Sunday, July 15, 2007

Leet Homework Skillz and the Irony of Incorrect Foresight

A college instructor once mentioned to me that everything she learned in university she has used - even things she was sure would be irrelevant to her in the "real" world.

Life Lesson no. Seven-Bazillion-and-Two: You never can predict when a skill will come in handy.

While in university, I developed (like a disease, rather than intentionally) a mindset for doing homework.

My body position seemed to be important to getting in the right head-space: I couldn't work sitting on my bed; I had to be sitting at a desk or table. Once I got into the rhythm of problem-solving, however, I could forget myself and just sit there doing homework for ages. It was oddly pleasant and - when things were going well - enjoyable. (You know you're a geek when you enjoy doing your physics homework.)

I've found myself falling into this same rhythm when I brainstorm, plot or outline something for my novel (i.e. engage in "scheming"). I can "scheme" standing up, waiting for the bus, with my small notebook propped in my hand, but I scheme best when sitting at a desk or table. I can sit there for arbitrary periods of time working things out.

Part of my dedication to the idea of paying attention to your critique partners, even when you're sure they're off the mark, is that you might learn something new from them. You might see your work in a different way, or comprehend a different way to approach writing. Acquiring those new understandings is never wasted time - you'll use those skills someday, for something.

Last weekend, I said I knew where I wanted to go with the scene I was about to work on. And I did. That didn't help me actually get anywhere with it, however.

I spent this past week tapping my little hammer o' intellect on that big rough chunk o' idea and did not see a sculpted scene emerging. It was frustrating.

Today, I sat down at the table and finally got into problem-solving mode. After about four hours, I emerged with most of the scene planned out and a good chunk of the scene that comes after it ready to go also. I still have to figure out how the problem scene will begin, but I've made solid progress and am feeling smugly pleased with myself again. (When it comes to writing, I tend to oscillate between whiny melancholy and insufferable smugness. Pity my poor husband.)

Yo: leet homework skillz to the rescue, y'all!

What skills have you learned that you never would have expected to use, but did? When has something you dismissed surprised you by being relevant or useful at a later date?

Pageloads since 01/01/2009: