Someone suggested recently that I should be clearer from the start of things what it is I’m hoping to say by the end. Good advice, but sadly I find it almost impossible to explain what I’m actually trying to say in a few well-constructed sentences, choosing instead to reiterate main themes, highlight key facts while introducing several underlying trends and include a bullet-point summery before reaching the climatic closing paragraph.
More problematic is that I also employ this style in conversation, and can then spend several hours after a particularly rambling exchange in complete disbelief that I still haven’t learnt how to chat. Or at least just copy the style of the person I’m talking to.
But a thing I have recently learnt is that I don’t learn from experience. And I now have enough experience to know that this is a fact. In the early hours of Sunday morning I fell off a garden chair at a friend’s birthday party on to my face, literally. I woke up later on Sunday with a black eye, an unsightly graze across my cheek and a split lip – along with really painful knees, presumably from crawling across the patio to find a stable object to use to haul myself upright. Mortifying.
This was a social chatting scenario I was nervous about. The party was hosted by someone I love, and attended by people I can only ever avoid until the school bell rings at 9.10am the next day. It was a party I wanted to attend as an adult. Instead, I drank a vat of Caipirinha and fell on my face.
I know that not learning about alcohol is sort of the exact point of alcohol. But the whole sorry incident represents the fact that, although I spend most of my waking life worrying about how to learn from my mistakes and not constantly fall on my face, metaphorically, I still do it. Definitely more than most I’m sure.
So this week I’m going to work on restraint. I was re-writing some copy this morning for a client, and when I emailed it back I included a covering letter, explaining that it was ‘a little chattier and more emotional’ than the original. Which I instinctively wanted to follow with the words ‘a bit like me’. Brilliantly, I didn’t, which I’m taking as an early indicator of having learnt something. Two steps forward, one huge plunge onto the patio backwards.