Still Growing After All These Years

The more I know, the more I realize I have no clue. That’s why I’m still growing and continually learning new things in a variety of different ways. Like a plant, growth requires taking in the nutritional information, absorbing it until it’s fully understood, and then stretching out to apply it in new and different ways.

Whether it’s financial strategies, trusting God more, writing craft, marketing strategies, health tips, or parenting, I’ve still got a lot to learn. And while I haven’t been in a formal class in years, I’ve developed a plan that’s working for me.

First, I’ve got a loaded bookshelf. Yes, I’m a writer with a fiction addiction that accounts for a lot of my, ahem, market research shelves. However, I’ve also got a stack of non-fiction books about starting a business, marketing, leadership development, personal development, Bible studies, and other faith-based topics in addition to the obvious books about the writing craft and editing.

But a stack of books does nothing unless I read them. Plus, non-fiction can’t simply be speedily read for enjoyment. It must be digested, pondered, underlined, highlighted, and stewed over. And then it must be applied, often by shutting the book and picking up a pen to journal or brainstorm a list of ideas.

That’s why I schedule reading time in my normal routines. Those faith-based books are the perfect complement to my personal quiet time when I already have my prayer journal handy to record the truths I’m learning. The evening is another time when I’ll instead pick up a business or leadership book and read a chapter before bedtime with thoughts to ponder as I drift off to sleep. And when it comes to my writing craft books, I tend to binge-read as I prepare to start a new manuscript or when it’s time to roll up my sleeves and edit. Not only do I learn something (or be reminded of something I forgot), it’s the perfect time to practically apply the lessons.

With my stacks of books, I’m always reading something and mulling over what it means before figuring out how to incorporate it into my daily life. Except, as much as I love to read, I don’t have time to sit and read for hours even for the sake of learning.

That’s why I love podcasts. Using the app on my iPad mini (or you could just as easily use an app on your phone), I’ve subscribed to a variety of different podcasts. Financial advice from Dave Ramsey. Personal growth from Brian Buffini. Novel marketing advice from James L. Rubart and Thomas Umstaadt Jr. is downloaded beside spiritual thoughts to ponder from the guys at The God Journey. Writing tips are as easily found as social media marketing tips or even healthy exercise accountability. If you can think of a topic, someone out there is talking about it.

Then, once I’ve downloaded plenty of episodes (and most of those happen automatically since I’m subscribed to various shows), I just turn off the radio and press play when I’m in the car. The carpool commute becomes a learning opportunity. Same with cooking dinner or washing dishes or folding laundry. And—a handy tip I discovered by accident when trying to rewind a few seconds—I can speed up the speaker to talk at 1 1/2 times normal speed. That’s still slow enough to understand and absorb but takes less time to communicate the same information.

So far, I’ve got lots of information being loaded into my brain through books and podcasts, but I’ve got one more favorite way to learn. In person from real people. (Although in person might be figurative sometimes.) Whether it’s my local writer’s group or an online video-teaching-with-chat-room community I’m part of, there’s power in learning the craft together and collectively brainstorming solutions to plot or character problems. The virtual contact via email from my personal critique partner and the editor from my publisher also continue to teach me specifically as issues relate to that manuscript. Women’s Bible studies, small groups, conferences, and even webinars are all ways to ask questions and get answers from real people.

Actually with access to all this information, you’d think I’d already be done learning everything I need to know. But no. I’m still learning and I’m still growing into the wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, mentor, writer, and child of God that I should be.

What about you? What are you learning this week to keep you still growing? How do you learn best? Would you prefer an in-person class, an audio podcast, or a physical book?

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