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  • [Making the Leap] Have You Experienced The Writer's Learning Curve?
[Making the Leap] Have You Experienced The Writer's Learning Curve?
Written by
Julie Luek
May 2013
Written by
Julie Luek
May 2013

In my Life Before Writing, I worked at a college learning center.  We spent many appointments working with students on studyskills. As obvious as learning sounds in a college setting, it’s amazing how many young adults successfully made their way through high school ill-equipped to learn. Unfortunately, when they got to college, they needed to acquire a whole new set of skills to achieve success. It had nothing to do with ability—it was a set of skills: how to read more actively, how to memorize more efficiently, effective study and time management skills, learning to discern important information in lectures. It was a steep learning curve for some.  But if they were motivated enough to succeed, they figure out new techniques and applications and soon had a set of new learning tools to apply to their college courses. This wasn’t about being smart or gifted or talented. It was about learning a new skill set for college success.


Since taking this writing leap, I feel like some of those students. I’ve had a very steep learning curve. I was ill-equipped and underprepared for the dream I’d chosen to pursue. But I jumped anyway. Some of what I've learned seems very obvious now; I've wondered how I could have been so naïve two years ago. But that’s the point of a learning curve I suppose. 


Here are a few embarrassing admissions of my learning curve journey:

  1. I didn’t realize how very difficult it is to be published by one of the big publishing houses, and along with that, how much marketing is expected of the author!
  2. I knew nothing about querying agents and made every newbie mistake.
  3. I didn’t even realize you can self-publish.
  4. I didn’t understand how important a professional editor is to a manuscript.
  5. I had to learn about POV.
  6. I had to learn what POV stood for—and MS, and WIP and all the other acronyms writers throw around.
  7. I had to reread Strunk and White’s Element of Style…again and again and yet again (OK honestly, this is still a learning curve.)
  8. I didn’t know I would like writing nonfiction better than fiction. I thought all writers wrote novels.


…just to name a few. But here’s maybe the best, and most hopeful, thing I’ve learned since I started writing:


If I’m willing to take advantage of the resources available in books, other writers and online sites,

I can gain new skills, and I will keep on learning!


One of my favorite quotes is by Daniel Pink (author of many books including A Whole New Mind and Drive).  I wrote it on an index card and keep it handy on my desk to remind me this isn’t about being a gifted student. It’s about being a hard-working learner:


Don’t worry about what other people think. And work harder. Persistence almost always trumps talent.


This is good news for someone like me with a steep learning curve. Persistence I’ve got.


What about you? Have you had a learning curve since you made the writing leap? What have you learned? What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started? What encouragement would you give others just making the leap in their own writing journey?

Keep writing (and learning!),


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  • Mary E. Merrell

    I learned a lot, but one of the neatest things was finding out how many people have stories jumping around in their heads that just have to get out. I didn't realize so many people had these stories rolling around upstairs. Sometimes I read a blog post or a comment and I'm like, "Hey, yeah. I'm totally like that too!"

  • Mary Jo Burke

    Everything changes in the publishing world, it's hard to keep up. I didn't know POV from WIP.

  • After a long nonfiction newspaper/magazine career I went back to school for an MFA in short fiction -- because I'd always thought Real Writers wrote fiction.  Most fun I've ever had, but what I learned is that rejection is no fun. Now I've got a new nonfiction book coming out, but if I live long enough I'm somehow going to publish my short story collection. Seriously: persistence wins. Write on.

  • I didn't realize how important social media would be in my journey.

  • IngridF

    The more I learn, the I more I find I need to learn...but the challenge, the struggle, is worth it. I love writing and can't imagine ever being happy doing anything else.

  • Julie Luek

    Daphne-- I keep on learnin' them!

  • Daphne Q

    Some good lessons in here... thanks for posting Julie!

  • Julie Luek

    RYCJ-- That is such a great observation. I'm so glad you shared that tip too. Thanks.

  • Julie Luek

    Jenny-- That's another thing I learned as I dug deeper into this life. So many writers have one, two, three or more rejected books under their belts before they land the one that starts their career. I think you and I are in good company! Best to you with your 2nd book!

  • Julie Luek

    Olga-- that's a great quote. I'm going to add that to my index card. Thanks for sharing!

  • Olga Godim

    I agree with your learning curve list, Julie.When I started writing 10 years ago I didn't know anything about writing or publishing. I've been learning ever since. Now, my ignorance at the beginning seems almost embarrassing, but I suspect if I knew then how much I didn't know, I probably wouldn't have the courage to start. So many great achievements in science and art are reached through ignorance: because the people involved didn't know it was impossible or how hard it would be. But the journey itself was fascinating. I learned not only about writing and marketing. I learned a lot about myself.

    As for persistence: oh, yeah! My favorite quote on the subject (and my motto in writing) :

    “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”

    - William Feather
    Those who win in this game are not the most talented or the most skilled. They are those who keep doing it. 

  • RYCJ Revising

    note: these readers call almost every book they read, predictable. And from what I know (to my surprise) They aren't throwing that phrase around carelessly. They are wordsmith masters.

  • RYCJ Revising

    I have to admit my eye-opener was learning how well well-read readers read into books. Of course this isn't as much an awe now, seeing what they were seeing after reading so many books (outside what I normally like to read), but when this one reader started reading the book I wrote back to me, I thought, "MAN! I've got to really roll 'way up' my sleeves!"

  • Julie Luek

    Elizabeth-- I also thought publishers would edit everything. Pffffttt. And yes, my attempt at writing a novel was almost pitiful and yet funny. There was so much more to putting a good, well-written, engaging story together than I ever imagined! I totally have new respect for authors. 

  • Elizabeth Hein

    I was surprised by how much marketing an author is expected to do. I had bought into the fantasy of being sent on book tours and having the support of a publishing company. Boy, was I wrong. 

    The steepest learning curve I have encountered was the process of learning the nuts and bolts of novel writing, as opposed to novel conception. I think the first three drafts of my current WIP were terrible because I was learning how to write a book through trail and error. Once I learned more about structure and planning, the process has become easier.