A lesson in mastery
When I got the golden chance to work at True Love West Africa magazine as the staff writer, I jumped on it. Up on till then, I had been contributing articles as a freelance writer.
My role as the staff writer required doing interviews and writing features.
It was writing right, couldn’t be a big deal, after all I had been writing good articles.
Well, it turned out that I sucked at writing interviews!
So, after numerous repeated edits and cautions in my copy, and suggesting reading matter to improve my writing, my editor called me into her office.
She went straight to the point. The magazine didn’t have the time to wait for me to catch up, but if my writing didn’t improve soon, she was going to have to fire me. While she was speaking, my eyes were watering and my heart was beating faster.
As I left her office, I felt heavy. Everything seemed like a blur to me. I went back home and told my husband how the meeting went. While I was filled with apprehension about losing a prized position that I had just got, and how poor a writer I must be, he told me that there was probably something my editor saw in me, which was why she was giving me another chance.
He advised me to pay attention to her corrections and study the materials she had given me.
So I went back. I studied all the corrections she had made, re-read her comments and studied past editions of the magazine (one of the things she had told me to do).
That was when I realised that I hadn’t really taken the time to study and understand what she had been telling me. I had just skimmed through thinking “after all, it’s just writing, how hard could it be. I got this figured out.” But I was wrong. I hadn’t paid attention.
So I slowed down, and took it all in little by little and most of all, I was determined to get it right.
I discovered that my learning was paying off when I noticed that there were less changes in the copies I sent in. I was beginning to get the hang of it, and as time went on, the changes became fewer and fewer.
That was how I learned that there was a difference between writing interviews and articles. And just because you’re good at an aspect of something, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to study how other aspects of that thing work.
Imagine the feet saying they can do what the hands can do just because they have five digits and can move. They’re not exactly the same thing and I think the feet will have to study hand movements in order to perform like them (is that analogy good enough?).
Writing is a very big field with lots of different spaces. It is possible to master as many spaces as you want, but just because you’re a master in one space, doesn’t make you a master in another.