Thursday, June 27, 2019

LEARNING CURVES



By Vicki H. Moss, Contributing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine


Do you recall the first time you learned how to use Windows? Not the windows in your home, but the computer program that helped open up the world to so many new things, including writing.

I remember sitting in a college classroom at night after having signed up for a course on Microsoft Windows, thinking it was one of the hardest things I’d ever tried to learn and how would I ever become proficient in maneuvering around in the software program. The course wasn’t quite as bad as my first computer class in college which was a first class nightmare—all Greek to me. But, still.... 

Once my brain had checked out of collegiate matters, my brain was on to other things like changing diapers, getting food on the table with a toddler hanging onto my leg, you know, life in general.
To think back on those overwhelming times—it all seems comical now. What? Using Windows difficult? There had definitely been a learning curve for sure. But using Windows soon became second nature.

Then came learning how to write stories that a kids’ magazine might buy—another learning curve. They get 10,000 submissions for six issues a year—are you kidding me—how in the world would I break in? Then there was the challenge of submitting articles, another learning curve there too. Attending writing conferences and workshops were greatly beneficial in helping with these new tasks—the latest learning curve.

Next came the mountain climb of all mountain climbs when a friend said, “You really need to get a website up and running and I’ll help you.”

I recall being horrified. My heart pounded. A very private person, the last thing I wanted to do was have my photo on the internet. The friend kept nudging me and said, “Start working on the info you’d like to include on your pages. Choose the photography you’d like to use. Let’s get this thing going.” I honestly don’t know if I would have ever set up a website if I hadn’t had this encouragement—okay, this push. Again, the task was so overwhelming. Not only did I have to get tons of material together, I had to “learn how to code” so to speak. Another huge learning curve. And I was totally out of my comfort zone. I freaked out when I was told, “I’ll help you set up the website, but from then on, you have to do the work.” But learn how to do it all, I did, even though I whined. A lot.   

The Miriam-Webster dictionary gives this meaning for “learning curve”–– the course of progress made in learning something. Once I, the student, “got the hang” of how to do something new, I could look back and chuckle about my intense fear and being completely out of my comfort zone.

As seasoned writers, there are still learning curves. I need to keep stretching myself. I don’t stop learning until my body lies “a moulderin’ in the grave.” If another friend hadn’t insisted I enter a poetry contest—at the time I didn’t consider myself a poet—I wouldn’t have won first place out of hundreds of entries. If I hadn’t stretched myself and tried to write humor, my article wouldn’t have won first place in another writing contest. Not that first place awards are needed, but awards are a gauge of how a writer is coming along on their writing journey. Another learning curve. After a few writing awards have been won and the waters have been tested with a Sally Fields moment of “they like me, they really like me,” then I knew it was time to stop entering contests and get down to the business of writing.

If you’re living and breathing, there will always be learning curves as writers. Continue educating yourself by attending workshops and studying books on writing. Read far and wide. Include nonfiction along with fiction if you’re a novelist. Study poetry and stretch your brain. A character down the road might need to write a limerick to a loved one and if you’re familiar with different types of poetry, you can pull from those resources.

Be totally fearless when it comes to learning curves.

Now, if only I could just figure out how to work the remote for the TV in my living room. *big grins*                         

No comments: