Jul 25, 2012
Are You Competent?
First, I'm over at the Writer's Dojo today talking about owls and ninjas and silence.
When my husband first started golfing, he spent a great deal of time learning about learning and since I'm a teacher, we had some great discussions about learning.
When someone is learning a new skill, no matter what that skill is, they go through four stages of learning.
Second is the conscious incompetent. This person starts to be aware of what they don't know but this is a problem because they don't know enough to know how to fix it. For instance, when I was trying to golf and the ball would go so far right that it was a 90 degree angle, I knew it wasn't going straight, but didn't have a clue how to fix it. In writing, this may be the point where, when re-reading our writing we know something isn't right, that the story isn't like the stories we read, but we don't know why or how to fix it.
The third step is conscious competent - this is the phase of greatest growth. This is the phase basketball players are in when they spend hours at the free throw line, practicing how deep they need to bend their knees, what position their hands need to be in, how much they need to flip their wrist, etc. Because we have taken the time to attend classes, read books on the craft, have immersed ourselves into developing our writing ability enough that when we are writing, we leave notes like "dialogue is flat", "character isn't developed enough", "is this the appropriate voice?", "have I developed a quality character arc", etc. Or, if you are like me, I switch to the red font in Word, add the bolded text and write "blah, blah, blah. This is crap. Fix it!"
The final and desired phase is unconscious competent. Think about it - when was the last time you stood up and thought about what it would take to walk. Are you aware of your balance, pacing, footing, etc. every step you take? No, because you have become so competent at walking that you no longer have to dedicate thoughts to it. This is the point in writing where we know what needs to happen to make well developed characters, we know if we need to plot better or just put butt in chair and write.
And here's the really great thing about the path to competency. Once we have hit the fourth level, once we have become so good at a part of writing that we no longer need to think about it (I've mastered the typing part - I know where all the letters are on the keyboard :)), we become aware of aspects where we were before unaware were weaknesses, and the path starts over again. But each time we restart, we end up better than we knew we could be before.
Have you experienced the four stages of competency in your writing? Where do you feel you are in terms of your writing as a whole? Are there certain aspects of your writing that you truly feel you have mastered?