At some point in time, you’ve probably heard about the four stages of competence. If you haven’t, in a nutshell, it’s the process one goes through while learning a new skill. I first learned about the stages when I left the Pediatric ICU and took a job working in the realm of education. I believe it applies to writing, and the process goes something like this:
Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetence
“I don’t know that I don’t know how to do this.”
Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence
“I know that I don’t know how to do this, yet.”
Stage 3: Conscious Competence
“I know that I know how to do this.”
Stage 4: Unconscious Competence
“Yahoo. I know and can do it effortlessly.”
As I think back to the early days when I first sat down to write, I can still remember exactly how it felt to be so blissfully ignorant. It was such a good feeling. (Or so I thought.) Then realization hit. Hard.
Say what? Yup. Poof. There went the bliss.
Now, replacing the euphoria was yet another massive learning curve, one I’d have to muddle through while releasing a rivers worth of blood, sweat, and tears.
Yes, the learning curve is huge. The list of rules seemingly keeps growing longer and longer. It’s no wonder stage two is reportedly the most difficult stage to conquer.
I call this the “mistake and self-judgment” phase. It’s riddled with internalized phrases like…
Why am I bothering? Will I ever catch on? Geez, maybe I should throw in the towel and move on.
Stage two is the phase where people often give up, but it’s also the time when an incredible amount of growth can happen. It’s important to understand that mistakes are a natural part of learning. From them, we make adjustments and eventually find ourselves, on occasion, saying, “Yeah, I think I’ve got this.”
I still see myself existing somewhere between stage two and stage three, which can be rather daunting since I can now find things that are wrong with my writing but still can’t seem to figure out how to fix them.
As a reminder that many things often start from seed, I recently followed the instructions on a packet I picked up at the Grand Canyon and hope to grow my own Joshua Tree. In the beginning, it takes a lot of sunshine, and I have to keep adding water to the bowl. Just like my writing, the seeds I poured onto the soil will either stay dormant or, just maybe, they might grow.
If they don’t, it’s no big deal. I’ll adjust and try again. One day, with a great deal of persistence, I might even find myself enjoying that blissful feeling as I work between stage three and stage four.
See you next month for my post, Christmas is Coming.
Until then, don’t forget to be kind to yourself. This writing gig
isn’t ain’t easy!