Monday, March 21, 2011

Lifelong Learning


When I was a child, I looked forward to the day when I could stop "learning" and just be secure in my knowledge of, well, everything. For a while during my teenage years I put on a good show that I already knew everything, but to that girl in the mirror I admitted I was frightened that I only had a few years left to learn so much more.

Lucky me! Turns out there is no "all" to know. Fully present in my fourth decade on this planet (yes, I don't turn 40 until October), I often feel as though my learning has accelerated in the past five years. I'm not exactly sure why, or what is to come, but I do know that I am much more open to new experiences and perspectives than I ever have been before in my life. I am genuinely curious about a vast range of things and somewhat frustrated that my brain isn't nearly as absorbent as it was when I was eight or nine or ten.

More than the actual collection of data, though, is the way in which I understand things as an adult. Thanks to the knowledge have gained from a variety of sources about many disparate things, I am often able to put together pieces I wouldn't have in the past.

This realization has come to me recently as both a fascination and a curse. When I completed the rewrite of my manuscript a little over a year ago, I took off my "Writer" badge and replaced it with a "Salesperson" one. I had polished the book thanks to help from an editor and was ready to find an agent and publisher. In the meantime, I've donned the "Writer" badge for other projects - blog posts, essays to submit to various publications and contests, and a new nonfiction book project - but haven't really revisited the first manuscript except to update the introduction to reflect relevant changing political issues.

For the last couple of weeks, I have felt a tugging on the "Salesperson" badge. I have found myself wondering if I ought to look over the manuscript again and give it some more attention. After several agent rejections, I thought maybe there was something they were seeing that I hadn't. Then last week, I spoke with someone who might be able to help me find an agent (it's not what you know, but who you know...) and I found myself describing my project in a much different light for some reason. By the time we hung up, I realized that my personal evolution in the months since I completed the edits might do well to be reflected in my writing. Before submitting the first two chapters, I decided to take a good, hard look at them.

I was appalled. The chapters read like a newspaper story - facts squarely at the forefront, devoid of most emotion, and completely lacking in any communal human, spiritual (not religious) context. I spent most of the weekend rewriting these two chapters to express the deepening knowledge I have come to have about what it means to be a woman, a human being fearful of consequences and repercussions, and how emotional isolation compounds that fear. I know that these chapters are much more powerful and meaningful because of this new perspective and, while I know I have much work ahead of me to weave those threads through the rest of the manuscript, I am grateful to have had this past year or so to stretch my awareness and understanding. Of course, this all leads me to wonder whether twenty years from now I'll pick up my own book somewhere and laugh at the naive almost-40-year-old who wrote it.

4 comments:

Kathryn Grace said...

Keen insight and reflection. Love how you share your process with us. A writer friend and published author many years ago told me, during a conversation along the same lines, "Oh Kate, one never finishes a project. One simply abandons it. Send it out into the world and move on!"

Wanda said...

As one well into my 6th decade, I can assure you that learning never stops. How we learn changes, but if it stops...we die...in one way or another. So excited to hear you are breathing new life into your manuscript. May it be the breath that sends it into the world for the rest of us to see.

Deb Shucka said...

This is so great to read. I can relate to every word. I think our ability to learn increases as the power of fear over our lives diminishes. Everything has its own perfect timing, including your book. It sounds like you're just about there. Love you.

Brenda said...

Amazing. 'Cause from what I see over here - you express so well, you distill your ideas clearly - can't wait to see this book!

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