Monday, September 20, 2010

The Learning Curve

There is a tidal wave, which is often caused by some weather condition, a tsunami, which is conventionally regarded as  being the by-product of a seismic event, and the learning curve, which is occasioned when an individual is confronted with a mounting surge of awareness that understanding of a process or system is likely to be overwhelming.

For lo these many years, you have been close to the point of inundation by the learning curve of writing, sometimes being buoyed beyond the crest by the momentum of the current.  The buoyancy led you to believe that you were so to speak on peer terms with the learning curve, able to cope with it in most of its demanding clamor for undivided attention.  This is a feeling that allows you to float your way into the next project, whatever it might be, with a margin of confidence, but no sooner is the draft underway, perhaps even completed in first draft, when you become acquainted once again with that most devious and dangerous of waves, the learning curve.

All right, have it your way; you will never be so significantly beyond it that you will be able to body surf your way through the next project, never land ashore without some drag marks or without the feel of having been taken for a head-rattling, topsy-turvy tumble.  For every technique or device you learn, the next project presents you with the reality of encounter with a wave of such grand, formidable, imposing size as to cause you shivers of anticipation for the ride ahead.  There was at first a direct proportion between what techniques you were aware of and your ability to execute them with some measure of success, but you have long since reached the point where your ability to execute and your desire to include yet greater depth rely more on accident and randomness than any ability you have to measure the distance between them.  It is not constant.

So, as Nick Caraway observes in The Great Gatsby, you beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.  Your past is not Gatsby's nor anyone else's except the point from which you began and now measure yourself; it is much your own moments of beginning, what you thought and felt at the time.  The discovery that saves you, often buoys you aloft, is the recognition that it seemed magic then, that you could enter it with a mantra, an Open sesame straight from Ali Baba.  You know any number of mantras but none of them works in this context.  What you have is the magic from that time, beckoning you forth to try once again.

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