Does the internet make for checklist learning?


If I want to look up any topic on how to write fiction, I can search online and find pages of material.

Most of it will be probably about 500 words.

Some will be insightful.

Some will be downright wrong.

Writing fiction isn’t the only topic I can do this on. It’s everywhere. Food, health, time management…take your pick.

But can we actually learn something from 500 word sprints?

But is it really learning or just repetition?

Maybe not.

What is learning then?

At its core, learning is understanding the topic and being able to make unexpected connections.

Can that realistically be done off a 500 word bulleted list? How do you even process the information when it’s just a list, made for scanning?

There’s no depth to the information.

I’ve made the rounds on writing sites in the past, searching for better explanations of some craft techniques. Instead, I got posts that felt more like the topic was being reduced to a checklist.

This ends up feeling deceptive. It makes it feel like all you need to do is check off ten items and somehow you’ll have a best seller.

Not that you run into a skill area where it takes forever to get through. Or another that keeps you coming back to explore it more.

(Writing Nerd took two years to learn the skill of setting.)

That’s where all this effort at being the shiniest does us a disservice.

Writing Nerd’s deep learning

I’m in the process of working on a big skill area. It’s a fairly large topic that’s usually lumped into one chapter in a craft book.

A blog post? Phht! If a chapter in a craft book isn’t sufficient, a blog post certainly isn’t.

But I found a book on this topic. I started out by reading the whole book, just get a good feel for it.

Then I wandered back into some skill areas that had caught my eye. Reread those several times trying to understand them better. Discussed them at my writing group for different perspectives.

Tried some of those skills on a halfway mark cycling in the story.

Went back and forth between the book and the story because the skills have been a challenge.

And I know there are people would just skip this because it takes too much time.

But sometimes you have to spend the time. This is the kind of learning that sticks and improves the skills.

Checklist learning? Phht..