The Power of Practice: The Beginner’s Bane.
Everyone knows that ‘practice makes perfect’. (or, for those of us who don’t believe in perfection, ‘practice makes permanent’.) and yet, it is the aspect of learning that is most neglected by new learners. We find excessive practice to be laborious and dull. We will read books, watch videos and try everything to procrastinate on the grunt work of learning.
Why do we hate practice? Probably because it makes us feel stupid. No one is good at something when they first start out. In my field — art and animation — that is shown through the wobbly lines and disjointed attempts at a walk cycle. Beginners look at their scribbles and think ‘I suck at this’. A phrase that generally kills motivation. When we don’t feel motivated to create but we still want to feel like we are making progress, we read. (or watch videos).
Don’t misunderstand: I love books. Reading and gaining information is also an essential part of the learning process. In addition, observing masters in the craft gives you a better idea of the right way to do things or a more efficient way to do things, either of which can shave years off of your learning journey. But only gaining factual knowledge and not practicing is similar to trying to learn soccer without ever using a ball.
I am guilty of this as well. Sometimes I get discouraged and spend hours watching YouTube videos of other artists drawing. I think ‘I can figure out how they all draw and then apply it to my own drawing later’. The more I watch, the more ideas I will be able to try, right?
I was just procrastinating. In fact, these sessions of watching other people draw can last weeks and I will not draw a single thing throughout that time. By the end of it, my skills have begun to get rusty and I end up more discouraged than I was to begin with.
So we know that practice is necessary to work the muscles of our skill, but is it really that helpful? how often do we really need to practice something to get good at a skill?
Every. Single. Day.
You can practice less than that but for optimal results, practice daily. It makes a huge difference. Also, doing it daily can help establish a routine. Routines turn into habits. Habits combat procrastination.
This is how I learned to animate. I have been animating every single day for the last two years, nine months and twenty-nine days. I did not limit the subject matter. I could animate anything from a bouncy ball to a mushroom riding a skateboard (my current project).
At first, I started my daily animation challenge as a way to create something to be critiqued. I found out that I was going to be able to go to Creative Talent Network’s Animation Expo (CTNx) and I realized that I had no actual animation to show to people. I thought it would only last a week. The goal was to do it until the conference (144 days). The reality: I never want to stop.
But we’ll save that for another story. The question is: did it really help?
I’ll let you decide.
I’m still learning, still improving. I don’t plan to quit my daily animations any time soon (I’m looking forward to the 5 year milestone) and I know that the longer I do it, the more I will improve.
So don’t ever underestimate the power of practice. Good, consistent practice can take you further than you ever imagined. It may be dull and repetitive in the beginning but trust me, it’s worth the effort.
I’ll leave you all with a challenge. Pick something new and practice every day. I am doing it right now. I want to learn how to write a good story. So, I joined Medium and I will try to post every day. I honestly don’t know how this experiment will turn out but I’m excited to try to learn something new.
Until next time,