My overarching philosophy for life was delivered by my current job and employer. "You don't know what you don't know, until you're told you don't know," summarizes the deal for me.
We depend on systems, processes and people to do what they were told, trained, planned, hired, or installed to accomplish. We trust that it works.
When something fails, we spend a lot of time trying to figure out what we don't know, and more trying to bridge the knowledge gap. We ask others, what are you thinking, what are you doing, where were you, why didn't you call? We search available information sources, vetting what's known and winnowing down what is not known so we can investigate, clarify it, and make it known.
Much of the time, it's very frustrating. You followed your instructions and training, and did it all exactly as it should be done.
Why didn't it work?
It happens with everything, from everyday systems like flying, driving and the electrical grid, to relationships. We trust the pilot in the cockpit and the mechanics on the ground know what they're doing. We trust the traffic lights are working when we're driving and that other people know and obey the rules. We believe that we'll have safe and reliable gas and electricity, per the money we paid and the agreement we made.
Most painful of all is probably relationships. You don't know what you don't know until you're told you don't know is probably hardest when it involves someone that you believed you loved, and you believed they loved you.
My philosophy extends to writing. "We don't know what we don't know until someone tells us what we don't know."
It's tough for us as writers to trust someone else to point out what we don't know about our writing and finished manuscripts. That's what rejections are all about.
We spent time vetting an agent, publisher or publication only to receive word back, no, thanks, this doesn't work for us. Sometimes there is a splash of criticism but mostly, it's sorry, can't use this, or not interested, couched in polite terms.
Yet we have faith. We think what we wrote is worthy of publication, worthy of others reading it. But of course, we thought the chosen agent, publisher or media venue was the best choice, that this is where our work fits.
So those rejections eat us. It's up to us to determine if what we thought we know was right: was the story really any good? Does it have errors? Does it need work? These rejections feed our worse fear of what we don't know until we're told we don't know it, that we're not very good writers, that the story we wrote isn't worthwhile reading for others, and that we'll never be published writers.
That's one way to look at it.
The other way to look at is is that the publications and people rejecting your work don't know what they don't know about you and your writing until the rest of the world tells them, that what you wrote and submitted for publication is pretty damn awesome.
After all the sifting of thoughts and thinking, there is a lot that I don't know. The most frustrating aspect of not knowing remains believing that I knew only to be told that I didn't know.
No, the most frustrating part is trying to tell others what they don't know because they thought they knew....
The most frustrating part is continuing to believe that I do know what I thought I knew.....
They're always trying to convince me otherwise.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com