Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Are You Teachable?

I’ve had reason to be thinking about ego this week. Things that happen to send our egos soaring, and other things that knock us splat down with our faces on the pavement. In fact, in my experience, it’s entirely possible to experience both sensations within a single minute. A single conversation. A single sentence, even.

And I actually think this phenomenon is a good thing. Maybe, if we’re lucky, it’ll keep us humble. And if we’re really lucky, we might even have something to learn from such an experience. That is, if we are the kind of people who are teachable.

Case in point. I go to a lot of writer’s conferences. I’ll openly admit that very often, my motivations are social as much as about perfecting my craft. But I give myself credit for networking, and actually do take a new—or mostly new—notebook to each conference, and work toward filling either the notebook or a file on my computer, depending on my mood. Always, always, though, I come away having learned several valuable things that apply to me and my writing.

At one particular conference, I found myself sitting next to a newly published author, who, it seems to me, had traveled quite some distance to be there. This author attended several classes, and we ran into each other many times. I never once saw that person open a notebook or computer. That author sat through the entire conference and never wrote down a single thing.

On the other hand, I had—once again—filled nearly half my notebook with handwritten scribbles of value. At the end of the day, I found myself skimming through my notes looking for important tidbits I wanted to remember as I opened my work in progress. As I did, I wondered if the other author was sorry about not taking notes, or if they, perhaps, felt they didn’t need to remember the lessons from those particular speakers. Then I wondered what was the point of making such a journey, if not to learn something new.

As a good contrast, years ago at another conference, I found myself sitting in a class next to a beautiful red-headed woman who had her notebook open taking copious notes. I remember being impressed with the number of details she was able to scribble by hand as she listened to the speaker. After the class was over, I stayed in the same room waiting to hear from the next author—a many-times published, well-known author by the name of Janette Rallison. Imagine my shock and delight when Janette was introduced, and the woman next to me proceeded to stand and walk to the front of the room to teach the class.

It didn’t matter how many books she’d had published, she knew there is always more to learn. She was being teachable. I’m not positive, but I’m thinking that might very well have been my very first writer’s conference. What a great example to fledgling writers. At that conference, watching her take notes, I learned that all authors have something to learn. It’s a process of evolution.

Question: What have you learned recently? Do share!

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CL Beck, author: MormonMishaps said...

Good reminder to be teachable! And Janette is such a nice person ... very humble and sweet ... so it was fun to read that about her.

Stephanie Black said...

Great blog, Nichole. It's so true that there's always more to learn.

Carolyn V. said...

You're right Nichole, there is always more to learn. I just learned all about plotting and I love it! It has helped me so much with my writing! =)

David J. West said...

Very true Nichole.

I'm always willing to learn If you've got something to teach.

(what song is that from?)

Elana Johnson said...

I have to admit that sometimes I don't want to write things down. I hardly ever come back to them, and sometimes I just want to bask in the moment and listen.

But yeah, I usually write stuff down. Even when you think you know everything, you don't. My goal is to learn one new thing per class I go to at a conference.

L.T. Elliot said...

This is an incredible post, Nichole. You're dead on. It's so important to be teachable and willing. I can't imagine not learning and progressing.

Nichole Giles said...

Wow, thanks for all the comments.

So here's a funny. I went to a League of Utah Writer's meeting tonight, and listened to J.Scott Savage talk about overcoming writer's block--the same talk he gave at a conference I went to in Arizona last month. I took pages and pages of notes last month, and still ended up filling two more pages tonight.

Either I can't stand to not take a few notes, or hearing the lessons the second time still rang true.

I should compare my notes and see if they match. Apparently, I needed to learn something twice!

Tara McClendon said...

What a great post. I hope I'm always the one taking notes. Recently I learned writing can be taught. Ok, so it was more of a reminder, but it still hit home.