Over the holiday break, I tried out learning how to draw and stumbled across this course: DrawABox - A free, exercise-based approach to learning the fundamentals of drawing.
What does this have to do with Go? Well, it’s the second paragraph so hear me out. I’ve been thinking lately about how to teach and how to learn. I want to keep my programming skills sharp, but I am struggling with what exactly I should code. What do I practice? How do I keep up?
At first, the goal of this article was literally going to be about finding what the fundamentals of Go are. At a glance, the course’s website initially inspired these thoughts as there was a set of exercises to complete. These looked to grow into 10-15 minute warm-ups you could do before starting a drawing session. Ways to strengthen your fundamentals.
Please note, I hadn’t started the course yet; I was simply looking around the website and coming to my own conclusions.
“Could there be similar challenges for practising Go?” I thought. “Exercises you could do as warmups before getting into things?” However, when I actually started lesson 0 of the course, it introduced me to the 50% rule, and I ended up thinking about something else entirely.
The 50% rule is simple. All of the time you spend on drawing is to be divided into two equal portions.
One half will include anything and everything you do with the purpose of improving your skills. Coursework, exercises, studies, tutorials, etc.
The other half is reserved only for drawing done for the sake of drawing. In other words, play. Experimentation, just throwing yourself at the page and giving yourself full freedom to just try, even though the result will likely turn out badly.
Hence the hyphen in the title and the, now revealed, ultimate point of this article. Surprise! Ignoring drawing for a moment, this rule made me stop and ask myself, “When was the last time I programmed for the sake of programming and what does that even mean?”
I advise watching the accompanying video (link below) and reading their written article for more context.
Giving It A Try
This part was the homework: A ‘set of superimposed lines’.
I then spent the same time on the ‘Play’. Behold, ‘A Cosmic Donut’.
Now here’s the weird thing, I found the ‘Play’ to be more difficult than the exercise. I wasn’t sure what should go where and couldn’t help feeling silly. I didn’t quite get it and it felt pointless, but I’d missed one more video that helped to make things clearer.
Overcoming the Fear of An Empty Code Editor
Overcoming the Fear of a Blank Page - Video 2
To summarize, I think because I’d mentally already started writing this article and planned to make a social media post about these pictures, I’d already sabotaged the session.
Subconsciously, the picture now needed to look like what I thought a good first attempt should look like. It now couldn’t include anything that filtered into the top of my mind. It now could no longer take risks, or be a ‘failure’. I was hesitant as what I was making had to be ‘something’ even though, what it really had to be, was just for me.
Pivoting back to Go. This ‘fear of a blank page’ is something I encountered recently.
There’s a line that’s quoted in the top YouTube comment of Video 2 which states
“The need to become a celebrity makes us forget the dreams we had of telling a story”
Now, I don’t exactly have dreams of filling stadiums worldwide because of my ‘Hackerman’ skills, however I still desire to create content that is useful or entertaining to people.
The other day I opened my IDE, created a new project and then wrote nothing because I thought what I’d planned to write would be a waste of time. My thoughts were akin to this:
- I felt that if I do something, I probably should write about it.
- If I write about it, it probably needs to be of note or useful.
- If it’s of note or useful, perhaps it should use newer technologies.
- If it’s using newer technologies, I need to use the technologies in the exact way they're supposed to be used, otherwise how can I claim it’s useful?
- If I’m using the technologies exactly how they need to be used, I need to read up on a bunch of stuff I don't know about yet.
- If it’s stuff I don’t know about how am I supposed to know if it’s stuff I need to know about or if it’s going to turn into stuff I didn’t really need?
A paralytic string of thought that led to nothing being done in the pursuit of saving time for something that was more worthwhile. I didn’t want to write something that would feel pointless. Otherwise wouldn’t I be wasting time?
Can You Overcome The Perceived Pointlessness of Play?
From my vast experience of spending half an hour doing some homework from an online art course, this is my expert interpretation of the videos above and what ‘Play’ is.
It’s about trying. Trying in an environment where it doesn’t matter and giving yourself the time and space to really just try. Even if what you’re trying is ‘beyond your station’. According to you.
‘Play’ is a learned skill. It’s an exercise with no defined parameters.
I don’t think it’s aimless, however, just unstructured. In the videos above the artist draws many things, but they all would’ve begun with a thought such as ‘I want to try drawing a monkey with a banana’. Then they gave themselves the freedom to give it a go, knowing they were going to rip up the pages at the end. (Spoilers).
To bring it back to my experience with the exercises, I believe I found the ‘lines’ were easier to do, because the task ‘had a point’. It was a tutorial, a part of a larger course. It felt that by doing them I was one step closer to moving to the next lesson. One step closer to the goal of completing the course and becoming a better drawer.
The ‘cosmic donut’ was difficult, because I couldn’t see how it connected to the grander picture. It felt pointless not because it was, but because I felt it was. Except here’s a question: Do you remember which stumble finally taught you how to walk, or was it the collective total of them all?
Anyway, those are my current thoughts
I think it’s going to take some time for me to get out of the habit of having to have everything ‘be a thing’. I need to practice learning how to have fun with it. Training my fun-damentals.
Now how do I do that? I don’t know. Hence the title. This is more a How do you, rather than a How do you. You know what I mean?
I think the first step might be to look at something I have an interest in but know little about. Then work through a tutorial or what resources are available and try to use those in my own way. No article, no wanting it to be more than it is, no anything, just time spent with me.
Relearning how to experiment, play and fail is a mentality shift and one that won’t happen overnight, but it’s something to work towards and one that I believe is quite important to growth.
I have a habit of forgetting that I am people too and allowing myself the freedom to learn how to have fun with something is, well, useful and entertaining to me. What’s the point of going on a journey with an unspecifiable destination if you’re going to be bored the whole way?
If you can learn to practice, experiment, have patience and fail with something for the sake of yourself, perhaps you may dare to have fun with it.
But yea, as I said in the heading, those are my current thoughts. Nothing could come from them and I believe that’s perfectly ok. Have a cool day and good luck out there!