If you enjoy writing fiction, there are worse things you can do than go through the pages of Chuck Wendig’s blog. He posts lists of writing advice that tend to be very helpful, or at least fun. In one of his recent posts one of the points he makes is “Give yourself permission to suck”. I think this both a key thing to learning, and very hard.
When you want to learn a new skill, you end up comparing it to something you are already competent at. When you’ve built a couple of Django web apps but want to start baking pies, it can be tempting to think “Man, I suck at this, I would be better off spending my time programming. At least I know how to do that.” This is a trap, since the only way to improve those pies, is by baking them. And there’s no way your new Django project is going to help you.
The comfort zone is comfortable, and getting outside it sucks. You don’t have that warm fuzzy feeling of knowing what the hell you’re doing. Instead there is doubt. The demon of incompetence whispering uncertainty into your mind. And listening to a demon is always much easier than soldiering on.
Being bad at something is really frustrating. That feeling of not being good enough, of wanting to do something, but not quite reaching it, that is hard. But you have to let yourself do it, since it is a given that you will suck the first couple of times you do something. Otherwise why would we praise those who do something well? Sucking is the respectful thing to do towards those who have spent time honing their craft. If beginners start out as capable as those who practiced over and over, than there really is no point to this practice.
So embrace sucking. Try out different things, see how they work. Ask for help, ask for feedback. Nothing gets you out of sulkiness as quickly as someone being your mentor, or telling you “well, at least you’re second try is a little less bad.” That motivates you. Because those first steps are going to be the biggest ones you take. They are the giant leaps to becoming a novice, before you come to take the small steps that lead to perfection.
Give yourself permission to suck, since it is the best way to learn.