Knowledge is, in some ways, a profound idea. While much of what we learn and know in life is acquired through a trial-and-error scenario, so much else that we have the desire to take in requires us to spend time studying and practicing in an attempt to fill the knowledge gap within us. We sometimes forget that these things we want to mark off on our list take not just desire, but time and effort.
I find the list of items I want to learn grows bigger rather than shorter. I played my trombone for 14 years, and that made me want to learn to play the piano and guitar. I have both a piano and a guitar, but the knowledge to play them other than to strum or plink a few chords escapes me. I have stacks of books on the Civil War, homesteading and travel and not enough hours in the day to read them like I want. I have a camera and some equipment that I putz with in an attempt to increase my skill and my satisfaction with the photos I take but lack the hours needed to truly practice. This leads me have a sometimes-overwhelming sense of defeat when I see all these instruments, books and tools about me that I want to master yet have little time for more than just dabbling.
Writing has become a very big part of my life and as I find myself scribbling on paper by the bedside lamp or typing upon the keys of the laptop, the world stops and I feel a tremendous sense of peace as I pour out my thoughts for people to read. The number of people who read what I write doesn’t matter, as long as someone “gets” what I wrote. Oh sure, paid gigs would be nice, especially if they would allow me to spend my days writing more, but for me, as long as there is a connection for someone reading these thoughts – that is what is important.
So, I put myself to the task and I purchased a few books on writing in an effort to get myself to write better. I ripped through “The Elements of Style Illustrated” by William Strunk Jr., et al, and had many an “ah ha!” moment. I’m now on to “How Not to Write Bad: The Most Common Writing Problems and the Best Ways to Avoid Them” by Ben Yagoda. I am finding more “ah ha!” moments along with the realization that there is still so much that I don’t know.
I think it’s a good thing, this not knowing, for I see it fueling my desire to get better at writing. Each time I write something new, I can see the incremental improvements which spurs me onward. Every improvement is like going down the rabbit hole and I find I must learn something new or different or how to redo or undo. It feels a bit like starting back at square one, but still I press on.
The passage of time may stand still while I’m writing, but reality hits me like it did the White Rabbit. I find myself looking at the clock, exclaiming with despair that I’m late and dashing off to the next thing, when really what I need to do is sit still, focus and continue at what I’m doing.
The things we want in life take time to acquire, which means spending time working on smaller things to get to the ultimate goal; at least that is something I do know.
What is at the top of your list of things you’d like to master? Playing a musical instrument? Perfecting your brushstrokes and painting a masterpiece? The epitome of a textbook yoga headstand?