Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wise, Wiser, Wiser Still

Last SATURDAY, my niece's facebook status said something like this:

I walked to the high school to watch the fireworks and took my keys out because they were hurting my butt, and I just left them there. I didn't realize it until I walked all the way back to my car!                           Also, I'm super cool.

(Okay, that last sentence I may have added.)

So... guess what I did on MONDAY.

Gosh, you're a good guesser.

I walked with my family to the junior high to watch the fireworks (and ooh-ed and aah-ed like crazy because the lights were so pretty!), took my keys out of my pocket so I wouldn't have to sit on them, and LEFT THEM IN THE GRASS. Then, we walked ALL the way back to the car (and let me tell you. It was an ALL THE WAY kind of walk.) before I realized my keys were still back on the dark hillside, hiding in the grass.

How does that quote go? Something like: A wise man learns from his mistakes, but a wiser man learns from the mistakes of others.

So I guess I'm not a wiser man. But I also came out of the experience not feeling like a particularly wise man, either.

Plus, I think there should be more added to that quote.

“And wiser still is the one who learns not only from mistakes, but from what others DO WELL."

You know how it is— when you’re reading someone else’s book, it’s easy to see what they did wrong. Where they could have changed to make it better / stronger / more interesting. Especially when you are in edit mode yourself! Heck, you can even see how they could have worded individual lines better.

But it takes a lot more work to slow down and think, “Wow. That was an excellent description,” and then to look at it more closely to see what about it made it so great. Or to notice when a new character stepped onto the page, and you got who they were in just a couple of lines. Or when you feel like you were just transported into that setting so effectively and completely. It might mean reading a lot more slowly. Getting through less books.

But becoming wiser still by learning from what others do well is much more effective than learning from your own mistakes.

And if anyone ever asks me, “Why does it take you so long to read a book?” that’s totally the reason I’m going to give.


Kristine said...

I think of reading like eating a nice piece of candy. If I just quickly chew it and swallow, it's gone! But, when I slow down and savor it, it last much longer.

I do have to say though - I'm proud of myself when I find an editing error in a book - I guess I feel like I'm the smartest person alive if I caught it and no one else did. I know there are other reasons for it, but oh well!

Jessie Humphries said...

That's funny Kristine. I totally feel the same way when I find an editing error.

This is a great reminder post on how to be a more positive writer.

Talei said...

I like to savour some parts too and re-read my fav bits of stories. I love reading, just need to find more time to do it!

Peggy Eddleman said...

Kristine-- The candy analogy is exactly how I feel! Especially with really good books.

Jessie-- And hopefully one day, when our books are in print, people will look at what we did well, right? And hopefully they'll ignore any editing errors. :)

Talei-- Thanks for stopping by! I totally agree. I never can seem to find enough reading time. Especially with so many great books out there!

Allen said...

I always liked the quote: “Every man is my teacher… some teach me what to do, and some teach me what not to do.”

Peggy Eddleman said...

I love that quote, Allen! It's like mine only better.