Learning lessons – do you learn yours?

Learning comes in many different and unexpected forms.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few the easy way, and many more the hard way. Some are waiting to come at me again.

noun: the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught.

Learning is something we do every day, so we should be good at it … right? Most things we do every day we get better at, more comfortable with, faster. But is this true of learning?

Those of you who know me, will know that I’ve spent a bit of time at sea, and if you’ve read some of the posts I wrote whilst sailing in 2011-13, you might recall that I learned a few lessons during that period.

By the time I moved ashore eighteen months ago, I had clocked up over 100,000 ocean miles. Only a few highlights, and moments of cold dread remain; the rest has faded to grey. Many of the lessons learned however, remain clear.

One lesson I learned early was;

‘The time to reef (reduce sail) is when you first think about it’

Ok, sounds good, but I doubt if 10% of short-handed cruising sailors do that. Optimism, procrastination, and reluctance to wrangle flogging canvas into submission in a rising sea are just three of the reasons. I know because I was guilty of them all. I told myself the wind would reduce again; invariably it continued to increase. ‘I’ll do it once I have’ [insert any old lame excuse in here], and of course the wind would increase while I was being lame, making the task more difficult and hazardous. Eventually, and slowly, I learned things do not get easier if you leave them and hope they will get better or go away.

I’ve tried to apply that rule to writing. We all know when it is just not working, that what we should do is hit that delete key, but we forge ahead anyway hoping that it will get better. It doesn’t. We waste more time, and the more we write the harder it is to delete it. After all, who wants to scrap 2000 hard won words? Next time your gut tells you ‘no! stop!’, put a reef in that chapter before the wind and sea get up further.

‘One hand for the boat and one hand for yourself’

Obvious from a sailing paradigm, but how does that apply to life in general, and writing inn particular? There’s no point hauling away on a topsail sheet with both hands, throwing all caution to the wind, and then fall overboard. All the hauling is then for nought.

In writing, we must preserve and grow our ‘other life’, our actual, physical everyday life. Regardless of whether you write about a philosophical mole that lives by a river, or about oversexed vampires looking for new recruits, at some level, it is our real life that inspires our stories. Let that stagnate and your writing will wither and die with it.

Happy writing 🙂


Today I’ll leave you with a classic track witch touches on learning.


Thanks for stopping by. I hope you’re enjoying these A to Z Challenge posts, and that you’ll call in again tomorrow. Until then, happy reading and blogging.



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Author: A.J.

I have written as far back as I can recall. Until 2011, that writing was just for me, or as rambling letters to friends and travelogues to the family. I never thought about why, or if others did similarly, and the thought of publishing never entered my head. Since I left England in 1979, I have been collecting experiences, people, and places. From the blood-soaked streets of Kampala, the polluted dust bowls of the Sahara, or the pristine ice floes of the Antarctic, I have gathered and filed them away. Some have recently squeezed through the bars of insecurity and are now at large in the pages of my first three novels. Others await their future fates.

1 thought on “Learning

  1. Jean Davis says:

    Good lessons to learn. I find that when a story isn’t working, it’s best to leave it be and come back to it later if a solution to whatever issue it had comes to mind. Sometimes that takes years. Sometimes I never touch them again. But it sure beats pounding my head against the desk.


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