Why we don’t know what we don’t know
“As I was telling Mrs. Kirkistan…”
Our unguarded responses in conversation often point a way forward. It’s just that we don’t realize it until we’ve said it. And even then, it may take us recollecting that statement, in yet another conversation, to an entirely different person.
Example: sometimes I think writing is the stupidest thing to do on earth. This is not my standard line with writing students. But sometimes I swing low, like after I finish a big project and stop to calculate the return on (mental) investment.
Note to self: Never stop to calculate the mental ROI on a writing project. Just keep writing.
I was describing to Mrs. Kirkistan how it is I’ve come to believe writing is the stupidest way to spend your time—bar none. In that conversation, after several (verbal) paragraphs about all the frustrations of writing and why I’ve come to despise it, I found myself defending the process and telling of the delights of writing and what I want to do next.
How did I just travel from one conclusion to another within 90 seconds?
It’s almost like opening a water tap in a long vacant house: you let the water run until it is cold, then you drink. I know with writing you have to write a lot of dreck before you ever get the useful and true stuff. Same with verbal conversations: sometimes we just talk to fill up the space between us. And then sometimes the true thing just spoken—that thing that landed between us—is the very answer to an unasked question.
We unwittingly answer our own question.
But, this: we need to listen so we can hear what we already knew.
Moral: make sure there are some unguarded responses in each day. And listen to those unguarded responses to help sort what you don’t know.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston