Despite an injury, I attended a Darcy Pattison revision workshop this weekend. It was outstanding.
Near the beginning of the workshop, Darcy read us the Stages of Learning.
First is Unconscious Incompetence: You don’t know that you don’t know.
Second is Conscious Incompetence: You know that you don’t know.
Third is Conscious Competence: You know that you know.
Fourth is Unconscious Competence: You know, but you don’t have to remember that you know every minute of every day.
Naturally as writers we would like our writing skills to be in the fourth category. But I was delighted to find (although it really stung a bit at the time) that there were some basic writing skills in which I am unconsciously incompetent. It stung because, well, I am human, and we don’t much like to be wrong. But the marvelous thing about this is that I now know I’m wrong – and can fix it.
That em-dash for example. (I picked the smallest example, sorry, don’t wish to really immolate myself just for a blog post.) When I had a character trail into silence, or another character interrupted them. I used ellipsis… because that looked right to me. And, if it looks right, it must surely be right.
So now I am in the third category, at least with those pesky em dashes (although still making mistakes…) and just as helpful, how to get my computer to make them.
Option + Minus = Em dash on the Mac.
If you have the occasion to take one of Darcy’s many workshops — GO FOR IT. Well worth the time, the money and the sting of learning that you don’t know everything you think you know.