Sometimes I wish I could go back in time, travel to England, sneak in the back door of the Eagle and Child, and grab a seat in the corner among the Inklings.
And maybe … just maybe … if I could gather up enough courage, I might venture to speak before the end of the evening.
But mostly, I would want to just listen. And learn.
To glean wisdom from the masters.
Until time travel becomes a reality, I’m afraid my dreams of sitting among the Inklings are doomed to disappointment. But I can still learn from the masters. That’s the glorious thing about a novelist’s classroom.
You don’t necessarily have to go anywhere or enroll in any specific classes. Nor do you need to follow a syllabus that was obviously written expressly to cause you misery and torment by a devious professor who simply must have graduated with honors from the Academy of Ultimate Villainy.
No, for a novelist, the classroom is all around us. The textbooks are at our finger tips. And the masters walk among us.
After reading certain books, I can’t help sitting there staring off into the distance with the book lying still open in may lap, stunned by the beauty and brilliance of what I just read. There are some amazing authors out there and some books that are truly works of art.
Sometimes, I have to pause in the middle of reading and jot down some new world-changing insight about crafting characters, or foreshadowing, or plot twists.
I love studying the craft of writing. I enjoy reading blog posts and how-to books. I love taking classes at conferences. And if I grit my teeth and force myself to bear the pain, I can also endure critiques of my work in the hopes that I will continue to improve.
But I believe the best way to learn about writing is to read.
Classes will teach you the rules and mechanics. But only a well-written book can show you how the rules truly work, when they apply, and when it’s okay to break them.
And the truly beautiful thing about the novelist’s classroom is that you never have to graduate. You can keep learning, keep gleaning, keep growing.
Until you become one of the masters.