Monday, 28 November 2016

Do you know what you don't know by Jo Wanmer

     I didn't know that I didn't know how to write. English was never my favorite subject but I wanted to share my story. Surely it can't be too hard, I thought. So I set goals, timelines sat at the keyboard and started this adventure. I typed for hours, re-read, adjusted and produced ninety thousand words. I was surprised how good they were. Remember...I didn't know what I didn't know!

     About that time, looking for a publisher, I walked into an Omega writers meeting and discovered that I was Unconsciously Incompetent about writing. In the chart (See below), I was catapulted from the comfortable position at the bottom left to the agony of the top left corner. Reality checks open us to previously unseen possibilities but is always tough to swallow.

     My next challenge was to become Consciously Competent. The process requires work and determination, research and a teachable spirit. But I wanted to get this book published. Deep hunger forced me to overcome the endless hurdles. 

    Over the last six years, some of my writing skills have become Unconsciously Competent - I can do it without focusing on the skill. For example I can write shorter sentences without counting words.  My fingers have stopped abusing the '!' Adverbs rarely hit the page. (Unless I allow them!!)

     Now I know that I don't know, the list of topics waiting in the 'Consciously Incompetent' box is overwhelming. They keep slipping from the box below. Every time I manage to master a skill, I discover more I didn't know I didn't know. 

     Two important areas I have learned to focus on are 'Hunger to Learn' and 'Practice and Determination'. The other two arrows seem to trigger without any effort from me. Lets peek under the lid on two of the boxes.

Consciously Incompetent.

     This box seems to be jammed full. I can see Scrivener, Self-publishing, time management, blogging, webpage construction...On the top of this pile is Characterisation. Its eager and alert, hand extended, begging me to lift it up, out and make it sparkle. My books are pleading for me to develop competency here. But, I argue, I have a good story. Whats wrong with my characters? To date there hasn't been enough hunger in me to do the study, make the effort, find the keys to consciously make heroes and villains jump from the page. 

     My book El Shaddai is stalled at this road block. Two things recently have fed my hunger to push forward. I realised in every book,  movie or TV series I can recall, I remember the people, not the plot. Memorable characters are...well, memorable. Secondly, at Omega conference last month, Hallee Bridgeman taught on three dimensional characters . If one dimension is missing our characters deflate. It was a light bulb moment for me. Every character must have physical, intellectual and Spiritual dimensions. Focused study and effort will develop my skill and move this topic towards competence.

Consciously Competent.

     'Show, Don't tell' sits in this box. I know the theory but have to concentrate to improve all the time. Other disciplines glare at me, suggesting they are feeling neglected. But I've discovered that to be consciously competent on too many things at once reduces everything to a grey blah. I've tried fixing multiple areas in one re-write but after a few chapters I lose focus.

     To master Characterisation I'm ignoring all other topics in this box at the moment and working on one character at a time. The other things are jockeying for position and demanding attention. Their turn will come but for now I must focus. Maybe one day I'll know my characters so well that they'll come to life under my fingers without so much effort.

    Thankfully 'Staying in POV' has slipped to the Unconsciously Competent box most of the time. But having said that I know that any day now I'll learn of something I didn't know and it will slip back through the bottom left and join the pile in the top left.

     What about you? Does this chart help you?
     What is waiting in your Consciously Incompetent Box?

Jo Wanmer loves to write real life relationships, bringing Light of Christ to the hard places. Preacher, Pastor, grandmother, bookkeeper are roles that fight for her time. Her first book Though the Bud be Bruised asks the hard question - 'God, where you when...?'  She lives with her husband Steve on the northern outskirts of Brisbane in Sunny Queensland. For relaxation they love to drive in his new/old BMW

Thanks to Action Coach for concepts used in chart.


  1. Great post Jo. Love the chart. I reckon there are many areas in my life I am consciously incompetent - writing being one of them. However, like you I am hungry to learn and have been going hard after my writing these almost 10 years since God called me into the Adventure of being a Writer. Thank you for spurring me on my journey through your chart. And all the best with El Shaddai"". Love the title. May you find God's leading and help to get your story out there. Every blessing to you my friend.

    1. Anusha, you are a great example of pushing toward unconscious Competence. Thanks for all you do to encourage the rest of us.

  2. I love how it's actually a vicious circle, and Unconsciously Competent can turn again to Unconciously Incompetent, if the attitude that we can do anything becomes too great. A good reminder to watch out for pride. I also appreciate how this applies so much to writing. So many of are unconsciously incompetent from the start, believing that a pen, writing pad and enthusiasm is all it takes. Thanks for sharing this, Jo 😄

    1. Hey Paula. It is a cycle that lift us up constantly into great skill and knowledge. As Steve reminded me yesterday, we are like trees - we are either growing for dying - there is no middle ground. Thanks for dropping by.

  3. Thanks for sharing Jo - I can very much relate to this & there always seems to be something more to learn though maybe that's a good thing as it keeps it interesting :) I do like your insight on focusing on one or two areas of improvement rather than the whole box. Great post.

  4. Hi Jo,
    It's been nearly a year since the Omega conference. I would love to take a look at the first 2 or 3 chapters of El Shaddai if you would like.
    In Christ,
    Gregg Bridgeman