Writing: self-directed study

Creating my own curriculum

I’d like to do a Masters degree in Creative Writing. It’s not the right time. I definitely want to practise studying before I leap into the fray *and* there are a bunch of resources I want to check out.

So, it just made sense to me to create my own curriculum for writing, including reading a bunch of books for pleasure. Yay!

Last week I remembered to read novels. Which is a funny thing for a storyteller to say, I know. 

The week that started 9th September


  • The Craft of Character, Coursera (September 2019 – present)
    I’m finding this so helpful for getting to know one of my characters better.
  • The Future is Back, writers’ award & creative writing scheme, by Olumide Popoola, June – October 2019. I can’t put into words how much of a difference this is making for me, like, it’s a lot. For one thing, I’d never even considered doing a Creative Writing MA before.
  • Reading The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison. Wow. Just, wow.

Also, audio-reading How Not to Die by Dr Michael Greger and Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Improving my self-directed study

Some interesting articles I started perusing about self-directed learning:

Something I want to consider is how I evaluate my efforts, and that latter article is helping me with that:

  1. Assess readiness to learn
  2. Set learning goals
  3. Engage in the learning process
  4. Evaluate learning

#1: Assess readiness to learn

How important are different skills for your studying? How competent are you in them?

Main area I’ll be focusing on improving:

  • Evaluation skills: Ability to collect evidence of accomplishments and have it evaluated, ability to accept constructive feedback from others

Dabbling in improving:

  • Completion skills: Ability to identify problem areas, ability to revise work, commitment to completing units and program
  • Problem development skills: Ability to formulate questions that are answerable through various research activities (projects, library, readings)
  • Life skills: Organisation of time and resources in your life, co-operation in working with others, available support network

And I’ll reassess myself in 3 months, at the end of the year.

#2: Set learning goals

I did a meditation this week on intention, because a friend sent it to me *and* two friends talked about the importance of intention for them in various experiences they had recently,

And then I found myself reading about intention in relation to self-directed study, so that’s my first task for my writing curriculum. It’ll help me make progress with improving my evaluation skills too. It’s all coming together.

I’ll use the GROW method to help me with this.

#3: Engage in the learning process

If you skip past the stuff on learning styles, you get to: “How can independent learners help themselves?” Gold dust ✨

I’m planning to print out the list and use it when I’m creating tasks for myself, to make sure that I vary my learning.

A deep approach to studying involves transformation… This approach is about understanding ideas for yourself, applying knowledge to new situations and using novel examples to explain a concept, and learning more than is required for unit completion. […]

Independent study requires a deep approach to studying, in which students must understand ideas and be able to apply knowledge to new situations. Students need to generate their own connections and be their own motivators.

Understanding Your Learning Style

#4: Evaluate learning

Seek feedback and reflect on achievements

How do I know I’ve learned?

Am I flexible in adapting and applying knowledge?

Do I have confidence in explaining material?

When do I know I’ve learned enough?

When is it time for self-reflection and when is it time for consultation with the advising faculty member?

Self-Directed Learning: A Four-Step Process

Books I want to read

Preparatory work (Open University)

  • Anderson, L. (2006) Creative Writing: A workbook with readings ISBN 978-0-4153-7243-5
  • Neale, D. (2008) A Creative Writing Handbook: Developing dramatic technique, individual style and voice ISBN 978-1-4081-0941-0 

Pay particular attention to the genres in which you intend to write (i.e. Part 2 of the Anderson book, chapters 5-11, if you plan to write fiction), but be aware that there is some cross over between genres in both volumes.

Preparatory work for Creating Writing MA (Open University)

Courses, free, I want to do

Creative writing on Coursera

Creative Writing on Open Learn

Other resources on Open Learn, free

Exercises I want to do

Wow, the internet has such a wealth of resources on self-directed learning. Let’s just pick one tho!

More writers & readings to learn from

  • Zing Tsjeng, Forgotten Women series:
    • The Scientists
    • The Artists
    • The Writers
    • The Leaders
  • Danez Smith
  • Dean Atta: The Black Flamingo
  • adrienne maree brown
  • bell hooks
  • Toni Morrison
  • Octavia Butler
  • Alice Walker
  • Maya Angelou
  • Labi Siffre
  • James Baldwin
  • Angela Davis
  • Ursula K. Le Guin: Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Mariner and the Mutinous Crew

Obviously I could go on, but a baker’s dozen is a great amount to start with, so let’s do that.

Omg, Danez Smith has written and performed a poem about trees. 🥰

Events to attend

Mentors, teachers, inspiration to learn from



Future consideration

MA in Creative Writing, part-time, two years, for example, at:

LiLi, defiant, next to a James Baldwin quote: "The place in which I'll fit will not exist until I make it."

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