Believe in nothing, no matter who says it, even if I say it, if it does not agree with your own experience and your own common sense ~ Buddha

Which is better? Learning something in fun, fast and entertaining way, or learning something hard, maybe boring, something that takes persistence and effort?

For a long time I thought that the first way was the only way to go. I was a bright, eager learner, and quickly picking up new skills became something of a hobby. I know something about just about everything.

Notice, however, that I don’t say “master.” Still I could justify it by saying, “Well, it’s not like I want to do it for a living. I just want to know what it’s all about.”

Jack-of-all trades, or polymath? On one hand, I never finished school. On the other, I can talk about just about anything. And if I can’t, I learn. I went to a gun show this weekend for the first time in my life. By the end of it, I could just about understand the language they were speaking. I understand that what looks like a sniper rifle (at least according to all the cop shows I’ve seen) is, in Canada at least, a “hunting rifle.” Really.

[On a side note: What a different philosophy there. The man in the booth next to me gazed out across the array of rifles, shotguns, handguns and assorted accessories on display and said, “Don’t you feel safe here?” Luckily, I realized he was serious before my tongue slipped its leash.]

So anyway, I would go along, picking up skills here and there, but anytime I really had to work at something, I would pretty much conclude it wasn’t right for me and move onto the next thing. Until I decided to get my trucker’s license.

There are many, many, familial jokes about my success with vehicles. In my defense, I have not had an at-fault accident since I was 16. I just have really shitty luck. And when I went to learn to drive a semi, I was recovering from mono. Guess how long my attention span was?

The driver’s test is taken in downtown Saskatoon, which, in January, is icy, rutted, and riddled with railway tracks and one-way lanes. If someone cuts you off, you fail. If someone blocks your corner, you fail. If someone runs a yellow light and forces you to stop in the middle of the train tracks—you fail. I think I took that exam seven times. My pride was on the line—I was going to become a trucker, come hell or high water.

That’s when I learned the value of skills you have to work at. It’s not the skill itself that’s valuable. It’s the feeling of accomplishment you get from perseverance. Driving semi gave me a feeling of empowerment that learning to dribble a basketball had not.

It’s the tough stuff you’re proud of. I’ve written one play and dozens of short stories. I like the play more every time I read it. I can bake just about anything, but when guests come—I want a challenge; sponge cake. I can frame, drywall, shingle and paint, but I’m slowly learning cabinetry. Guess which one I talk about at coffee?

You may or may not get out what you put into it, but you think you do. The challenge of pushing your self is where the true value lies. It’s not about not asking for help. It’s about not denying yourself the opportunity to learn.

Maybe learning’s not your bliss. I know it’s mine.


Comments on: "Learning New Skills: Getting out what you put in" (5)

  1. Finally, I remembered to comment on this!

    So, don’t leave us hanging — where, when, how can we read this literary output? Not that I’d have any incisive, worthwhile things to say about them, but I’d be glad to read your stories and play.

    • Umm. I guess I could email you? I’m only going send the damn play–first, because I know you’ll like it, and second, because as soon as I see my stories in print I immediately loathe them with all my soul.

      • Okay, got it. Thanks!

        As for the stories, all right, fine, fine, be a chicken if you want (he said with a perfectly innocent and angelic smile). I hate almost everything I’ve written, but does that stop me from posting it for dozens and dozens of people to read? No! The sky’s the limit once you kill that sense of shame!

        Seriously, though, I don’t think you’re any different from any other writer in that regard. Even some of my idols never seem to be satisfied with what finally comes out, and I would carry out so many depraved acts to be able to write like they do. I’ll add that I really have enjoyed reading here (and eventually I’ll finish all the archives too). The “philosophy of everyday life” thing really does apply, I think — you write with such enthusiasm and intelligence about a variety of stuff, so forgive me if I find it hard to believe that you couldn’t write a good short story too.

        And if it’s any consolation, I read very, very little fiction, so it’s not like I’d have a super-highbrow-critic’s attitude, just looking to find fault. Anyway, that’s all I’ll say about it. If you ever change your mind and want to send any along, I’ll be glad to read them.

  2. Ha! I am not so easily manipulated! If you behave, you can be first reader; I’ve been looking for one for a long time, and you seem extremely well-read. I can see that my tastes in poetry alone will be extremely broadened–I haven’t read anything after Kipling and Service.

    Besides, I’m nothing but a hack, I read what certain publications are looking for, and try to churn something out on command. That’s what the play was, what most of my short stories are, and ALL my damn poetry. Currently I’m working on one about the “tentacle sex” fetish (a challenge thrown down by the inestimable Remittance Girl)

    • FRESH MEAT! I mean, uh — yeah, I’d be glad to share what little I know about poetry, or at least point you toward some of my favorites and see what you think.

      I’ll behave as much as I can. I am vile, you know. Says so right there in my name. No, I’ll just wait patiently, no problem.

      Yeah, yeah, quitcher self-deprecation already. Mozart wrote on command for the nobility who commissioned him too, and he was still a phenom. Anybody can write totally for themselves and sniffle about how your lack of understanding just proves what a genius they are. The trick is trying to write within boundaries, even if they’re imposed by someone else. Some of my less sucktastic pieces of writing have been as a result of challenges (or assignments) from someone else.

      I’m not going to ask about the “tentacle sex” fetish. I prefer to leave it to my imagination. It’s probably better that way.

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