Thinking about building skill

Skill building is kind of a skill in itself. There are those out there who seem to build skills very easily, while others (myself included) have to work really hard at it. A misconception about skill building that I’ve noticed in the areas of my own focus, writing and drawing, is that skill comes from work and work alone. While that is true to an extent, there is a lot about being a skilled writer or artist that has little to do with how much work one puts in.

Rather than thinking about bulldozing one’s way to mastery, it seems to me a better idea to get some fundamental understanding first, which might entail a bit of bulldozing, but then doing mindful practice after a general understanding and comprehension is obtained. This mindful practice I’ve written about before, and all I mean by mindful practice is to be aware of what you’re doing and aware of how what you’re doing will be perceived by others. So, for writing, this might look like writing a scene, and once finished, going back and reading it as though you just picked it up in a bookstore. For drawing, this might look like drawing a hand from memory and then getting reference and redrawing the hand from reference.

This way of practicing can be beneficial in building skill because it enforces that consciousness about mistakes and fixing mistakes instead of shrugging them off as “oh, that’s just the way I do things. That’s just my style.”

This has been further solidified in my thinking recently because I’ve applied the same thinking and strategy to learning how to sing better. I love singing, but never had much formal training. I spent a summer going to a singing teacher once a week, which was helpful, but somewhat fruitless because of my own self-consciousness to  practice on my own at school or at home. Without getting into the self-consciousness issue, I will say that really paying attention to how I sound and really trying to hear the mistakes and fix them has been immensely beneficial to my singing voice. Now, I’m by no means a great singer, but I feel that I’m on the right road to becoming a competent and confident one.

This strategy is by no means a glamorous process. On the contrary, it is based on failure. But what it also focuses on is learning as much from that failure as possible. It is aimed at creating the most streamlined skills for most skill-based activities. It takes time, because old habits have to be broken and new ones gained. But with perseverance, I fell that any skill can be mastered.

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