A Chronicle of Capclave: Study Sessions

When you show up prepared to learn, sometimes it happens.

So, in the past at conventions I have livetweeted panels I have attended, with the thoroughness of the report acting as an imperfect but highly suggestive transcript of my attempts to perfect my mobile computing setup.

This past May at WisCon I decided not to even try, as my current mobile setup is basically my desktop setup but anywhere I sit down. I didn't want to flood my timeline so completely nor inundate the panelists' twitters with notifications. I decided to take things in more passively, and that changed the experience for me. I wouldn't say it made it better or worse, but different.

Since then I've been thinking about what I could do instead. I am not a passive person by nature. I engage actively with the media I consume. It would be rude for me to sit therein the front row and talk back to the panelists, though, hence my habit of livetweeting.

This time around, I decided to use my mobile setup to take detailed notes about the panel. I went in with the idea that I was doing this to write a blog post (or newsletter post, I guess) summarizing it, a panel report.

At the last moment, though, as the first panel I attended ("Before the Beginning", about what goes into starting a story) I sort of zigged instead of zagging. I thought: what if I took notes not as though I were going to attempt to summarize this panel for an audience out there in cyberland, but for my own benefit? What if I took notes like I was a student in a class, trying to get the most out of the earned wisdom and varied experience of the panelists?

This was a bit of a challenge for me, because I wasn't the kind of student who took notes. I was the kind of student who wrote stories or created RPG characters in a notebook in order to keep her attention from wandering all the way off the lecture and then got a 100 on the test without studying.

But like many grown-up gifted kids... I have floundered and stumbled when I encounter challenges as adults. Breezing my way through high school felt good at the time but it did little to prepare me for any situation that proved to be neither easy, nor breezy, nor even beautiful.

So I decided to take notes like I would be tested on the material... or worse, like I would be expected to learn from it.

Now, I feel the need to clarify: it's not that I don't go to panels to learn. I don't ever presume I don't have anything to learn from the panelists. If that were the case,t here would be little point in showing up.

But my active engagement style is the lens through which I view the panel, the filter my brain puts over it. There's a difference between engaging with the intent to convey the lessons to other people, and to capture them for my own use.

And in taking notes with a focus on learning, I found myself thinking about the things the panelists said in different ways. I found myself thinking, in real time, about how their lessons applied to my own work. I found myself thinking about a project I started about a year ago, in anticipation of NaNoWriMo 2018, and which I used to "win" NaNo, but which I haven't been able to face since November 30th because I didn't know what to do with it, how to fix it, how to face it.

My notes to myself -- which still may yet form the basis of a convention report all the same -- had me rethinking things, realizing things, re-imagining things.

"Got to a panel prepared to learn" might sound like a piece of advice that is both obvious and arrogant. What kind of fool goes in looking to do anything else? But it's a question of emphasis. I went into the panel focused on learning.

And I learned a lot.

Coincidence?

Probably not.
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