A fellow literary mind approaches with the frank question–how much experience do you have in your field?
“Oh well, I’ve been writing since I was ten.”
Which means, “I definitely know what I’m doing.”
Any past success, whether it’s a published story of mine, or encouraging feedback from a reader, easily lures me into the trap of thinking that I’ve “arrived” and finally know exactly what I’m doing.
In an excellent post by Brian McDonald (author of the writing handbook Invisible Ink), he talks about meeting experts who keep open hearts, minds, eyes and ears for learning. Even though these masters are considered leading thinkers and creators in their fields, they exemplify a readiness to be taught and receive correction.
Brian McDonald uses writers at Pixar as an example. Pixar invited Brian to tell them what he knows about creating story structure. Although they are considered top writers for what they do, they were kind and receptive to the new information presented. (Nobody said “I’ve been doing this for a long time, I know what I’m doing”).
I hope as I continue to gain knowledge and increase the breadth of my work, I remember to welcome every learning opportunity with the same enthusiasm and attention that I had when I first began my journey.
It’s a little scary to not lean on past successes as a comforting crutch. The result is that you are once again a beginner.
What is the scariest part for you about keeping a “beginner’s mind”?