Wednesday, February 5, 2020

I'm Still Learning

Lately I've been looking back at some of the "life lessons" I've experienced since I began a serious writing career many years ago.

I'm reminded of a moment when I was writing about Navajo rugs. I didn't know a thing about the subject, and the man I was interviewing was a revered expert in the field. He said two things that stuck with me. They both had to do with my lack of preparation. He observed that I needed to learn my subject matter before I could intelligently talk to him. The second was that the way I could learn the meaning of "good quality" was to extensively compare rugs on my own. The more I was familiar with the subject, the better I could make a solid judgement.

A few years later, I was writing an article for my city publication on jewelry design, another subject I knew nothing about. My editor was so patient as he ushered me through the process. I struggled with trying to figure out how to focus my article. For me, finding authorities was not the problem. I had been trained well when I worked for a CBS Chicago talk show. What was difficult was synthesizing the theme, making comparisons between designers and still writing an article that would hold the reader's attention.  As a sidelight, I also learned how to control those I was interviewing. One of the designers wanted to read my article before it was published to make sure she was portrayed in a good light. One of the cardinal rules, I learned, was that the article I wrote needed only to have my imprimateur and no-one else's as long as the facts were true.

The joy of writing continues for me to be  the discoveries I make every time I tackle a new subject as well as the unending goal of mine: to educate and entertain with integrity.

I love reading about successful writers who have settled into repeating a prescribed method. Maybe I just haven't achieved that capability yet. I still think that, even if that were miraculously to occur, I would still desire to always keep learning and keep getting better.