How to learn new skills

Learning something new is difficult. Here’s the some things that make it especially difficult:

Let’s go through that first point, the one around you not being good at whatever you’re trying to learn.

Protip: You suck. Specifically, you suck at whatever thing you’re trying to learn. No, really. You’re just getting started trying to draw? Draw me an owl. Yeah, it looks bad, doesn’t it?

Of course it does. You’ve never drawn a damn owl before, or skated in an ice rink, or written a story, or fluently spoken whatever language you’re trying to learn.

Here’s another protip: Everyone you respect for being competent at something has really sucked at that thing. For ages.

All of the artists you look up to fucking sucked at drawing for years. All of the athletes you look up to absolutely sucked at sports for ages, and all the writers you love to read have a mountain of work they would love to set on fire and forget about.

If you’re gonna become really good at something, prepare to suck at it for a long time. Years, if you wanna become really good. You’re gonna look at what you create and go “How in the hell did I draw this piece of trash?” or “Why doesn’t this story make sense?!”.

Stick with it. Keep drawing those crap drawings, keep writing those crap stories, keep making those dodgy bug-filled, half-completed games. Because y’know what, one day you’ll look at a drawing you’ve made and think to yourself “Hey… that’s not too bad”.

There’s zero shame to sucking at something. If you like to draw, then damn go and draw. If you like exercising, then damn go exercise. If you’re bad at it, who bloody-well cares. You keep at it, for a long while, and over time you get less bad at it. If someone wants to make fun of you for sucking at a thing today, you’ll show them a while down the line when you’re good at it. Or hell, when you move onto something else and get good at that thing instead.

If anyone says they have a way to make you good at a skill in a week or a month, they’re lying. Either what they’re teaching you is really specific and not that useful, or they’re only teaching you a very small part of it. To build decent skills, you need to keep at it for a long while.

Let’s go onto the second point: Staying motivated.

So, you’re not good at drawing, or writing, or speaking whatever language it is. You know that you’re not good at it. Even if I wasn’t telling you this, you’d look at yourself doing it later and think God I’m no good at this.

You need to find a way to keep yourself motivated. Because if you’re just learning to draw, then doing the traditional artistry thing everyone says and drawing a thousand circles, or a thousand cubes, or doing drawing exercises every minute of the day is going to get you to stop. Hell, when I was first learning I dived headfirst into those same exercises and dropped it after just a couple days.

If you look at young people trying stuff they like, you’ll see that they suck at it, and they generally do a lot of stuff other people find weird. You look at young people trying to draw, they spend a lot of time drawing their favourite characters and not much else. You look at ‘em writing and a lot of them sit around working on fanfiction all day.

Why do they focus on their favourite characters or fanfiction for their favourite shows? Well, because they like those things.

And sure, you can say that they’re not learning enough because they’re focusing on copying other peoples’ drawings of characters or they’re only writing fanfiction or whatever other excuses, but at the end of the day they’re still drawing, or writing, or playing music. They’re putting in the work, even if it’s not work that others respect as much as the ‘traditional exercises’

Personally, when drawing, I really like to draw characters from a couple of cartoons that people would make fun of me for. These days I don’t mind different types of drawing exercises as much as I used to, but they’re still not why I got into and why I keep drawing. I like drawing because I want to draw cool cartoons.

So I draw cartoons. Until I’m happy and motivated enough to do those exercises and the things that help me improve. And then when I can feel myself getting to the point of giving up with those, I go straight back to drawing my cute cartoons.

When you’re learning a new skill, trying to learn it in the fastest time possible isn’t the best goal to have. Your goal should be to make sure you keep doing it, whatever it is, so that you keep getting better. And if that means focusing on writing fanfiction for your favourite shows, or only exercising while you listen to K-Pop, or whatever else, do it.

Keep yourself motivated, because how you spend your time can be the difference between dropping it and gaining a pretty cool, interesting, fun skill.