Still Learning After All These Years
I’m not exactly sure what to resolve, but I like to write, so I enroll in an 8-week writing class, starting the first week of January. Maybe a resolution will unearth itself there.
On the first day, when it’s my turn to check in, I say, “I have no formal training in writing, never took English beyond high school. I’ve studied in adult education writing classes, groups and workshops, and read plenty of books on writing. But basically I don’t know what I’m doing. I edit intuitively too. I ask myself, does my prose flow? That’s it.”
But when I look at the 8-week syllabus, I don’t see “going with the flow” as a weekly topic along with Characterization and Plot Development.
The teacher asks, “in what point of view (POV, I learn it’s called) do you usually write?”
I feel confident: I know how I usually write. I pour words onto the page until clarity comes and I sense what in the world I am trying to say. That’s my point of view.
I clear my throat, volunteer to go first. “Do you remember that TV series, Columbo? Well, my POV is like Peter Falk’s character– stumbling, bumbling, mumbling — and I just keep the pen moving and see what happens. ”
The other students stop taking notes and look up from the syllabus. Without moving their heads, they raise their eyebrows and roll their eyes above their eyeglasses to stare at me, funky grins pasted on their frozen faces.
Then Sam raises his hand and says, “I write with an omniscient narrator.”
Kim says, “I like to write in third person up close.”
George goes last, “I like second person, but I know the Aristotelian Epistolary style uses it and that confuses me.”
I know I’m in trouble.
I see that Columbo is not a point of view. And I become aware that I have entered this class with one of my familiar habits. I tend to jump into new things above my level of understanding. My POV is “what the heck is going on?”
Over my head, and in danger
And, because I am often in over my head, I never feel exactly safe.
I felt unsafe when I walked into Level Five French class not knowing I belonged in Level Four (I dropped out). I felt unsafe when I decided to post some blogs and came up against my total lack of technical skills (no blogs yet).
When I don’t feel safe, my heart pounds in the center of my chest. I back off. Any chutzpah comes to a screeching halt; any charge-ahead momentum vanishes. My breath catches in my throat.
So I resolve for 2013 to look into this feeling unsafe when I step into places bigger than my shoe size. One thing I’ve discovered already: even Michelangelo said, near the end of this life, “Still, I learn.”
I’ve also come across this by Albert Einstein. “A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.”
Feeling Secure with Insecurity
And Buddhists teach us to sit with more and more comfort in places of discomfort. This year I’ll work on feeling more secure with insecurity.
A resolution did turn up in Writing 101. I am going forward with what Zen teachers call “being ok in don’t know mind.” I am going for a steady safe diet of “still learning.” Let the blogs begin.