Margaret Jackson: ON LEARNING TO WRITE

A year and a half ago I took my first creative writing course. I hadn’t known there were rules. These were like the rocks of a hidden reef that sank the unwary and uninformed.

To name just a few: the various viewpoints; then point of view. I learned there must be conflict either/and inner and outer conflict. And the biggy: Show, don’t tell.

Show, don’t tell has been perhaps the hardest. First big victory was when I was told I tended to show and tell. Progress. I still struggle with this to the encouraging comments of my tutor and my friends from the writer’s workshop. I recently read something that freed me up from the constriction of the dreaded rules –

‘Don’t think of them as rules but as guidelines only.’

After all to be creative sometimes we need to throw the rules away and work outside the box.


A few of us have formed a small Writer’s Group – we try to meet once a fortnight to critique each other’s work and lend one another support and encouragement. This has been amazing. We have learned to trust each other and be honest in our critiquing as well as supportive and encouraging. We discuss the craft of writing and learn through the discussion. It helps to keep us writing.

In the early days of our small group one wise young women made a comment that made me realise that not everyone is writing the great novel or pursuing publication. Some are interested in writing as a hobby. Just for the joy of writing. Some see it as a great social outlet with people who have the same interests. For all these people, writer’s groups and writers workshops are wonderful places to have their writing read and critiqued.

Others who are serious about pursuing publication find great help in classes, and workshops and particularly in writing groups. In my case I found myself focusing on learning the craft as I wrote. What great satisfaction there has been, often mixed with frustration, each time I leapt over another hurdle and felt as if I had reached a new level.

But for all of us, mostly the writing occurs within the framework of our lives – around jobs and babies, children and bills, through the changing stages of our lives and all the struggles therein. Whatever category of writer you are the one essential thing I believe you need is passion about the writing.

Writing this post has had me thinking – What are some of the things that have been most helpful on my journey?

* A Tutor who recognizes each level I’ve reached and critiques my work accordingly while encouraging me and challenging me.

* Yes, the Rules / Guidelines.

* A writer’s workshop

* My Small Writer’s Group. I think once you are on your way with writing this is a must. I know of writer’s groups that have been together for 15 years and most of the members are now published authors.

* Learning to critique other writers work which helps us in critiquing our own work.

* Going back and reading earlier work to show yourself you really have improved and grown.

* Finally just writing – around the blocks and through the victories and the failures.

So I wonder if any of you would like to share some of the helpful things or even challenges you’ve found on your own writer’s journey?

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7 Responses to Margaret Jackson: ON LEARNING TO WRITE

  1. Diana Threlfo says:

    Margaret, can relate to all the points you’ve made in your blog, especially the challenges around point of view, conflict and YES, show don’t tell! But it’s such fun coming to grips with it all.

  2. Elena Terol says:

    Lovely post Margaret. It’s made me think of all I’ve learnt in the last couple of years

  3. Maree says:

    Hi Margaret,
    Lovely to read your post it is very honest and helpful. As a new writer as well, I can completely relate to your comments. I have also had to jump the hurdles and try to learn the art behind the craft of writing. In deed we will always be learning. The writing groups are invaluable. I love having my pieces critiqued as it is a vital source of feedback that ultimately helps to improve my writing. The support is also encouraging. I agree life is jam packed for all of us these days and sometimes I wonder what story I might have to tell. My passions always seem to drive my story lines. Sometimes it is just the simple and obvious things in life that provide us with the best stories. So my tip for writing is to write what you are passionate about, whether it be as a hobby or publication.
    Kind Regards,

  4. Aidan Walsh says:

    Great post. Marg. A fantastic write up of the journey we all (unfortunately! Why wasn’t I just born a genius?) have to walk!

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