Learning Things the Hard Way

Blog No. 74

Sometimes you have to figure things out for yourself (no matter how many times you’ve been told, shown or taught it). There have been a number of things in my life that I’ve been given really solid advice for, and it took me years to figure out on my own. I’m not particularly hard headed (though some people may argue that point) but it’s not always easy to wrap your head around certain things in life. It can be as simple as how to tie a tie or as big as how to be a good parent. I’ve had to learn how to tie a pratt knot dozens of times, but luckily I’ve left the parenting to my friends. You can read all the books and get advice from people who have done it before, but sometimes you just have to stumble through and do your best. If you’re lucky you’ll figure out a way to do it that doesn’t cause too much lasting damage. (I’m talking about the tie – I don’t care to think about the parenting thing).

I made burgers with my brother the other night. He picked up the patties and I got the buns. When I was at the store I grabbed the whole wheat buns without even thinking about it. I’ve been eating whole wheat bread for years now, but it was something I had to come to on my own. It’s really a trivial thing, but I was told for years that I should be eating whole wheat bread. My dad told me I was crazy for sticking with white, commercials and articles told me that whole wheat was healthier, even friends told me I should switch to whole wheat. It took me years to actually make the change. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but that’s what I eat now. I don’t even know why it took so long for me to figure it out – but I had to do it on my own. Tastes change with time (and experience), but I think it’s more than that. One day at the super market I grabbed whole wheat rather than white and I’ve never looked back.

It’s the same thing with writing. There have been certain concepts and ideas that I’ve had to work out for myself. I have always, somewhat, written for myself, but it’s very easy to forget to do that when you are part of a group or you are trying to build an audience. To an extent you have to keep the audience in mind, but what’s the point in writing if you aren’t the main audience? All the joy that comes out of the writing comes from the author enjoying writing in the first place. Sure, it’s not always fun or easy to write, but you have to enjoy it to some extent (or be really good a faking it) or it’ll be a chore (and you can only put so much into a chore).

I haven’t even gotten to the criticism part yet. It took years for me to learn how to take criticism. I still pout like a scolded toddler when I get edits back from the Adventure Worlds crew. After a few minutes I can see what they were talking about (or I don’t and ignore their thoughtful advice), but not too many years ago I couldn’t even take comments from people (even the good ones). I think the group has helped. I was on the right track back when I was in journalism, but it took knowing that my fellow writers had my best interest in mind for me to be able to get the best from criticism. I don’t want to think how I’ll face rejection. That’s probably why I’m so interested in self publishing. There is no one to tell me no (other than the editor I’m going to pay good money to tell me what I’m doing wrong). But honestly I wouldn’t publish a book unless I got a lot of feedback from people who aren’t afraid of hurting my feelings.

Part of my problem is that I don’t want to feel like I rely on others in any of my writing. But I know it’s stupid. I’m more than happy to contribute to my fellow writer’s stories and they are more than happy to contribute to mine. But I still feel like I should be doing it all on my own. Maybe that’s a lesson I’ll learn in time. For now I’ve managed to be able to face the edits with an open mind.

For years I knew that I am much more productive when I am either at work, or I have a full schedule. I started to notice it when I was in school and working. I could get a lot done between shifts, on breaks, and when I knew I just had to do it. I think it’s the whole ‘I’d rather be doing something else’ thing. When I’m at work I’d rather be writing, but when I’m at home, I’d rather be doing anything else (that requires less energy and/or thought). Now that I’ve realized it though, I’ve been able to work through it. It’s not so hard to spend that hour or so writing rather than watching a movie on Netflix I’ve seen a dozen times. It wasn’t an easy lesson, but I’ve learned it. I’m reasonably sure that my parents told me something about that when I was in high school, but I can’t be sure – I wasn’t listening.

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