Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club – Lesson #1

Welcome to the Dojo Wisdom for Writers Book Club! Every Wednesday, we meet to discuss one of the lessons in Dojo Wisdom for Writers. We’ll go in order, so it’s easy enough to follow along. Read the lesson, then read the blog post, then comment in the comments! Do feel free to comment on each other’s comments. I’ll answer questions as quickly as I can.

Lesson #1. Find a Teacher

Throughout my career, I’ve had any number of writing teachers, although only a few of them have actually been teachers in a classroom. Sometimes they have known they are mentors, sometimes not; sometimes they have served as horrible warnings rather than exemplars to imitate.

What I think it important to remember about finding a teacher is that you’re finding a teacher—someone who can offer guidance or feedback; someone who can send up flares showing you where the road is. But a teacher is not a guru or an unchallengeable authority. You are ultimately the author of your own work—and your own life and your own career. So while you need to be open to what you can learn, it’s crucial not to give over your own authority to someone else.

Some discussion questions:

1. Who has been a teacher to you?
2. How do you know when you’re right and the teacher is wrong?
3. Why do you even need a teacher?

Talk to me (and each other!) in the comments.


Dojo Wisdom for Writers, second edition, now available!
Catch a Falling Star (by Jessica Starre) and The Matchmaker Meets Her Match (by Jenny Jacobs), two of my favorite novels.

And don’t forget classes for writers—and more on writing at

1 comment

  1. This is making me think. I’ve had all sorts of teachers, from official teachers to writer friends to relatives, and all have made a huge difference in my work. I think my first teacher was my mother, who is a painter. She doesn’t know much about the craft of writing, but she taught me tons about craft of living a creative life. That includes the idea that you’re always going to be a tad unsatisfied with anything you finish because the act of doing a project forces you to grow creatively. By the time you complete a project, you’ve already grown past it, so of course, you are going to feel like you can do better. That’s been an amazingly useful idea for me.

    When I was a newspaper reporter, my editors taught me a lot about the importance of word choice and the value of line editing. They also helped me learn to use writing as a way to clarify my thinking. I learned from then that if I wasn’t thinking clearly I couldn’t write clearly.

    I’ve had other teachers, including wonderful ones at the Clarion Science Fiction Writing Workshop. I’ve had great friends who read my work and point out the misdirects, and even better, urge me to keep going forward. All have been wonderful.

    How do you know when you’re right, and the teacher is wrong? Oh my. I really don’t have a good answer to that one, except to say that time seems to give me the answer. Also, there is something in my gut that says yes to one bit of feedback and no to the other. Don’t ask me to explain that. I just trust my gut.

    And finally, why do we even need teachers? For me the answer is that I don’t always need a teacher. Sometimes I just need to get everyone off my back and to go ahead and write. But other times I get myself stuck in a corner, but every time I try to back out and go another direction, I end up back in the same corner again. So I need teachers for the times when I’m stuck. I need teachers to point out elements of craft, and sometimes, I need teachers for a good swift kick in the rear.

    Good questions, Jennifer. I love the idea of this book club. Thanks for doing this. Great book!

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