The process of writing is a life-long journey of learning.
There are many ways to learn about the craft of writing. Online writing courses, books, critique groups, participation in a local group, talking with other writers, and yes, even conferences, retreats, and seminars — if you are open to learn, you will be able to take away a nugget from any of these situations. If you aren’t open to learning, you can spend a lot of time and money and not get any benefit from any or all of these activities.
See, I think continuing education is a lot like meal preparation. We start with the meat and potatoes of a story. We have some characters, a setting, maybe even a time period. We start cooking our ingredients together, hoping to come up with something delicious at the end.
Okay, so here is where continuing education comes in: learning new things about our craft of writing is like opening a cook book and getting a new recipe for cooking chicken. Sure, you could take your pieces of chicken and do what you always do with it. Or, you can take a recipe from a book and add a few extra ingredients, and come up with a wonderful dish your family asks for again and again.
In the same way, you can take your characters, your setting, your time period, string them together in the same old way, and come up with a book nobody wants to read. Or, you can open a book on writing, go to a critique group, attend a writer’s meeting, buy a tape from a conference — and add a dash of expertise, a teaspoon of craft, a pinch of grammar and style, and come up with a book that has your readers asking “When is the next one coming out?”
Continuing education, in all its forms, will spice up your writing, will make the process go faster and easier for you, and will open doors to editors. Learning more about the craft of writing will improve your plots, make your characters more believable, and will garner you faithful readers.
So whatever form of continuing education you choose, start out with a desire to be better at what you do, to wisely use the gifts God has given you, and to have a teachable heart, intent on being the best you can be.