I just recently redesigned Self-Learner from scratch (I hope you like it), and I learned many practical things about web design–particularly about CSS—that I probably wouldn’t have learned as quickly had I not done the redesign. Doing things without spending too much time on learning the techniques first is a practice I highly recommend to everyone.
There’s an uncountable number of resources out there that we can learn from, but if we don’t put the skills into use, why are we even learning the skills in the first place? We can read twenty articles on how to create logos with Adobe Illustrator, but if we don’t try do it by ourselves, we’re never going to get anywhere. Sure, we learn from the articles and tutorials but we don’t apply the skills in practice. We only accumulate skills in theory and we never make use of them.
You don’t have to become an expert to start employing your skills. Perfectionism can be a good thing, but having too much of it only impedes your progress. Sometimes it’s good to just get the basic idea of something and start doing it.
Before I redesigned the blog I had basic knowledge of how websites are fashioned with CSS, but I hadn’t really dug deeper into it. How elements were positioned in CSS was a hazy topic for me. I didn’t really know how floating works, nor did I have any idea of how important it was to declare
clear: both; if I wanted the footer element of the website to extend when the main body or the sidebar were stretched.
The important techniques I learned from the action itself came to me because I had to solve certain problems. I had to make something work, so I had to find out how it’s done. Through trial and error, I could overcome the problems and learn many valuable lessons. The good thing is that by learning from the action itself, I was able to familiarize myself with that problem scenario. When I am faced with similar problems in the future, I will be able to solve them faster because I have already dealt with a similar case.
Problem-solving isn’t only about fixing a problem, it’s also about learning from the process itself. Don’t tell yourself that it’s too early to start putting your skills into use. There’s nothing to fear. You might already have better skills than you thought. And the worst case? You’ll struggle, but you’ll definitely learn a lot from the struggle too. Don’t let it discourage you. Keep going and experimenting.
Here’s what I want you to do.
- If you’re learning a skill right now… Stop! Stop reading any further. Stop absorbing theory. Stop overburdening your mind with information. (And if you’re about to learn something from today, spend a few sessions learning about it and then come back to this part.)
- Do something instead. Create something. Do something with what you’ve learned so far. If you have doubts about your skills, just let go of them for now. Don’t hesitate to set sail. It won’t be a waste of time, because you will be learning from it.
Let’s say you’ve learned the basics of how haiku are composed. Your task now would be to write one by yourself. Don’t worry if you end up with too many syllables or if you forget to include a seasonal word. Just focus on writing a haiku. When you’re done writing it, publish it. Do it anonymously if you feel uncomfortable to use your real name. You can create a free account on deviantART and start receiving comments quickly. But, as I said before, don’t let the criticisms discourage you. Some people just want to be mean, but you’ll probably also receive constructive and helpful advice that you can learn from. The purpose of the task is to learn from it, so be open-minded and be prepared to tune out all the unconstructive remarks.