Learning through leading

Word count: 484    Reading time: 2 minutes

About a million years ago when I was immersed in all things karate, Sensei Wong told the intermediate class if we wanted to get our black belts then we had to teach the lower ranks at some point. He said that teaching developed a deeper proficiency. I recently read a similar sentiment expressed by Yogi Bhajan, “If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand something, write about it. If you want to master something, teach it.”

I’ve been reading about the craft of writing fiction for years now. I’ve blogged about it for the past 18 months. When I took on the Young Writers’ Club, I wanted to give something back to the community. I didn’t know what a rich two-way process it would be.

Some of the early benefits have been:

  • Focused research. Each time I set a new exercise, I analyze what it entails and how to best approach it. This week I set a poetry-writing challenge so I had to clarify the techniques for my own understanding. Then I had to whittle that down to a few digestible sentences.
  • Improved organizational skills. Not only do I have to prepare enough material for the two-hour workshop, I also have to make sure I have a cheque for the facility rental, payments from the drop-ins, permission forms from all the parents, extra pencils, pens, and paper just in case, and snacks to perk everyone up at the end of the long school day. I have to set up the room in fifteen minutes. At the end of the session I have to quickly return it to its pre-YWC state.
  • Improved interpersonal skills. I’m really interested in the kids’ writing and love what they produce. However, they need to learn how to critique and encourage each other. In order for them to take the rudder, I have to step back a little.
  • Validation. I don’t ask the members to do anything I haven't tried myself. When they follow my methods and produce wonderful writing, it’s proof of the pudding.

I’m looking forward to a long association with the Young Writers’ Club. These kids cram the monthly meetings into their hugely crowded timetables because they love writing. They deserve all the encouragement they can get. Writing isn’t like dance, music, or sports. There are few if any public displays of accomplishment. There are no bright canvases or shiny sculptures to show off. As many writers know, recognition can be a long time in coming.

So the YWC members come only because of their commitment to write and then write even better. In return, I offer the commitment to help them follow those dreams. How lucky I am to master so much more about the craft of fiction (and now poetry) along the way.

Where and how do you share your love of writing? What are you learning as you do that?

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Photo by: strixcode