things is valid and necessary. You are learning. You will never stop learning.
If you have been waiting for someone to give you a certificate that says Now You May Write Because We Have Decided You Are Educated Enough To Do So, stop waiting. There’s no certificate as important as the next finished story. Because writing in itself is an education in writing.
(and so is reading)
I’ve read some really great things lately, so I’m going to share three of them.
Holly Heisey’s article on medium sparked the thought behind this blog post, and my time at NorWesCon only fed the fire. Speaking Up (When You’re Not Perfect And Never Will Be)
I got to hear Carolyn M. Yoachim read the first part of her story The Archronology of Love at the convention, and I just managed to read the rest today. It was beautiful and the construction was so clever and I need other people to read it so I’m not the only one holding all these feelings.
And while I did not get to hear Chimedum Ohaegbu read her story Toothsome Things at Norwescon, Erik did, and he told me as soon as he saw me that I was going to love it. I did. It’s frightening and quick, and it mashes up all the stories you know into something so much bigger. He knows my tastes so well.