Years ago, if you put in time practicing the skills you needed for your job, you were considered to be ‘learning your craft’. Nowadays, it’s been given a fancy new title, and most professionals will be all too aware of ‘continued professional development’, or CPD. The idea is that you continually build and improve your toolbox of skills you need to do your job, and you’re continually on top of new ideas or codes of practice within your industry.
If you’re reading this blog, then you’re clearly serious about your writing, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t consider writing as your career. It might not be your primary, bread-winning career, but it’s a career nonetheless. To get the most out of it, you really need to make sure you’re continually learning, always pitching yourself to the right places, and aware of anything that might have an impact, both positive and negative, on your work!
So how can you apply the principles of CPD to your writing?
Never Underestimate the Power of Books
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of titles about creative writing. Personally, I like those published by Writer’s Digest (a magazine I also recommend you subscribe to). Why not invest in one or two, or borrow them from your local library? Select a particular title and treat it as a mini creative writing course. If the author sets exercises, then work through them. You might want to try a ‘general’ text on creative writing to refresh your skills, or you might choose a book specifically about an area on which you feel you need to work. The books are there to help you, so let them!
Free Information from Blogs
If you’re not the bookish type (though why on earth would you be a writer if you weren’t?) then you can find thousands upon thousands of blogs about creative writing. Read the posts that interest you, but don’t forget to comment – very often, the best information comes out through discussions in the comment threads, and contributing your own experience can be a good way to hone what you know, but also learn something new!
Find Conferences or Events
If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere that has a writer’s group, or a venue that hosts events or conferences for writers, then try to go along. It could be a good way to network, as in the previous point, but it could also put you in touch with professionals who can help you along your writing path. Beyond that, the workshops you might attend could help you improve all sorts of areas of your writing, and are an invaluable source of dynamic information that may be easier for you to absorb if you’re not the type to learn through dry, ‘academic’ book learning.
A good way to start networking is to get involved in the wonderful world of blogs, but never underestimate the power of Facebook or Twitter. I’ve met some absolutely fantastic writers through social media who have become firm friends of mine, and I know I wouldn’t have had some of the opportunities that I’ve had without a social media presence. CPD in the workplace often entails networking with colleagues to share knowledge and best practice, so why not do the same with other writers? We’re all in the same boat!
This is hugely important. A lot of books recommend this but it bears repeating – keep a writing journal and regularly reflect on your writing. You can talk about how far you’ve come, what you feel you need to improve, stories you’ve been proud of, plot points you’re having difficulty with – anything you want. By focusing on these areas, and actively reflecting on them, you force the brain to process the information, and actually make sense of it, instead of shoving it away at the back of your mind with all of that other useless nonsense you can’t help but store away. Then, on those days when you feel like you’re wasting your time with writing, you can read your journal and see how far you’ve progressed!
How many of these things do you do without even thinking about it, and what might you like to try in future? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!