I Get By with a Little Help from the Pros

Thursday, April 21, 2022
On New Year’s Eve of 2020, I bought a new car. This was a momentous event because I’d been driving the same car for over 15 years. I LOVED my red CRV and it was in great shape but yeah, it was a bit basic; instead of all the bells and whistles, it had a bell and a wheeze or two.

So the new car, an HRV (a wee bit smaller than a CRV), arrived in my driveway and I literally had to have a lesson in how to start it (A button? What fresh hell is this? as Dorothy Parker would say). I must have called the salesperson a dozen times to ask questions about bells and whistles and I don't know what all. 

And then this year, I started getting emails about changing my oil. So I made an appointment to go to the professionals at my local dealership, at least for the first oil change. And after checking the mileage, the very decent fellow said, “You don’t need an oil change, ma'am. Your car can tell you when you do.”

 Here we go, I thought, another fresh hell.

 “Here, let me show you where you can check your oil.” And the pro got in my car and pointed to a black pencil-type rod and blew my mind.

 “Has that always been there?” I asked, completely incredulous. And yes, it had always been there, waiting to give me all kinds of info. 

If I had taken my car to a generic oil change place, would they have pointed out that rod button? I suspect not; they would’ve likely assumed I knew about it already. But at the dealership, their job is to help their customers have the best experience with their cars. Your success is their success, so to speak.

Professionals can be very helpful that way, can’t they? And it doesn’t matter if you’re a new car owner or a new writer. (Ah, finally getting to the writing part!)

It was embarrassing when I bought that new car and had no idea how to make it go. So I had to ask questions; I had to read the manual. (Um…I may not have actually read that book. But I skimmed it!)

It was also humbling when I started out in the creative writing business. I had a journalism degree and had plenty of news writing and copywriting experience but that’s not the same as the fiction and essay writing I was trying. So I started asking LOTS of questions of the more experienced writers I met, and I read a LOT of "manuals" as well.

And just as I went to the dealership for the first oil change, I joined professional writing organizations so I could find the people who knew the answers. And I can’t tell you how many times I had mind-blowing reactions while attending a webinar, a class, or a conference: 

That’s what show-don’t-tell means?” 

“Setting can be a character? Brilliant!” 

“The Hero’s Journey? Has that always been there?” 

And just like the very decent pro at the dealership, most professionals in the writing business want you to have a positive and enriching experience when you begin your journey with words. Whether you’re reading their wisdom in a book or blog post, attending their classes, or paying for their expertise in a specific field, they want you to succeed. 

 It’s not always easy when faced with something new. But take it from a car owner and a writer who is still learning new stuff every day: go to the pros for a little help. You’ll be very glad you did!

(But seriously, y'all. That little pencil-like rod/button is practically impossible to see, right?)


Renee Roberson said...

Cathy--I'm right there with you on figuring out new tech! Every time I have to get a new phone, I groan. My current Jeep Grand Cherokee is a 2015, but there are still features I have no idea how to use. I think writers are some of the most resourceful, inquisitive people I know, and we never want to stop learning! Plus publishing is always evolving so we have to keep on our toes. My favorite learning experience was going to MurderCon, so I could learn to write about crime from the real-life law enforcement, medical examiners, FBI agents, and more!

Cathy C. Hall said...

Murdercon! That's sounds exciting (in a writerly way)!

And yep, I'm eeking out every nanosecond from my current laptop because I don't want to have to learn a new one's bells and whistles. Sometimes I long for the simplicity of the days when I just had to crack open a new notebook and find a pencil sharpener. :-)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I laughed so hard reading this. I agree with Renee - writers are lifelong learners as long as it is what we want to learn. My new computer is boxed up in the family room waiting for me to meet my current deadline. Am really looking forward to having something that doesn't freeze up for 10 minutes a time when I max out the memory but not looking forward to relearning Word and Photoshop and Illustrator and . . .

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