Wednesday, September 08, 2010

What it means to learn about ourselves

By Tamara Girardi

Self-awareness is a good thing. I'm not convinced it's pervasive in our society for many reasons, but this is not a rant so I'll refrain.

As a teacher, I aim to create learning experiences that will continue for my students long after they leave my classroom. For instance, the ability to analzye yourself might be the most valuable skill you can ever possess.

This helps you in your career, your relationships, and most especially for us, your writing. Undoubtedly, there have been moments in my life I've allowed the world to chew, swallow, and regurgitate my dreams. I become lost in a cloud of things I must do and things I want to do. Soon, the muddle of life has removed me from any self-awareness.

But then there are those moments that bring me back. Like last night. Over a pitcher of margaritas, a pound of nachos, and some vibrant conversation, I realized it is time to reevaluate and get back on track - with lots of things, but especially for me, my writing.

School has been all-consuming thus limiting my writing time, but I have allowed it that control. And as a student, I've learned a lot of great lessons about my writing. The most recent one is that how you learn will most definitely affect how you write.

I'm a visual learner. I like to see pictures. When I see words, I translate them into pictures. When I write scenes, I envision them, see the characters moving, and then translate the pictures I'm seeing into words.

I'm a global learner. I see the big picture of a novel as I write it. I know the general plot. I know the beginning, the ending, and some points in between, but listing every scene from A to Z frustrates me intensely as it seems a waste of time.

There are two lessons here. For those writers who are self-aware, who understand their strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles, they are more likely to use such awareness to their advantages. On the contrary, knowing you lean one way or another might make you more conscious of what you're missing.

For instance, I could lighten up on that A to Z frustration and realize knowing the steps in the middle might actually save lots of drafting time (as you don't know what to write next) and revision time (as you'll be cutting scenes that don't necessarily advance the plot).

As writers, we relish the tales from published authors on how they got there and revelations of their writing processes. But it might be as valuable or even better to spend that time getting to know ourselves.

We know not every writing process works for every writing, so every self-evaluation process will not work for every person. But let's talk about them anyway. How do you self-evaluate? What value does the action represent for your writing?


Wilfred Bereswill said...

Tamara, it's amazing what a pitcher of margaritas can do. Though usually, what seemed like vibrant conversation at the time seems not so vibrant when I sober up.

One of the benefits of being a businessman and a manger is that I am always evaluating myself for my day job. For me that carries over into my personal life. I've learned to honestly evaluate my performance and through that, have learned my strengths and weaknesses. As an example, I am pretty good at plotting, but not as good at scene writing. I know when I rewrite my manuscript I look for those weak areas as places to improve my overall story.

Gina said...

Will -
I never knew you were a manger!
[Just kidding.]
Tamara -
This is something important that never seems to make it into writing seminars. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses, and I've found it's often better to maximize our strengths than to engage in the fruitless task of trying to overcome unchangeable weaknesses.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Gina, yeah, anybody can be a man-a-ger. It takes a special person to be a manger.

Tamara said...

Will, thank you for evaluating yourself as a manager (or manger). I think we'd all be so much better off if we could do so as objectively and honestly as humanly possible.

Gina, I agree that such a topic is lacking from writing seminars. I'm actually putting together a proposal to present on a subject close to what we're discussing here. Maybe we can do a bit of it at the SinC retreat!

Have a great day!