The comfort of experience

Last night, I was finishing up a really complicated story on aging (and lack thereof) in animals.  I had a lot of information to incorporate, and interviews to listen to.  Considering that it was one of my longer pieces as well, and it's not difficult to call this story rather challenging.  If I had to produce this story while in grad school, or even when I was first starting out, I think I would have had a complete meltdown.

But I've been freelancing for a solid 6 months now, and so I've learned a lot about who to write, how to assemble information, how to create a story line.  Yes, this latest piece was the most challenging of pretty much any that I had worked on, but I also had a lot of experience to call upon to get the piece done.

I think the first draft actually turned out well.  I had no meltdowns--not even a small one.  Frustration and grumbling at the computer, yes.  But I didn't freak out.  I took a deep breath and told myself "I've done this before, and this story isn't that different. I can do this."

I'm guessing my skill as a writer has improved as I've done it as a career, but it wasn't some massive skill acquisition that got me through this story.  It was experience.  I've done this before and I can do it again.

It's the point I keep working towards in recovery.  Recovery doesn't get easier because you get "better" at it.  It doesn't get better through some sort of magical, mysterious process.  It gets better from experience.  Pushing through the bad feelings and eating anyway is an experience you can call upon later.  There's a sense of satisfaction in getting through something difficult and knowing that you can manage it again.

I could call upon experience while writing because I had done it, day in and day out, for months and years.  I knew what it took.  I knew how to break it down into smaller, more manageable steps.  It's a sense of...confidence.

That confidence is powerful.  No, that confidence didn't get my story written, but it helped push me through.

And so it goes with recovery.  It's learning small things that work, learning how to use those things in a variety of situations.  It's figuring out how to put everything together.  It's knowing that you can.

The story hasn't appeared online yet--that will have to wait for Monday or Tuesday when I finish the editing process.  Nor is my recovery complete.  But I am working to gain experience, skills, and confidence to get me through.

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Anonymous said...

thank you, Carrie. you have no idea how much i needed to hear this today.

with gratitude and love,

esqueci a ana (ex-ana) said...

You wrote about recovery:
"There's a sense of satisfaction in getting through something difficult and knowing that you can manage it again."
Yes! this is really important. Thanks for the post.
where can we read your scientific articles do you have a new blog with links to your publications?

hm said...

"There's a sense of satisfaction in getting through something difficult and knowing that you can manage it again."

Sounds like there is more than "satisfaction"- sounds like there is a sense of... "confidence" too. Of knowing what to do. Knowing where to put your feet on the path, because the path has become familiar.

I like how that sounds. I would like to feel like that.

The dietitian's guidelines have been holding me steady up till now, telling me where to put my feet as I walk this path. I feel absolutely ignorant and unsure w/recovery, like I'm walking in pitch black and relying on verbal cues to not crash into everything around me. Right now things are at a standstill w/her, and I feel this frantic sense of "What do I do NOW?" She says I was following her instructions too rigidly. "Normal people don't eat so rigidly." ??? I don't get that. It feels like a driver's ed instructor criticizing a student for driving too straight. Normal people don't drive so straight. Gah. Frustrating.

How am I going to get familiar w/the path if she won't help me walk it? It seems if flexibility's going to come, it would come w/time- if I felt sure of my footing, I might be able to scrutinize my steps less carefully, or deviate from the path ever so slightly to, say, smell a flower or study a shiny pebble. Right now I'm just trying not to fall flat on my fucking face.

Shaking my head in frustration- hoping she gives me another chance and decides I'm worth helping- hoping I can learn to walk this path too.

hm said...

OH and congrats on getting the story written well w/no melting down. ;)

Cathy (UK) said...

I love reading your magazine articles Carrie :) Not only are they very well written, but they are incredibly interesting. You always pick interesting topics to write about (insects, animals, bacteria...) and as far as I'm concerned, the more obscure the better!

KL said...


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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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