Learn Something New (Brenda Hiatt)

 I see that among other “random recommendations” this month, a couple of people have already suggested stepping out of our comfort zones. I heartily second (or third) that advice, and will add a few specific examples of my own that may help you find new ways to do that. At least, they’ve helped me.

First, since this is primarily a writing/reading blog, I’ll talk about books. When’s the last time you read a book from a totally different genre than your usual favorites? Try it! If you mostly read contemporary fiction, try something historical or speculative. If you mostly read fiction, try nonfiction (or vice-versa…I’m currently finding the book Crucial Conversations enlightening). In your writing, try a setting or style you’ve never attempted, if only as an exercise. First person viewpoint? Present tense? Fourth Dynasty China? Poetry? What haven’t you done yet? 

Then there’s that thing called Life. I’m a big believer in setting Goals, but I think it’s important that those goals be at least marginally within your reach. Stretch goals are fine, but making them TOO hard to achieve can lead to dispair and accomplishing nothing at all. (I speak from experience here.) More than a decade ago, I set myself a goal to learn something new, large or small, each year. Among other things, that led to me studying Taekwondo to the point of becoming a third-degree black belt, learning how to format and publish my own books and my ongoing quest to learn German. (I finally reached Diamond League in Duolingo a few weeks ago, which I consider a huge triumph, and I’m almost up to 700 consecutive days in my current “streak”!) 

This year’s goal is to (finally) learn how to market my books more effectively. Of course, one problem with this system is that some skills take way more than a year to master, so by now I’m simultaneously working on several (see above), which can become overwhelming. This is why I’m also a huge believer in Rewards. When I reach a goal, no matter how small, I try to reward myself somehow. Rewards, like goals, can be big or small, but keeping promises to myself helps me stay motivated. Lately, my favorite reward for meeting my daily writing goal is to spend a few minutes (or half an hour) on a jigsaw puzzle—a recently-rediscovered passion of mine. 

I reward myself for other daily achievements, too, like exercise (I write on a treadmill and swim as often as weather allows) and that day’s German lesson. Sitting down after lunch with a sudoku puzzle and a piece of chocolate (I’m fond of Ghirardelli dark chocolate raspberry squares for this) works for me! 

What haven’t you tried yet? Or lately? Think about how you might expand your life as a reader, writer or human being on this ball of dirt we call Earth and step out!


  1. YES to constantly trying something new!

  2. Inspiring post and good on you for stretching your wings in new directions. Life long learning is such a gift and keeps us growing. I realize I've lost some of that zeal the past few years. I used to be fearless about diving in to new things. I think I've gotten a bit lazy or have suddenly lost years of self-disciplined goal setting. Time to dust off my gumption and get back to it! Thanks for the encouragement!


Post a Comment