I've taught in design camps, workshops, university classrooms, and more informal contexts. I feel great joy in helping others acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for them to materialize their imagination into reality.
To be an effective teacher, one must never forfeit their role as a student. Despite my teaching experience, I very regularly think about the abilities I lack. I watch youtube videos, follow tutorials, read books and articles, anything to further the skills I am unsatisfied with.
In the last few years, I have begun formalizing and documenting my thoughts on constructing a meaningful lifestyle, where I can feel happy with a healthy body, a developed social network, and a fulfilling work life. I speak about these topics in many places in research, notably lifeset and routine. The reason why I've written these things is as much for you as for me. With so many things to think about, challenges to face, and flawed human traits to combat, I forget the lessons I've already learned. These writings help me build a dependable basis, so I can spend my time moving forward, instead of running in circles.
What I'd like to speak about here is advice for the things I seem to forget the most frequently: learning and mastering skills. I try to do a lot of things, because I'm passionate about nearly all facets of media production. One of the unfortunate downsides of this being that every time I pick up something new, I am a beginner. I've been a beginner in one thing or another for my entire life so far, and I have no doubts this trend will persist.
With that being said, being a beginner has taught me a lot about how to graduate from that stage of learning, and accelerate your skills' growth. That lesson is all about the fundamentals.
The fundamentals of a craft are often taught in a 101 course, and depending on the proficiency of your teacher, hopefully revisited over the course of your learning. What some might fail to see is how the fundamentals are, in fact, the entire course. They're the 2 year program. They're the lifelong journey to mastery.
The fundamentals are not just important, they are the only thing.
Of course, let me clarify. Learning the fundamentals in a 2 hour video will not make you a master. There's two reasons for that.
1. You haven't actually learned the fundamentals. Sure, you've acquired the theoretical knowledge, but you must apply those fundamentals to make them a part of your intuitive mind. Only then will you be able to build with the building blocks they provide.
2. You haven't put in the time. Mastery is attained through a fair amount of practice alongside a deep understanding of the fundamentals. One does not substitute the other.
But what's important is that if you learn the fundamentals, and then make decent attempts of applying them, you will unlock the ability to put in that practice time while having fun, and getting closer to making your imagination real. This, as opposed to suffering slow progress and chaotic workflow each time you sit down to better your skills.
Let me illustrate what exactly the "fundamentals" are.
In programming, one of the first things you might learn are variables and if() statements. You will realize that it is theoretically possible to build any program given these tools. Even at a lower level, the idea of storing data in memory, and moving it under a certain condition, is the fundamental mechanism upon which operate all machines.
Of course, there are many more technical elements to programming. However these are all abstractions - more complex configurations of variables and simple if() statements. Their purpose is to make your job as a programmer more efficient, modular, and less time-consuming. But at their core, the fundamentals reign king.
In music, there is pitch, duration, and tone. You will realize that it is theoretically possible to build any configurations of sound with these tools. One again, there exist complex configurations of these - consonance/disonnance in chords, consonance/disonnance in progressions, techniques for producing and mixing tones. But, at their core... Well, you get the idea.
In 3D; vertices, edges, and faces. In painting; value, color, and perspective. In animation; movement, stretching, and keyframing.
This is why, when I learn, and when I teach, I focus with great energy on the base blocks of a skill. Learning and truly understanding the fundamentals is what allows you to more comfortably access the complex structures built on top of them, and to start having fun creating. All the while, the fundamentals will continue to inform your work, and remain ever-present in your practices.
In addition to what I've said so far, I want to also add a few concepts that so far have translated to every discipline I've engaged in. These help learn, improve, and understand the skills required for a craft.
1. Find a skilled and articulate crafts-person, and ask them to explain the craft you wish to learn in a simplified manner. Remember their explanation.
2. Genuinely think about what you're going to make before you make it. Aimless practice can be fun, but the progress it brings is smaller than deliberate practice and production.
3. Make simple work, and make it well. Everything is almost always simpler than you think it is. It looks complex because it is a series of simple things stacked on top of eachother.
4. Break your idea down into simple steps.
5. Go from broad to detailed. Focusing too much on details before large sections are set up will likely require reworking or restarting details later anyways.
6. Analyze your product critically. Writing a report on what you've produced will separate you from feeling overly attached to your work, and allow you to evaluate it more comfortably. This will help you learn faster, and feel pride in your learning even when the product is a failure.
It can be terrifying to start learning a new skill. Remember that the ultimate goal is to have fun and enjoy yourself (and if your goal is something else, be careful). Learn the fundamentals, practice them, and the fun will come quicker than you expect.