Learning From Those Unlike Myself

Photography, Writing


fallivyIt’s a new month, so I thought I’d start with a quick update.

I’m taking another photography class, and I’m actively part of a new writer’s critique group.  Sadly, the previous one…well, it seems to have imploded within two weeks of my joining (yes, quite coincidentally).

Although I’ve had my fair share of photography and art classes as well as experience with writing classes/workshops, I feel a bit out of my element with these new groups.

For my writing group, we meet in person every two weeks or so for critiques.  I understand the basics well enough to be dangerous, but the other people are so unlike myself.  Demographically, the other members of my writing group are the complete opposite of me and our backgrounds are diametrically different. Needless-to-say, it’s created interesting conversations, often me making a fool of myself (I already did it once so I figured should be easier the next time around).

For my photography class, the instructor and I have different aesthetic sensibilities as well as different notions on what a “critique” should entail.  At the moment, I’m not quite sure how interested they are in actually “teaching.”  We’ve only had two classes so far, but it wouldn’t surprise me if students start dropping out.

Myself? I had thought about dropping the class and getting a refund after the first one.  But, I know that I need this class.  While I’m not keen on the instructor’s personality or teaching methods, the instructor is a successful and technically proficient photographer – so there’s something to be learned from all that experience and knowledge.

Besides, so much of this brave new world of social media allows for us to exist in our own echo chamber.  Easily dismissing what doesn’t support or confirm to our own views or aesthetics.  So far, even though we’re very different, I like my writing group and the pieces the others write challenges my thinking and the ways I read their material so I can be more helpful to them.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t stay in a bad group or a bad class if all you get from it is suffering.  But don’t be afraid to be a bit daring.  Having a variety of experiences provides you with the confidence to curate the valuable stuff from the slush – though Henry James says it more eloquently in “Art of Fiction” when he talks about the notion (and importance) of experience:

The power to guess the unseen from the seen, to trace the implication of things, to judge the whole piece by the pattern, the condition of feeling life, in general, so completely that you are well on your way to knowing any particular corner of it–this cluster of gifts may almost be said to constitute experience, and they occur in country and in town, and in the most differing stages of education. If experience consists of impressions, it may be said that impressions are experience, just as (have we not seen it?) they are the very air we breathe. Therefore, if I should certainly say to a novice, “Write from experience, and experience only,” I should feel that this was a rather tantalising monition if I were not careful immediately to add, “Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost!”