on learning

Sara Israel, May 5, 2010

Yesterday afternoon and this morning I have dedicated myself to learning about the history, culture, and characteristics of storytelling in the region currently known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It’s for the play I’m working on, and per usual when it comes to research for my writing, I’ve had to resist plunging deep into the wormhole.  It’s a challenge to balance letting myself learn freely, and seeing where that takes me, with a vigilance to monitor myself, to make sure it all keeps applying to this play rather than purely becoming a crutch for procrastination.

But wormholes be damned, I’ve learned that it’s impossible to be a good writer without being a good learner.  I’ve also come to learn– and appreciate– that learning is a skill.  It has to be taught, and then encouraged to flourish.

I’ve been very, very lucky throughout my life to be surrounded by people who have both taught and encouraged me, starting with my parents and my Grandma Helen, continuing with my elementary school librarian, with my music instructors, with public school teachers, college professors, and the wonderful friends I’ve collected along those paths and beyond.

  • I’ve had English teachers who have taught me to be more analytical and less judgmental.
  • I’ve had math teachers who have taught me to be more creative and expansive in my thinking.
  • I’ve had art teachers who have taught me the value of precision and repetition.

You never know what you’re going to learn, and from whom you will learn it.  You just have to be open to learning, and fortunate enough to have people in your lives who will take you there.

7 Comments

  • By Stephanie Walker, May 5, 2010 @ 5:02 pm

    I completely relate to the wormhole of research. Like you, I often find myself using research as a “crutch for procrastination.” But learning is so much fun! (and cue “the more you know” music)

  • By Mia Lobel, May 5, 2010 @ 10:02 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more on this. I NEVER thought I’d be learning *chemistry* of all things at this point in my life/career, and yet I spend hours every week learning molecular structure and the history of the elements. We are so lucky to have jobs that demand ongoing learning and I’m so thankful to the teachers who taught me/us that the process can be so much fun!

  • By Robin Byrd, May 6, 2010 @ 12:08 pm

    I am loving your blogs. I have a lot of books on a lot of things and they always come in handy even with access to the internet. All my wormholes bear fruit eventually; there were a few years when I thought the usefulness of the information was slim to none but it is becoming more and more interesting to watch the snippets show up here and there.

  • By Trevor Algatt, May 7, 2010 @ 10:55 am

    Never thought about learning as a skill that can be acquired and refined upon… Great stuff, Sara!

  • By Marsha Tilles, May 7, 2010 @ 12:56 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with your view on learning. When I was a child I couldn’t wait to be done with school. Now I can’t wait to return! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog this week and am actually a blog comment virgin. Here’s to learning and trying new things!

  • By cjz, May 7, 2010 @ 1:40 pm

    So true! It’s always amazing to me to realize what lessons I learned and from whom. The trick, I guess, is figuring out what to do with what we’ve learned. Not always so easy. But the learning is almost always worth it… Sounds like you’ve got a pretty great project for yourself there!

  • By Sara Israel, May 7, 2010 @ 3:14 pm

    Thanks to all of you for reading, for your encouraging feedback, and for supporting my habit of “learning” as procrastination!

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