The Self-taught Writer

Allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Morgan Clasper, I’m nineteen years old, and I was homeschooled for over nine years. I’ve lived in three different countries and moved more times than I can count. (But that’s not because of the homeschooling!)

In the last 12 months I’ve written more than 340k words, including a massive fantasy novel and the beginning of a trilogy. That’s right on the back of two years composing orchestral music and a further one and a half running a blog.

I’ve had my music used countless times on YouTube videos and other small projects. Some of which have up to hundreds of thousands of views. While blogging I published 250 posts about religion, science, and philosophy, and it brought in over a hundred visitors a month.

And I did all this without any formal training.

Why am I telling you this? (it’s not to brag, honest!) It’s because I’m completely self-taught. 

And you can be too. 

How? Simple. Everything I’ve done I learnt directly from my own research.

I’ll focus on writing here, because I’ve been dabbling in it for the longest.

My first endeavors in the English language came in the form of handy little workbooks designed to cover all the stuff in each school year. Creative writing, grammar, suffixes, etc. You get the picture.

I never got very far with them.

And, ironically, I absolutely detested every single creative writing assignment.

You know the ones – “You’re an employee of so-and-so, write a letter about *generic thing*.” Or how about, “write a short story incorporating the five senses.”

No. Go to Hell.

These exercises conflict with my very essence. And as a result my entry to the written word was shaky at best.

Then came along Khan Academy. It’s a free website (which I absolutely recommend) but it’s got nothing on English (or at the very least when I was there).

So there was a huge period of time when I did nothing in the way of English education.

A few years later I was in Te Kura for my NCEA qualifications. One of the required topics is English, and there’s a section on creative writing. I submitted an opening chapter to a possible book I’d put together one afternoon when I was bored, and guess what?

It passed with flying colors.

What happened?

Everything I learnt about English came from either reading other people’s work (and a backlist of books as big as a tower block) or through my own research. Most of this wasn’t even conscious. If you do something enough you start to get a ‘feel’ for how it works. Writing especially.

So much so that when I started listening to the Writing Excuses podcast (which is brilliant, by the way) many of the things they talked about I already had some nebulous idea about.

Now I don’t profess to be Shakespeare, but from nothing to at least competent is a bit of a feat. And that’s not even getting into the blog, my composing, and the few thousand downloads I have on stuff I submitted to the public domain. (I’m showing off too much, aren’t I?)

Still, if I can do it, you can too.

What I’m hoping to demonstrate is that you don’t need to rely on institutions. They can help, but so can the wealth of information on the internet. So can your own experiences and practice.

I’d also go so far as to say that if I hadn’t been homeschooled I’d be in a very different place. With no rigid structure I could do the work that was relevant to me and appealed to my interests.

Of course you need to cover the basics, but for everything else it’s absolutely possible to learn everything either directly from the internet, or indirectly from observing other people.

Need more proof? As of writing this I’m currently building stacked funnels for email marketing. Where did I learn about this? And how did I set up this website? What about the custom domain name I’ve got?

You guessed it. The wonders of the information age. (And a bit of banging my head against a brick wall, but that’s just me!)

Do you have anything holding you back? If so, I hope this story can give you some inspiration to get out there and see what you can do!