Tuesday, August 12, 2008

4 Quadrants of Growth

Working at a small movie distribution company in the less-than-usual nonsense New York, I don't really get much big company pep talk. I do, however, have them relayed to me through my sister. One snippet that really caught my attention was the Quadrants of Growth (or something like that). Here's how it goes: you start out Unconsciously Incompetent (1), and move to Consciously Incompetent (2), then (hopefully eventually) move to to Consciously Competent (3), and finally one day you (will hopefully) be Unconsciously Competent (4).

The example given is driving. You start out as a kid sitting on your dad's lap turning the steering wheel and thinking you can totally do this. That's Unconsciously Incompetent (1). Then come 16 and first few days at driving school, you realize, wow, I totally suck, and become Consciously aware of your Incompetency (2). Because of this, you start practicing, and with hard work you become Consciously Competent (3) where you can actually drive well. But only when you pay attention and not be stupid and cocky. This is why there are so many teen driving accidents. Then over the years, driving well (should technically) become a second nature and you are Unconsciously Competent (4). Congratulations.

If you don't factor in the talent limitation and go for the be-all-you-can-be view, this quadrants can easily be applied to writing. Everyone who writes continually are moving their way through the 4 quadrants. The question is, where are you? The thought deeply bothers me. There are time which I feel I'm at Consciously Incompetent (2) moving toward Consciously Competent (3). During my more cocky moments I feel I'm already at Consciously Competent (3), and soon I'll become Unconsciously Competent (4). This is usually when I finish a draft (usually the first draft) and feel, hell yeah, this rocks! Give it 2 drafts and I'll be done ...Then the first round of critique comes around and I go home thinking, wow, I'm probably still Unconsciously Incompetent (1), moving to being consciously aware that I REALLY GOT TO STEP UP MY GAME. After sleeping on the comments, I then usually look back on the script and think, it wasn't bad, it just wasn't good enough. Yet. Hopefully. Maybe. Please?

The other question is, how long before I become Unconsciously Competent (4). There are days and nights which I wave my fist at the sky and think (due to poor sound proofing) I WILL BE GOOD DAMN IT! But when? 30? 40? 50? The number keep growing. I don't mind hard work, but traveling two-steps-forward-one-step-back is a honest but slow journey. A friend recently told me that she does believe that my writing has improved. But how much? An inch? A pound? If 1 is for monkies at typewriters and 100 is for the Bible/Shakespeare/What-Will-You, where am I? Meanwhile, I guess there's nothing to do but to keep trucking along. At the very least, I got my inciting incident happening at page 15 this time. I can still hear Zombie cheering at the news.


Blades on the Brain, AxelA said...

Wow, DOA I couldn't agree more with everything you've written. I think writing well is the biggest struggle we will ever have. And satisfaction with what we've done is practically impossible because as writers we're trying to appeal to people's educated opinions and emotions -- and that's hard!

As for the two steps forward, one step back method -- I think that's the best way to go -- it reinforces. You can never fuck up enough, as long as you're willing to go back and fix (edit) -- It's a double stitch that's inherently better than a single. The fuck ups reinforce. But, every fuck up makes us stronger only if we are willing to take the time to revise!

And as for getting successful -- -- even after we sell that big movie, the question will become -- what next and what if we can't do it as well this time?

Satisfaction is fleeting -- so don't overlook the little things -- completion of a first draft is one of the most satisfying moments! -- Lasting, of course only until the work is handed in, knowing there's pain to come after getting back notes!!

Think of a lot of installation art like the gates in Central Park a few years back, or the waterfalls in the East River now -- while everyone debates over and over if they're beautiful or not, or worth the money or not -- the point is an artist actually took the time to do this monumental work. Writing's no different. But thank goodness in writing we can go back and revise!!

Janet said...

Wow, you DO listen! Next time we'll practice 5S of Lean which is a part of Six Sigma.

As for your question (where you are from 1 to 100), that can be easily answered:
Niels Bohr, Nobel Prize winner, once said "An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field."
Taking that definition: If 1 means you've made no mistakes in writing (technically that would be 0... but we'll let that slide, let's just say that picking up a pen is your first mistake [j/k]) and 100 means you've made every mistakes (therefore are now a pro), then you can figure out roughly where you stand.