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The comfort of experience

Posted Feb 26 2011 12:37pm
Last night, I was finishing up a really complicated story on aging (and lack thereof) in animals.  I had a lot of information to incorporate, and interviews to listen to.  Considering that it was one of my longer pieces as well, and it's not difficult to call this story rather challenging.  If I had to produce this story while in grad school, or even when I was first starting out, I think I would have had a complete meltdown.

But I've been freelancing for a solid 6 months now, and so I've learned a lot about who to write, how to assemble information, how to create a story line.  Yes, this latest piece was the most challenging of pretty much any that I had worked on, but I also had a lot of experience to call upon to get the piece done.

I think the first draft actually turned out well.  I had no meltdowns--not even a small one.  Frustration and grumbling at the computer, yes.  But I didn't freak out.  I took a deep breath and told myself "I've done this before, and this story isn't that different. I can do this."

I'm guessing my skill as a writer has improved as I've done it as a career, but it wasn't some massive skill acquisition that got me through this story.  It was experience.  I've done this before and I can do it again.

It's the point I keep working towards in recovery.  Recovery doesn't get easier because you get "better" at it.  It doesn't get better through some sort of magical, mysterious process.  It gets better from experience.  Pushing through the bad feelings and eating anyway is an experience you can call upon later.  There's a sense of satisfaction in getting through something difficult and knowing that you can manage it again.

I could call upon experience while writing because I had done it, day in and day out, for months and years.  I knew what it took.  I knew how to break it down into smaller, more manageable steps.  It's a sense of...confidence.

That confidence is powerful.  No, that confidence didn't get my story written, but it helped push me through.

And so it goes with recovery.  It's learning small things that work, learning how to use those things in a variety of situations.  It's figuring out how to put everything together.  It's knowing that you can.

The story hasn't appeared online yet--that will have to wait for Monday or Tuesday when I finish the editing process.  Nor is my recovery complete.  But I am working to gain experience, skills, and confidence to get me through.
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