I am a big fan of doing tutorials and courses online. I believe there is a lot of value in them. So much value in fact that I wrote an entire post on it. However you can read all the art books in the world, watch all the art videos on youtube and it won’t make you much better at creating beautiful paintings. There is value in learning about techniques and approaches however the true way to become a better artist is to do art. Your first paintings are going to suck but you just need to be persistent and carry on. Slowly as you paint more, your paintings are going to suck less until one day you look back and you have a body of work that has increased in quality over the years.
The same is true with all skills, you want to improve your writing, start a blog and write. Make peace with the fact that at first you are going to suck (and suck for a long time, I’m talking from experience here). Each time you write however you get better.
I’m not saying you should mindlessly churn out mediocre crap, you need to keep trying to improve, but the best way to improve is to actually DO something and critically look at it and start thinking about what you can improve. Do you need to work on your Grammar? Is your paragraph structure wrong? Are you relying too much on questions to make a point? Are you asking yourself these questions?
Art and Fear
There is a famous book Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland which I highly recommend you read. One part really stood out for me. It’s about an experiment a ceramics teacher ran on his class.
“The ceramics teacher announced he was dividing his class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right graded solely on its quality.
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an A, 40 pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an A.
Well, come grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity!
It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”
In essence the people who were charged with producing a lot of quantity ended up creating the best quality pots. Not because they were better potters(?) but because they learnt by doing, not by reading up on theories or watching pottery youtube videos. Their first pots probably sucked, they moved on and with each iteration their pots sucked less.
Don’t fear failure
I wrote a post about failing and how to fail faster I would suggest you read it. Tutorials and online courses don’t lead you down wrong paths. You don’t really fail following a tutorial. However sometimes it’s the wrong path and figuring out where you went wrong where the best learning is done.
One of the biggest reasons we fear failure is because we are scared of what people will think about us. It’s an interesting dilema. We don’t want to try things because we are scared what people will think if we suck, but we suck at doing things because we are scared to try them. The truth is that when you fail people will speak about you, but I would be willing to bet that the those are the ones who are not doing anything and are commentating from the sofa. The people who do things know how hard it is to produce and won’t think badly of you if you try and fail. So does it really matter?
It’s important to finish what we start, some of the best life lessons come from finishing something. Finishing is a practical habit that you learn best by doing. Don’t get discouraged if your first draft is bad (my final drafts are still bad, but I try to improve with each post). You are building valuable skills and practicing things you love.
You have to finish. So what if that painting isn’t that good don’t abandon it. Finish it, learn from it and try again on your next one, a little better.
Set goals for yourself but you need to understand that goals are made up of day to day tasks, day in day out you work toward your goal, improving each time. Getting better with each iteration.
Until next time. May you improve a skill you love each day a little bit.