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bear by san

March 2017



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froud magician

when the poor people sleeping all the stars come out at night

It just keeps on getting harder.

Jennifer Pelland's post, over here, on how writing seems to get harder as one gets better at it is the inspiration for this entry of mine.

She's right.

But the thing is, it applies to everything you do. Because as you get better at it, you start attempting to do harder things. And what happens is that the harder thing you were trying to accomplish seems just as hard--if not harder--than the thing you were trying to do before. So you wind up feeling like you're not making any progress, right?

And if you're trying to learn an iterative thing, where each new skill gets overlaid over all the old skills, and you still have to be doing all those old things competently, and then while you're doing that, doing the new thing too. Which makes you feel like a complete yoob, because here you are suddenly unable to do this simple stuff you were just doing kind of okay. And well, yeah, of course, because now you are trying to juggle those three balls while standing on one foot.

The trick, I find, is to every so often go back and try to do the thing that was just *killing* you six months or a year ago, all by itself. And you will usually find, if you have been conscientious in practice, that you actually can do that thing much better and easier thank you could have before you started working on the harder thing.

In fact, I find that I never actually learn how to do something until I start trying to learn the next step after that one, because that's when my brain internalizes the thing I was trying to learn, makes it automatic, and starts consciously working on the next bit.

We forget, once we master a skill, that it took work to master it. Also, we forget that learning hard things is a lifetime commitment. (The arts, science, human relationships, many sports and games--these count as hard things. If you can do it for twenty years and still uncover nuances of technique or knowledge, it's a hard thing.)

And now I need to go practice guitar and do some math before I leave for climbing.

Also, I think I have too many challenging hobbies.

The problem is, I *like* them all.


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Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi (yeah, I know) wrote a book that included stuff about this called Flow. It's pretty good.
New words I have learned today--"yoob" and "numpty."
So I should retire after book one comes out and it'll be easy street! YAY!
The trick, I find, is to every so often go back and try to do the thing that was just *killing* you six months or a year ago, all by itself.

I've yet to adjust my thinking in a manner that lets me abstract writing into components like that. A few things, I can do that with -- I can set out to improve my descriptions, for example, and write one on its own as an exercise. But most things, no. They're too tangled up in everything else for me to tackle them consciously and deliberately. I have to approach them indirectly.
For a little while in the 90's I was into the off-road driving scene (yeah, it's a 'scene'. I'm dating myself...) and one of the sayings went something like 'all a does is get you stuck further from help'.

This is similar. It is also similar to what I do in my day job, wherein I write code for ungrateful people. I noticed that I seem to spend 80% of my day wrestling with a problem that I couldn't solve. This is the same proportion of my day as it was ten years ago. I have spent ten years wrestling with insoluble-to-me problems for most of my day... except that the problems that stump me now are far more complex than the problems that stumped me then.

Writing is the same.
The more you learn, the more you realise you don't know. :)

BTW, can I ask you to give me advice on how to get over my writer's block? It's been bugging me for years now, since I lost a friend who I wrote a lot with. We just wrote fanfics and silly stuff like that, but my writing improved and developed immensely when we worked and since I lost her, I just can't seem to write and I keep feeling that I'm useless without her...

Any advice? Others have said I should read more, well I can't possibly read more than I do. ;)
But perhaps the answer is to write anything, even if it sucks?
I have no personal experience with writer's block, in the honestly-can't-write sense.

I have plenty of experience with psyching myself out not to write. (And I can't afford to have writer's block, It would be like having plumber's block. I don't write, I don't eat.)

I dunno. Just remember, it's not a performance art, and if it sucks, it sucks, you can fix it later.

challenging hobbies...

Me too for the challenging hobbies! At the moment, I am juggling learning tennis, flamenco dancing and horse riding on top of the writing - and I *love* them all.

What is most interesting is the way different skill sets for each compare and contrast, and feed into each other. Josh Waitzkin said that learning t'ai chi (his second skill) taught him more deeply about how to play chess (his first skill), and I'm finding that true (though on a much lower skill level!!)
That is just exactly what I keep trying to tell my students about why French is hard. Mind if I print it out and put it on my office door?
not at all.
This beautifully sums up my relationship with knitting, right now...
Good post. Thanks for the link to Jennifer's discussion too.
*g* Go talk to buymeaclue. You guys need to meet.
Yes. All of that.


Also, we forget that learning hard things is a lifetime commitment.

My Chinese teacher - native-born Mandarin speaker, linguist, lifelong academic, in her sixties - was still learning Chinese the day she died. And I do mean learning: new vocabulary, characters or meanings she hadn't met before. She would allow, if pressed, that a dedicated student could call themselves literate after forty years' study - but you could tell she didn't really believe it.
But THEN there is also doing stupid stuff like signing up for NaNo and having no time whatsoever to fix the fact that your main characters are doing more staring at each other than you would have even allowed at 11.

Sometimes I wonder.

That's when I go back and cut adverbs and feel mighty because I wouldn't have done it not so long ago.
Some skillsets stick better, I guess.
It's still not a performance art.

It doesn't matter how much it sucks when you write it, as long as you make it better when you revise.
Mind you, even though yoga and writing are getting harder, bellydance is getting easier. Maybe I've just climbed a wall and am still in the giddy "Whee!" stage. Still, I have a good base of fundamentals, and I can toss them together and have fun dancing with them, which is something I couldn't do not so very long ago. And it's a rare class that leaves me feeling frustrated at this point. So at least I have that.
"he Not Busy Being born is busy dying"

"It's all down hill from here"

"What Could Happen?"

"How Hard Could That Be?"

But i find some things easy, which means i don't want to do them any more. But then on the other hand, at age 60, easy things that make money are fine, most days.

And, personally, i have given up hobbies, it's just different work.

"A Change is as good as a rest, gov'ner"

And yes, i am giddy over finishing that fucking book... Wheee....

My friend Hannah says, "It's simple. It's just not easy."
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