Do it Yourself Education
I own and have read thirteen of James Scott Bell’s writing craft books. It wasn’t by choice. They were required text while earning a degree in Creative Writing. So was Anne Lamott’s, Bird by Bird but her book I took great joy in reading.
I fell in love with her quote, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” Damn straight.
I own a total of 42 writing craft books. I’ll never read them. I have far too many excuses not to, so why should I? They’re boring. They’re torturous. I know everything I need to know already and if I ever should feel I don’t I’ll curl up with a keg of vodka and get’er done.
That’s the bullshit I tell myself. No one knows everything about anything. I read books, novels, essays, scholarly journals, op-eds. There is no end to my wanting to learn and grow and thrive. Yet I can’t bring myself to read a writing craft book when writing is my source of income and my passion.
In Time Life’s Inside the Criminal Mind, published November 2014, there are 93 pages filled with the history of America’s most notorious killers. The Bedford Bunch, Son of Sam, Kristen Gilbert and dozens more. They begin with discussing the link between mind, biology and criminology that causes people to kill but no where does it explain the science of why my mind is so fascinated by these stories. Could it be I’m simply curious of what I’m not capable of?
In Travels to Epicurus, the author Daniel Klein travels to the Greek Island of Hydra with nothing but philosophy books and a few friends he made during previous trips. Envious of their lifestyle he set out to learn ways to age simply, happily and in 2012 published this book on his discoveries throughout his personal journey. We must ask the question, Why did Klein wait until he was 70 years old to begin searching for his true meaning of pleasure? Why would any of us wait so long?
After reading The Trouble I’ve Seen, written by Martha Gellhorn I became gripped by The Great Depression that lasted a course of a decade from 1929- 1939. Working under the Roosevelt administration, Gellhorn was one of the 16 investigators sent out across America to report the poverty, illness, and grueling lifestyles of the American people.
I decided to research further when I stumbled upon P.T. Barnum’s, The Art of Money Getting, also written during The Great Depression. Barnum discusses the simplicity of skills needed in order to live prosperous, all valuable tips still to present day.
Ironically, one topic Barnum touches on is how important location is for making money. If your vocation is hotel keeper, he writes, “if you should choose to live in a small village with no railroad communication or public travel, the location would be your ruin.” The Art of Money Getting was written and published in 1932, 61 years after he founded the world’s most famous traveling circus, Barnum and Bailey.
How is it two people who lived through the same era experienced two entirely different perspectives? While one writes stories on a country in ruins another writes a story on how to get rich. One claimed there was no money to be earned and one claimed there was more than enough.
I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal titled, Book Publishers Go Back to Basics. Zeke Turner entertains the idea the Ebook’s popularity is starting to fall while print is beginning to rise again.
Books are a part of history. They’re filled with stories we can’t change, words we can’t erase and it’s left to the reader to use critical thinking skills and gain perspective. At the same time media is changing rapidly and the digital age is the form of education we often turn to in order to keep up with providing us with new and current information at all times.
There has been much debate on the recent trend of digital media. It’s impossible to know what’s true anymore and even more impossible for a journalist to write the truth and gain any type of recognition for it. We place blame on the media when in fact they are merely feeding us what we want to be fed. If this weren’t the case, media wouldn’t be what it’s become. Anger, hate, rumor and accusations, misguided information reported by misinformed outlets.
The library presents us with books and credible periodicals. Its a time capsule of information past and onward.
How is our time better spent? Walking around the library and absorbing the information bound in the pages of a book or spending that same period of time surfing the internet and reading only what we are selective of. There’s by far a difference between open and closed minded. If you need proof just log onto your Facebook account.
We spend twelve years of our lifetime being taught the same information as the generation before us, and before them, and so on. We graduate college book smart with hardly enough fundamentals to start from ground zero as the world continues to evolve all around us.
In order to adapt, grow and experience we need to spend our lifetimes educating ourselves. It’s our responsibility no matter what we choose to do in life. Whether we choose to live in a small town or a city. Whether we choose to be a fisherman or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Education is the security and stability of our future.
Chances are I’ll never read those 42 writing craft books but that doesn’t mean the hundreds I have and will read, of all genres, won’t make me a better writer.
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