Learning Curves

Recently I realized that I’m an awful beginner.  This is probably because beginning usually involves being horrible at something for awhile.  I realized it when I was starting to drive stick-shift and found myself completely self-conscious of my jerky stops and starts, to the point where I was unwilling to drive.  I saw this tendency rear up again when I tried a new form of yoga, and had to force myself to show up every day, even though I had every awareness of how comical I looked (side note: I was also wearing glasses in hot yoga, so I had to keep inching sweaty glasses up my face, which didn’t help my self-esteem).

My struggle is a combination of impatience and perfectionism: I want to be good at things, and I want to be good at them now.  And, right now this struggle is the thorn in my side.

This past summer I decided that I wanted to leave my freelance teaching and exotic server life, and start a business.  I will elaborate on this more at some point in the future, but I bring it up now to state the obvious: this endeavor is insisting that I learn a lot of new things.  There are new ways of organizing myself, new ways of thinking and strategizing, and plain old new skills. I knew I wanted to be documenting life and my process in a better way, so it made sense for me to leave my old point & shoot camera behind, and learn to use our digital SLR (Ben also shoots video with this for his business).  And, I knew that a lot of the things I was trying to do with pages and iphoto would be better done in photoshop.  And, I figured that re-learning Quickbooks (in highschool I did the bookkeeping for my parents’ alternative health business) would probably make organizing our finances easier.

The point is: I forgot how painful it is to move slowly and suck at things.  I forgot how annoying it is to lose an hour to reformatting a document because I forgot a detail about how the computer program works.  I forgot how important PRACTICING is, and about how essential it is to prioritize time and let go of the notion that I can do everything, perfectly, all of the time.

What I’m realizing, though, is that I just HAVE to work through this period of challenge, and spend as little time self-loathing as possible, because it’s only getting in my way.

I remember seeing this Ira Glass quote on facebook (and then again here), and feeling like it perfectly summed up my challenge:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me.  All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.  But there is this gap.  For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good.  It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.  But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.  A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this…And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work…It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

So, right now this is my challenge: forcing myself to fight through.  Other things, though, are totally making the challenge worth it, like the excitement of working with my first client (something I will write more about in the future).

And, behold, my first camera attempt: photographic evidence from organizing our bags of bulk co-op spices into the jars we bought ourselves as a Christmas present.  I now know some new camera vocabulary, and I’m trying to avoid spazzing out over how long it takes me to adjust settings before taking a photo.  I’m trying to remember it will get easier.


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