As a teacher, I often find myself assuming a level of knowledge that doesn’t exist, and I’m frustrated, both with the student (“How can you not know that?”) and with myself (“Given the audience, why would you make that assumption?”). Instead of breaking down a lesson into its basic parts, I use terms and references that only someone with my years of experience would likely comprehend.
I know better; I really do. But even after six years in front of a classroom (and in numerous workshops and one-on-one situations), it still happens far more often than I’d like. I forget KISS (Keep it simple, stupid!).
And the funny thing is, when I’m in that assumption-rut and struggling to break out, the universe flips things around and puts me at the opposite end of things. Suddenly I’m the student – formal or otherwise – in an unfamiliar situation, totally adrift because those in the know assume I’m on their plane.
After nearly fifteen years as a struggling writer, learning the ropes (and tropes) as I go, I see this “flip” less often in the publishing world now.
- Query vs synopsis vs pitch vs tagline?!
- Submission guidelines – fiction/nonfiction/poetry, journal/agent/publisher?!
- Traditional publishing vs indie vs self-pub vs hybrid?!
- Plot arc and dialogue with or without tags and narrative and flashback and prologues?!
Insider knowledge is a relief after feeling ignorant for so long, but I still feel lost now and then.
Ah, but in my new adventure in politics, it happens All. The. Time.
- Deadlines and endorsements and donation limits?!
- Personal vs campaign financial reports, and ethics statements, and what qualifies as an in-kind donation?!
- Meet-and-greet vs house party vs an “event”?!
- Lit drop and robocall and canvassing, and where is it okay to post a campaign sign for how long?!
I’ve floundered in the campaign since day one, making it up as I go along, observing the veterans around me in hopes some of their expertise will rub off (since they’re operating on that aforementioned assumption level!). Often I don’t even know what questions to ask. It’s tough, and discouraging, and yes – still frustrating.
But in the long run, by virtue of those political lessons learned, I think it’s making me a better, more patient teacher when I’m the one in the know, classroom or otherwise. So I’ll count that as a win – on several levels.
What can we learn from each other today?