As I’m working on “Anchored,” my newest work in progress about a late-in-life (as in after retirement) coming out, I’ve been confronted multiple times by something that usually does not make me uncomfortable.
In an ordinary way, I use my ignorance as an invitation. An opportunity. A gift, even.
“I didn’t know there were fifty million types of Pokemon,” I say to a five-year-old bursting with information parents and grandparents refuse to hear. “Tell me about them.”
“Really? You won an award for service? What did you do to win it?”
“You work as an intellectual property lawyer? What does that mean? What do you do?”
Eons ago, I coached reluctant speakers in how to make conversation. Ironic, considering I had always been reserved and reluctant to make conversation myself. Those lessons stuck with me, however, and I found that my single most effective tool was to find something the speaker knew that I did not.
Ignorance. When used appropriately, it can give the other person a sense of pride (“I know something you don’t!”), generosity (“Here, I’ll teach you what I know!”), or self-respect (“I’m important enough to deserve attention and interest!”).
The first and last are especially effective with children and others who may not usually be listened to.
On the whole, I have a positive attitude toward ignorance. This week, however, I’ve come up against ignorance in several areas that I need to know about now. Googling, talking to friends, and researching only carry me so far when I don’t have the time and hands-on experience to absorb the experience.
- Work as a professional Domme
- Boats, specifically cabin cruisers with a flying bridge
- Condo and homeowner association rules, plus basic real estate practices
- Ethical and professional obligations of a nurse practitioner with patients
Thanks to a wonderful network for friends and colleagues (and Google!), I’ve gotten enough basic information to make a start. I’m not accustomed to this much ignorance in such a short time, and the pressure mounts while up against such pressing deadlines. I’ve written 96,000 words since Christmas, and I have another 40,000 to write by the end of the month.
When ignorance meets deadlines, it’s not pretty.
Then again, in the past I have researched a profession or location for days, weeks, and even months for it to appear as a single sentence in the final manuscript.
Ignorance makes us better writers, though, because as writers we tackle our ignorance. As a child, I learned all kinds of information simply to create the perfect metaphor or choose the best image for a poem.
Ignorance is a catalyst for us to try new things, learn new things, and listen to others. It’s all too easy to isolate ourselves amongst people who think like us and know the same things we do. When I talk to someone about his or her area of expertise, I gain much more than knowledge. I gain the connection of a fellow human being taking the time to share life experience with me.
I’m grateful that we all have different interests and areas of expertise, and that so many people are willing to open their hearts and lives to me. We love to give advice. We love to be “in the know.” But sometimes, the gift we give is to admit our ignorance.
I don’t know anything about this. You do. Will you share it with me?
So often, the answer is yes.
How will you use your ignorance today?