In my last post, I lamented how it’s hard for us to see our learning curve and know how much more we have yet to understand. I wanted to know how close I was to that elusive “destination” of knowing everything I need to know about writing.
*pshaw* Silly me for thinking such a destination actually existed. Just as we can’t be perfect, we can’t know everything there is to know.
We can learn about specific skills and improve our craft, but we should never stop learning. In fact, if I ever did feel that I’d learned everything about writing, I’d probably get bored and move on to something else. Luckily, I don’t think I’m in danger of that anytime soon.
Several months ago, I came across the theory of competence and how it related to writing. There’s a great blog post about it by Sarah Goslee here.
- Unconscious incompetence: This is the “you don’t know what all you don’t know” stage. As Sarah writes: “In the writing realm, these are people who’ve never written any fiction (and possibly never read any) but tell you how easy it is to just sit at the computer all day and make stuff up.”
- Conscious incompetence: This is the depressing stage because you start to realize just how much you have to learn. Writers reach this stage and despair of ever being as good as the published authors out there. They make it look so easy.
- Conscious competence: By this stage you know what you’re doing but it takes conscious effort. We might be good at certain aspects of storytelling or craft, but it’s not easy.
- Unconscious competence: This is the stage we dream of, where the words flow smoothly, plots hang together automatically (even if we’re a pantser), and we never have to worry about pacing issues. We think everything will be easy, if only we could learn enough to reach this stage.
Okay, maybe I’m the only one who dreamed of that last scenario, but I doubt it. And for those you with me in that delusion, I’m sorry to say—We’ll never reach that stage.
In her blog post, Sarah wrote:
Attaining unconscious competence really just unlocks the next level so you can see all the new things you are bad at that you didn’t even realize existed.
And it’s true. Learning never ends. Like a mobius strip, Escher sketch, or the Penrose stairs made famous in Inception, we might reach unconscious competence on some aspect of our skill set, but there is always more to learn.
Just when you’ve become comfortable and feel like you’re at the top of your game, that’s the perfect time to start learning new skills, and rethinking your instincts (if that’s even possible) in order to stretch yourself even more.
(And she linked to this post of mine. Cool, eh?)
I’m happy to say that her post invigorated me, rather than make me depressed that all this learning would never end. I want to keep learning, growing, and pushing myself. Stagnation is one step away from death.
So I take back my desire to know exactly where I am on the learning curve. I’m learning and progressing and I guess that will be enough.
Does it bother you that you don’t know how much more you have to learn? Do you enjoy the learning journey or do you long for it to end? What kind of progress feels most like an accomplishment to you?Pin It