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Are You Done Learning?

If your answer to the title question is "No," I'll gladly give you my hearty applause, a jumping high five, a vigorous fist bump, and my own signature wiggle dance that is guaranteed to embarrass you and make you smile.

Why anyone would even want to stop learning is beyond me. An endless abundance of interesting items and pursuits abound in this great, big, wonderful world of ours - there to fascinate us, stimulate the grey matter between our ears, and help us appreciate the Creator all the more.

I'm passionate about writing, and so I'm always seeking new and helpful information about how to improve. Just this week I challenged myself to read all the way through my latest "Writers Digest," which happened to be the Comedy Issue of the year.

Here are a few tidbits I gleaned from this latest foray into learning:

1. Rick Pascocello, a literary agent with Glass Literary Management, says "I know what marketing sells books to readers, and I also realize the book itself is more critical to its success than any marketing campaign." Recently I have debated the value of marketing through social media platforms, and his comment reminds me that the bottom line is to write an excellent book.

2. Ellison Cooper, debut author of Caged, claims "I wrote the book I wanted to read." Her brief comment helps me to sort through all those "this-might-be-my-next-book" ideas I've had galloping through my mind. Hmmmm. Write the book I want to read.

3. Audrey Wick notes one thing she did right as a debut author: "I had a contract offer from a small publishing house that I turned down because the terms were poor. I was glad I read the contract carefully and had my agent's voice of expertise." I will remember Wick's advice next time I get an offer - read it carefully and consult with my agent before signing anything.

4. According to debut author Rebecca Fleet, author of The House Swap, "a lot of the time you have to make yourself write even if you don't feel like it - or the book will never get written." So there - it's not just about writing when bursts of inspiration come. Good thing, because some days it does feel like I'm suffering to grunt it out.

5. When writing comedy, veteran comic Gary Gulman urges us to ask "Is there a better way- a more precise way - to say that with a funnier word?" For sure, word choice can either turn a good story into a work of art or thrust it into mediocrity. I'm learning to make sure every word used is the best word.

6. Scott Dikkers, co-founder of satire-laden "The Onion," claims that becoming a true master of comedic writing requires knowing "the tricks of not just writing humor, but satire - the most difficult and sophisticated, yet accessible, humor subgenre." Now there's an area of learning that's wide open for me to pursue.

Writing is just one hobby in which I will be a lifelong student. What are you learning these days?

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