Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How much do you need to know to know that you don’t know much?

by Rick Blechta

I don’t know about you, but I tend to second-guess just about everything I do — especially in my writing. At times it can become quite debilitating. But I look on it as a strength rather than as a weakness.

Take the first sentence of this post as an example. Should second-guess be hyphenated or not? Of course I had to look it up. Making any mistake is anathema to me. (Darn, now I have to look up anathema to make sure I used it correctly… Yup.)

So this week’s post has already cost me extra time to write. Anything I write is like this, not just the fiction writing. Sure, I don’t enjoy looking stupid by making stupid mistakes. Who does? And I do find it particularly embarrassing to use a “big” word incorrectly.

But I also just like to know about things. It can lead me down long and involved rabbit holes, and cause a lot of time-wasting delays. There can be gold in them tar tunnels, though, because I’m also the possessor of a brain that stores arcane knowledge quite well. More than once I’ve pulled something out of it that really makes an effective point.

The point of this post is the importance of always questioning oneself. Are you sure? Is there a better way to do/say it? Should you consult someone? I’ve found time and time again that not just barreling ahead, damn those torpedos is the smartest way to proceed. It may be a small point. It may just be a throwaway bit of writing, but getting it right is important.

Every error due to not bothering to check something out diminishes what you’re doing — and that’s never a good thing.

So yeah, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to honestly say, “Yeah, I know enough. I’m completely 100% sure. I have no self-doubt about this.

“Experts” will tell you that self-doubt is a very bad thing. I suppose if you let it take over your life and stop you from moving forward with something, then it is bad. Personally, though, I find self-doubt a good thing, almost comforting. Because I know I can always do better. I’m willing to accept that and work harder. And along the way, I’ll learn more and have less self-doubt about something in the future.

No comments: