Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Grow Your Writing By Teaching Others

Twice last week I taught about helping authors be more effective on Goodreads. I helped some of my colleagues at a local meeting of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. We brought our laptops and worked on improving our Goodreads tools right on the spot. I'm still learning about Goodreads and feel like I'm far from an expert—but I was further along the path than the people I was helping.

Then on Saturday, I spoke about Goodreads again to the Colorado Author League. There were more people in attendance during this second session and I helped authors increase their effectiveness on this significant site which has 40 million registered participants.

From this experience, I want to draw a couple of principles for you to use in your own writing and publishing life.

Teaching Forces You To Know The Details

While you may have experimented and learned some things when you create your own work, I have found teaching forces me to return to the basics and recall my early mistakes and successes. I have to capture the sequence of steps that I used and write them down.

As a part of teaching a workshop on a topic, I prepare teaching notes and a detailed handout for the participant. It is one step to gather information but quite another to put it into a format where the listener can take action and apply the information to their own work. I was focused on the people who take action and helping them succeed with the promotion and exposure for their books and writing.

Goodreads provides many tools for authors to help in this effort. It does not happen in a vacuum without action. It is passive to learn about a topic and gather information. The rubber meets the road when you begin to do something with this information.

You may intellectually understand millions of people use Goodreads, but if you don't become a Goodreads Author, work on your profile and use the site, then that knowledge is not being used. I've gained a much more detailed working knowledge of Goodreads because I taught it twice this past week to others.  You will have the same opportunity as you teach the skills you learn to others.

Teaching Gets You Out With Others

Most of us spend too much time in our office and computers alone and not interacting with anyone. Yes we are cranking words into our computers and sending emails. That process is great but does not get us out of our office into the world to interact face to face with others. This personal time with others is important on several levels. It helps you to listen to others and their ideas and learn what they are writing and working on. Also it gives you fresh opportunities.

When I taught twice about Goodreads, at each session I made new connections with other speakers and also with participants who attended the event. We exchanged business cards and emails. When you teach, make sure you bring business cards. As you meet new people, offer the other person a business card and at the same time, ask for one from them. Because I initiate this interaction, I'm often surprised that agents and others only have a few business cards and I get one of those few exchanges. If you bring plenty of business cards (which I do), you can make sure to be liberal with your business cards. 

Each participant at the event received my handout. I made a point to include some of my key websites and email information on the document. Why? Even if I don't exchange business cards with an individual, they have my information and can easily reach me. It is critical that anyone can easily reach you.

My major point of this article is the teacher learns more about a particular subject than anyone else. You can grow your writing life by learning new areas, then teaching it to others. How have you found this effective in your own writing life? 

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4 Comment:

At 5:14 AM, Blogger @MarieWritesBook Left a note...

You are right, Terry! I've been teaching through speaking engagements for years. Now I have a book that is not even in the same realm and I'm struggling on how to have a platform before the book is published. If the book was already published I could advertise myself and set-up speaking engagements. Since that is not the case, I'm a bit stuck. Any advice?

At 6:03 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


I would do a couple of things. Continue setting up speaking opportunities as you have in the past on that topic. Then begin blogging and writing magazine articles and other such actions to build your expertise in the area of your book. You can bridge the gap through these other means to become an expert in any area then begin teaching in this area. It's what I did in a small way with Goodreads. Now I've taught my workshop and can teach it other places. Hope this helps. Terry

At 7:54 PM, Blogger @MarieWritesBook Left a note...

Terry, thank you for taking the time to respond. I really appreciate it. I will follow your suggestions and see what I can do. Keep inspiring others!

At 2:47 PM, Blogger Joanne Weck Left a note...

I'm impressed with your site. I taught Creative Writing for years and now have two novels (with a third in the works) and feel that teaching helps me hone my own writing skills.


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