Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Autodidact

There are frequent occasions when you are struck almost dumb by an accidental observation.  Latest example, when you are introducing  two persons, one of whom is an archaeologist, the other a waitress.  Without missing a beat, the waitress offers, "I am an autodidact."

The archaeologist offers a rueful smile. "I sometimes wish I were."

You are still caught up in tresponse to what the waitress said, caught up to the point of wanting to claim that line for yourself.  You are an autodidact.  With one or two fiery exceptions, you were not much beyond B level as a student at the university.  Sure, you soaked up a good many things, thanks in some large measure to a quirky memory, wherein you can recall such things as, say the 1850 book by Charles Kingsley, Cheap Clothes and Nasty, delving into sweatshops, child labor, and abhorent working conditions.

You'd not have likely discovered such a work on your own.  Of equal fact, you've not used the information from reading that long tract; it is a fact like the proverbial clothing in one's closet one is advised to give to Good Will if one has not worn it for a year.

Being an autodidact means to you learning things because of your need for the invitation, rather than because you are a student in a survey course.  Being an autodidact means going where your curiosity takes you, pausing to ask difficult questions which you then must find additional sources to help you understand the context.  

Being an autodidact means spending some part of the day or night in some kind of classroom you never found in the schools you attended either as a student or a teacher.

For another reason altogether, you are an autodidact.  You find yourself in a classroom with students, or at a Saturday workshop with writers of your choice, or with clients, many of whom have formal educations that would put your formal education to blush.  Thus you can say such things to the arachaeologist as, "You need to focus on lightening up your narrative style, look for ways to make the effect seemmore conversational as opposed to a litany of fact."  You can do this because you are an autodidact and he is by no means one.

Yestterday, at the university, at the precise moment you were with great gusto telling one of your students his strength lies in the degree to which he is a smart ass, you happened to catch sight of the Dean, peering in your window.  You had no idea how long he'd been there.  For a great certainty, he'd heard you.  For an even greater certainty, he saw you become aware of him, then winked.  You can do such things and feel no frisson of apprehension because you are, indeed, an autodidact.

For some years now, your purpose has been to bring together your speaking persona with your writing persona, thus thinking the way you write and the reverse, writing the way you think.  Perhaps, you reason, if you stay at it long enough, you will be able to factor in the speaking part, the all-impoortant narrative voice.  Thus will you also be able to speak the way you write and its opposite, write as you speak.

Doing so will help you move permanently out of the civilian world of conversation, repetition, and long periods of  engaging the passive voice.


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