New Tricks

Perhaps it is just a symptom of stubbornness but when it comes to learning a new skill I almost always insist on teaching it to myself. If there is some aspect of the skill that is particularly difficult to acquire I may seek help with it but only after I’ve expended significant effort trying to do it by myself. Then, as soon as I’ve mastered that one aspect, I’m back to forging my own trail.

It may be that I learn more completely and thoroughly from my approach but mostly it is just a bad habit that I can’t seem to get out of. I can point to a lot of examples of what I’m talking about. I taught myself to program, both initially and again in each of the myriad languages that I’ve added to my inventory since then. I have taught myself guitar, keyboards, and virtually every other stringed instrument I’ve been able to get my hands on. Except banjo. I haven’t tackled the banjo yet.

I have also taught myself to write. Actually, I’m still actively struggling to achieve journeyman status at that craft. I have learned to capture my thoughts as they flow from my mind directly to the paper. I have started learning the process of charting a plot for a novel. My first attempts at novel writing have suffered from lack of a strong ending. I have recently realized that perhaps second and third drafts do have a part to play in creating a story that people will be willing to pay to read.

I read somewhere a long time ago that if you really want to learn a subject you should teach it. I have some experience of that. I taught miscellaneous topics in Computer Science and can report that my understanding of the topics that I taught were gratifyingly increased. I enjoy teaching and have given some thought to pursuing that endeavor. The main impediment that I have run into regarding that plan is that people so often look for teachers to have credentials and aside from a long successful career and demonstrable skills, I don’t have many credentials. This is one of the drawbacks of being self taught.

Having a plan is useful both in writing a novel and plotting a career. I am learning this rather late in life. I seem to have done fairly well for myself flying by the seat of my pants but I think I can improve my efficiency greatly by investing the thought and time in coming up with some plans before I undertake big projects. Who knew? You can teach an old dog new tricks.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.