This week, I wanted to discuss something that’s been at the forefront of most of our minds since about one year ago, when lockdowns began. (Crazy how it’s been pretty much exactly one year to the day now, right?). As soon as we all became locked inside with nothing to do, a sudden craze broke out across social media — and it urged us all to use our newfound free time to master new skills. Be it baking, cooking, exercising, writing, or art — suddenly everyone seemed like they were trying something new.
The whole concept, as I’ve discussed before, was a bit of a double-edged sword — on one hand, it’s always great to try new things, learn something new or push yourself like you haven’t before. On the other hand, however, there was immense pressure on social media to be using our spare time during one of the most stressful and unpredictable times of our lives to be productive. That being said — there is always benefit to learning new things. A year later on, I’m sure we’ve all seen skills that our family and friends have learned that we would love to learn to do ourselves. But how, exactly? Starting a new skill from scratch isn’t just challenging — it’s daunting as well. However, it isn’t impossible — in fact, it’s far from it. At the end of the day, you really only need three simple things to master any skill your heart desires: practice, passion, and patience. By the end of this post, I’m going to share with you exactly how you can master whichever skill it is you’ve been tempted to try — no matter your level of experience. (And of course, the most important step of all at the end of the day, no matter what skill you want to master, is just to START! Start now! There’s nothing stopping you. If you start today, you’ll just have that much more experience in a week than if you started tomorrow. Don’t worry about having it all be perfect from the get-go. You’ll get there, so just go for it.)
The first, and most obvious step, to mastering a skill is practice. Or perhaps it isn’t to most obvious — it seems so many people believe that “natural talent” is somehow key excelling at things, but that isn’t the case. Let me be clear — you do not need to be naturally talented and something to become great at it. Think of your skill as you would exercise (which works especially well if exercise is somehow related to the skill you wish to master): anyone who works out will become more fit with time. Sure, it takes a while, and perhaps we all move at different paces. Maybe some people have a bit of a head start, and maybe others don’t. However, with practice, anyone and everyone can become fit. However, no matter who you are — it takes a LOT of both time and effort to become incredibly strong and muscular. But really, the only thing stopping you from being the person who becomes super strong is how much you practice. This doesn’t mean that you should push yourself beyond healthy limits, though — what I’m trying to say is that anyone can build up a skill to the level of a master. It takes time, but there’s no need to rush — you’ll get there.
A little extra note that I’ve found really works for me as well — I find, personally, that I benefit significantly from practicing skills for, say, half an hour putting in my best effort and I do putting in four times as much time at only 50% effort. The quality of my effort, for me, matters. If I’m feeling distracted, or lazy, or trying to rush through practicing simply to finish, it doesn’t really get me anywhere — and it doesn’t show me results that I’m proud of.
The second thing you’ll need to be able to master a skill is passion. Let’s not get too deep here — I don’t mean that whatever it is you intend to learn has to be your life’s sole and absolute devotion. In fact, you’ll be able to cultivate more passion as you go. But as you start out, you simply need to be passionate enough about whatever skill you wish to learn to feel excited about it, and look forward to practicing it. Let’s say, for example, that your passion is drawing (just like me!). Ideally, if you’re looking get started as an artist, you should be excited to practice drawing and look forward to practicing it when you can. This will reflect in your life in any number of ways — looking forward to purchasing your artistic tools, getting excited about looking for reference images or drawing subjects, or feeling inspired by other’s art that you come across online. All of this passion should, hopefully, not only inspire you to practice — but to practice often. The best part of this step, at least for me personally, is that your passion and excitement grows as you see your hard work pay off. Every time I complete a drawing that I consider to be my personal best, it ignites a newfound wave of excitement to keep going and create something new.
The final step to mastering any skill is the hardest — patience. Do not feel discouraged if you don’t see results as fast as you think you’re supposed to. Learning takes time, and the path to mastering a new skill is seldom linear. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re making huge amounts of progress, and others you’ll feel stuck in a rut. Whether you feel it or not, though, every time you dedicate yourself to practicing, you’re making progress. Slow progress is still progress. It may take months, or even years, to truly master your chosen skill — and even then, you’ll still always have more to learn. Even if you feel you had a good momentum the first few months and then stopped seeing progress, I’d encourage you not to give up — I’m sure you’re still making progress that even you can’t see. The smallest increments, with time, will get you to where you want to be. And what’s more, you never know when you may have that moment where you can feel everything fall into place; where you feel like you finally get it. If you’ve started and feel lost, that moment will come. Just keep working towards it.
Be sure not to compare yourself to others — some people may experience quick learning in the beginning, some people may take a while to get the hang of things — but the point is, is that ANYONE can master ANYTHING with proper dedication. You do not need to be naturally gifted to become great at something — in fact, most people that are started off just where you are now. The only reason, I believe, that people who are “naturally gifted” tend to excel in particular skills is that they’re motivated by their results early on that drive their passion to continue practicing — just as you will with time. Keep at it, and one day you’ll realize how far you’ve come since you started — and it’ll only drive your passion to keep going and learning more.
Now, I know what some of you may be thinking. To some extent, art has always been my thing. How do you, or even I, know whether I’m good at it because I followed these steps, or if it’s just because I’m inherently an artistic person? My evidence to show you otherwise is twofold — firstly, while I was pretty active in practicing art back in high school, after first year I pretty much gave up on art all together until after graduation (save for a couple of doodles in the margins of my notebooks). When I first started drawing again, I was no where near the level I was in high school. After just a few years of non-practice, while I didn’t have to start entirely from scratch, I had lost any so-called natural talent and had absolutely no ability to even draw a simple proportionate face. (I’d share a photo with you all of how my first few drawings looked when I was starting out, but I’m honestly too embarrassed. When I say they’re bad, I mean — they’re REALLY bad). There’s no shame in that, though — I had to start somewhere. On top of that, once my line work started to improve in quality, I still had another obstacle to beat — I wanted to learn how to use alcohol-based markers, and draw in colour (which was NOT something I had any previous experience in). Back in high school, I almost entirely drew my art in pencils, or in greyscale — I almost never used colour. I didn’t paint often, and even though I used colour pencils on occasion, it was pretty rare. Learning how to shade in colour is an entirely different skill from pencil and grayscale shading — as well, I had never tried alcohol markers before and I had no idea how to blend and use them. Honestly, it took a lot of time. While I hit a couple ruts along the way, I’ve had not one, but multiple moments where I felt things beginning to click — and those moments really revolutionized my own abilities and revived my passion to practice.
My second example, however, is much more recent; I’ve been trying my hand at digital art. Digital art is something I actually tried once (although briefly) in the past, but gave up on. This time, however, I’m going in with a little more dedication, and I’m following my own advice. When it comes to digital art, I know absolutely next to nothing. Drawing on a tablet does not come easily to me in any way, shape or form — I don’t find it intuitive, or at all similar to drawing with pencils and paper. It was really discouraging at first, honestly. I kind of ended up avoiding practicing for a month and a half, opting to continue with my marker-based art because I was so daunted by having to learn something from scratch. Even though I’ve had a slow start to it, however, I finally had a moment last week — I felt something click. It’s not like I’ve suddenly become an overnight expert (far from it in fact, I still have a long way to go), but for the first time I felt like I kind of knew what I was doing. I really lacked patience with my first few digital drawings, to be fair — I rushed through them and had quit on every single one so far partway through when I started to feel that each piece was beyond help. With a little time and effort, however, I finally created an outline that may not be perfect, but that I am proud of. I still have a long way to go — how to colour in digital art is still something I have next to no idea how to do — but I don’t have to get there right away. I’m sure one day, I’ll be able to figure it out.
I wanted to share a little bit of my own personal progress with you all, to give you a little idea of what I’m talking about (or perhaps some inspiration to get started on a skill of your own!). I, personally, love drawing cartoon style — most of my drawings are characters from my favourite TV shows and movies. These two pictures were taken six months apart: the drawing on the left (Aang from Avatar: the Last Airbender) was one of my very first that I used alcohol markers on, and the one on the right (Armin Arlert from Attack on Titan), was from a few weeks back. Neither of them are perfect, sure, and I still have a long way to go. But look at how much I’ve improved! Six months may sound like a long time to take to improve now, but it won’t feel that way if you’re constantly putting in effort and enjoying yourself, rather than counting the days. Who knows just how good I may be in another six month’s time.
As for my progress in my digital artistic endeavours, this is the outline in question (Eren Jaeger from last week’s episode of Attack on Titan). I’m still in the process of colouring it in, but as I said, I have a lot to learn and it’s taking me a while to get the hang of. However, this line work is by far the best I’ve done so far in my digital art journey, and it was the first time EVER that I felt like I kind of knew what I was doing. Once again, it’s far from perfect — but who cares! I’ll get better eventually, and frankly (especially when you compare it to absolutely any of my other attempts), I’m pretty proud of it.
I hope you’re all having a great week, and have another great week ahead of you! I won’t lie, you guys — I had no idea it was daylight savings today, and I spent a good half of my day being awfully confused. I’m not complaining, though — the days are getting longer, and we’ve had a few days here in Vancouver that have finally started to feel like spring. The last few weeks of winter are always the longest — more so this year than others — but it seems we’re finally at the end of winter, and possibly through the worst of COVID (fingers crossed). It really is starting to feel like things are finally returning to normal, and that there are better days ahead.
Until next Sunday,