Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Becoming a Renaissance Woman

At some point in middle school or thereabouts, we learned about the Renaissance, and about the Renaissance man. Being a Renaissance man sounded fun. It sounded like the best way to achieve a full life. I decided right then and there to become a Renaissance woman. I wanted to meet challenges, become good at art and science and sports, and travel the world.

I started thinking about this recently because I read through Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (I bet he had fun learning how to spell his name in Kindergarten). I didn't find a lot of new information in the book, but the entire thing reminded me of the Renaissance man and the idea of opening oneself to fully experiencing life, whether that be working on a factory assembly line or making art or even cleaning one's house. What I got out of the book was that life is to be engaged, and not passively experienced.

For me, being a Renaissance woman means learning new things continuously. Becoming a physical therapist took a lot of time and mental energy. I spent years taking prerequisites and then learning the science and techniques specific to that job. I spent the first couple of years out of school honing those skills. And then I reached a plateau where, while there was still more to learn, it was minimal.

So my brain turned back to one of my childhood dreams... becoming a writer. Just like any other career, there is a learning curve when it comes to the skills specific to the craft of writing. In another book, Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, he discusses how just about any skill--whether it's playing an instrument, mastering golf, whatever you can think of--takes a minimum amount of practice for one to become good at it. This breaks down to continuously practicing the skills necessary for about a decade. Want to become the best golfer you can be? Give it ten years. Want to become the best writer you can be? Give it about ten years. And so on. Not that you don't improve after that, but you should be fairly proficient.

I took up writing seriously about ten years ago. See a pattern here? I do. Last year I decided it was time to take up another challenge--running. So I've achieved proficiency in a science/medical field, I'm close to achieving that in an art, and now I'm working on something athletic. Now, I certainly don't think I'll be competing in the senior Olympics in ten years, but I should be the best runner I can possibly be, and I'll be happy with that.

And what comes after that? Well, I have about a decade to figure that out.


  1. Congrats on your 10 year serious-writing anniversary! I have a hypothesis that this mindset also helps one roll with rejections (what some might call failures), since it's all part of the continual learning process!

    1. Thanks! And I totally agree with your hypothesis.