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Still Learning

I am attending a professional conference next week, and I am excited to learn from experts and peers in the areas of editing, writing and design. I still remember my first professional conference many years ago—I was super-nervous because even though I had the title of “editor” and produced a magazine that the target audience appreciated, I had come to editorial work through a different career path and I was afraid that I would be found out. Everyone else seemed to have degrees in English or Journalism, while my degree was in Economics. Even though I had work experience and on-the-job training in communications, I felt “other” and “less than.”

At that first conference, I swallowed my ego, bravely asked questions and connected with peers. I learned from the keynote speakers and workshop leaders; however, the most important realization was that being willing to learn and surrounding myself with people who have a learning posture is an essential life skill. The best learning over the years has come informally, as I am willing to ask questions of my peers and to listen closely to their answers – “How do you do this?” or “Why did you decide on that strategy?” The answers may be different for me and my situations, but understanding process, thinking and possible outcomes is essential.

Great editors who have been on the job for years are still learning, because what makes them great is their openness to new ideas, new ways of work, new technologies and new media. Every new project I take on, every new client I meet with, every new media platform I test provides opportunity for learning and growth, if I am willing to ask questions and think broadly.

When Michelangelo was 87 years old, he is reported to have said, “Ancora imparo” which means “I’m still learning.” I would love to be able to say that each year, for as many years as I have life and breath.

Professional Networks

Connecting with peers in my industry has been essential in my growth as an editor. I remember the first editorial conference that I attended and how shy I was to ask questions, because I was intimidated by all the other attendees from magazines that seemed bigger and more important than the magazine I edit. Surely they knew so much more than I did, and if I asked too many questions, maybe they would sniff me out as not worthy of the title of editor.

Now, a number of years later, I realize that as a professional, I am always learning and growing, and my ability to keep learning is directly related to asking questions and surrounding myself with interesting and smart people. Since the publishing industry is changing so quickly, we are all learners, and anyone who claims to have all the potential publishing platforms, workflows and issues figured out is more suspect than the person who humbly asks questions.

So tonight I am giving a shout out to the Evangelical Press Association and my peers at the annual convention in Nashville. I wasn’t able to attend the convention this year, but I did follow tonight’s convention opening on twitter (#EPA2013). I will continue to network with other editors in my local area, around the country and world, as I am aware of how much there always is to learn in my industry (and any profession).

When Michelangelo was 87 years old, he was reported to say, “Ancora imparo” – I’m still learning. By continuing to ask questions, seeking out networks of professional peers, and being willing to admit what I don’t know, I hope that I will continue learning for decades to come.

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