This semester, certainly more than the one before, has been an exercise in perseverance. Perhaps during the Fall semester I was experiencing a bit of beginner’s luck. Maybe I felt more pressure to prove myself in first impressions. Or maybe I was better at wrapping my mind and words around the election. It could have been a combination of all of these factors.
But in the face of a more demanding curriculum this semester, I have really struggled. I’ve had an especially difficult time communicating complicated concepts (excuse the alliteration). Explaining the SHOP exchange or value-based insurance design to a layperson is difficult. In order to understand it, I’ve had to read so much material that I don’t know where to begin summarizing. I think I am finally figuring out that the answer is in the anecdote.
We are a culture bred on the virtue of storytelling. We understand things when there is an example and when the example has memorable characters. Characters are memorable when we can relate them to ourselves or liken them to someone we know. This also gives life to a story by adding action, pulling the article out of the vague and general and into the happening.
For example, I found a lot of material suggesting that no one knows about or is prepared for the implementation of the SHOP exchanges. But this was difficult to communicate even with substantial data until I had two characters: Peter, the sympathetic small business owner, and Jimmy, the soon to be uninsured bar manager. By incorporating their stories, I wrote what I think is one of my best articles yet.
These lessons come from you, Pat– and from David Quamann, who talked about the importance of learning about your characters by being a human listener.
It helps, also, to understand search engines and to be able to find data to substantiate a claim or understand the scope of an issue. This was something we learned after a librarian spoke with our class.