keep learning

I have a strong drive to learn. I love education, although I’m not so fond of the examination process that accompanies it.

I was one of those kids that liked going to school so I could learn new things, although I disliked the way it was taught and the endless boring rituals that schooling imposed upon a child.

It struck me today that I have nothing lined up for 2007, which is the first time in five years.

Here’s what I’ve accomplished since 2002:

  • A beginners course in screenwriting from Filmbase in Dublin (a class a week for eight weeks).
  • A Diploma in Film Studies from NUIG (a class a week for two years).
  • A Masterclass in screenwriting by Paul Laverty (an afternoon).
  • A foundation course in filmmaking from the Galway Film Centre (eight weekends).
  • A M.A. in Screenwriting (one year).
  • A Masterclass in screenwriting by Paul Schrader (an afternoon).
  • Attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle, USA (six weeks).

Since May 2005 I’ve been a member of the Galway Playwrights and Screenwriters Group, which meets fortnightly to review and discuss members’ work.

I’m always trying to improve my skills, especially in writing, and a workshop or course can be beneficial (only if it’s not an excuse to avoid writing). I’m getting pickier now. I have a list of criteria that I need matched from a course or workshop.

The most important points are: a recommended teacher who can offer useful insights in a professional manner, and specific advice on practical techniques I can employ. Over the years I’ve digested a lot of theories, and I still enjoy splashing around in metaphysical waters, but for my current educational needs I would prefer to emerge on the far side with dirt under my fingernails, and a happy, if tired, smile on my face.

Since I’ve nothing lined up at the moment, I turned to reading a couple of books on the subject of writing: Rebel Yell: A Short Guide to Fiction Writing by Lance Olsen and On Writing Horror: A Handbook by The Horror Writers Association, revised edition, edited by Mort Castle.

I’m enjoying Olsen’s book, which is peppered with interviews with writers about the creative process. In particular, I like Olsen’s encouragement for writers to engage with alternatives modes of storytelling. This suits me, as it’s something I’m particularly interested in at the moment. It might not be to everyone’s tastes, and if that’s the case one should check out another of the thousands of books on writing.

Overall, Castle’s collection of essays is excellent, although one or two pieces are a little so-so. Out of the many articles I’ve read so far, I enjoyed the hell out of Nick Mamatas’ “Depth of Field: Horror and Literary Fiction”. Again, it indicates my interests at the moment. Bruce Holland Rogers’ item, “The Dark Enchantments of Style” gave me a lot to ponder. The handbook covers the history and background of the genre, issues of craft and concept, and the business and potential evolution of the field. It would be hard not to find something useful in this book.

The point of books like this to inspire to you write, read, and be creative. Both of these texts do that for me, so I’m happy with my purchases.

Now, I have to apply the advice.

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