Vulcan mind melds, child prodigies, brilliant virtuosos, wunderkinds, and other effortless learning tactics have a few things in common. They’re rare, non-existent and in one case fictitious! There’s a good reason for sayings such as, “don’t put the cart before the horse” or ” you have to walk before you can run”, and “babies have to start with milk, not meat”. There is a natural order to everything. If you want to be successful you must follow an order. Let me give you a few examples to drive this home.
When I was young I wanted to learn to play the piano, but as the fourth of four children, my sister and two brothers had burned the music lessons bridge for my parents. They’d each tried one instrument or another and gave up, so I didn’t get an opportunity. When I was 38 or 39, I told my husband I’d always wanted to learn to play the piano. I wanted to learn to play by the time I turned 40! Allowing a little over a year to become a master seemed doable, right? He told me to go for it. I said I’m going to need a piano so I can practice. So, we bought a piano & I started taking lessons from a friend.
Although, I’d hoped I was going to be a prodigy I quickly found out I wasn’t, and it was going to take a lot of effort. My husband and I volunteered at a couple of nursing homes and a juvenile prison. It was important to me to be able to accompany him as he led singing and also to be a blessing to our congregants. I can still remember when my piano teacher wanted me to start using the sustain pedal. Two hands AND a foot was just too much for me to coordinate at first, but I kept at it.
Eventually, I reached my goal of playing by 40 and we had a decent list of hymns to use. Since I chose the songs, I could find the music in keys I knew and wanted to play in. That made it easier for me to put our hymn book together but also allowed me to be lazy. I didn’t have to learn new keys and I didn’t have to learn to read the lower staff. I’d simply played chords with my left hand!
A few years later we moved to a new church. Since we had a multi-instrument band I had to play from the hymnal and in the same key everyone else used. Yikes! My early shortcut to learning came back to bite me. When I started lessons my goal was to learn quickly and build a short list designed for a specific purpose. That worked for my short-term goal but, I hadn’t planned for the long term. Why? I didn’t look at the big picture or follow the natural order that would have gotten me there.
Be Prepared to Suck!
That’s right, I’m not a prodigy and neither are you! It’s natural to want to get to the end result without the hard work done from the beginning. Right? You look through galleries and see tons of amazing layouts. Layouts like you want to create too. But you shouldn’t underestimate that page creators experience. Remember you are not at the same stage as they are and their beginner layouts stunk too. So, don’t compare yourself to others. Do take lessons but don’t try to jump around and learn this bit and that bit. Start at the beginning. Learn the basics. Create and post as many layouts as you can. The secret sauce to success is practice.
Pay Attention to What YOU Do
We should all pay more attention to what we do than what others do. Think about if you and a friend are driving someplace you’ve never been before. If you’re riding with them, you don’t pay much attention to how you get from point A to point B. However, if you’re driving you tend to remember much more and can probably find your way back next time. By the same token, if you follow a video lesson but don’t do the steps yourself it’s very unlikely you can replicate the result. But if you do the steps as you watch a video, or follow written instructions, you’re more likely to have success. If you do this same procedure multiple times, you’ll eventually be able to achieve the desired result naturally and consistently.
Three Reasons Doing the Work Works
First, as mentioned earlier, we retain what we work at. Someone showing us how to do something is helpful, but retention is characterized by repetition. I’m sure you can think of multiple times in your life when a new task seemed impossible but eventually became second nature. When I went to work for the phone company in 1979, we had a form that we used for every customer call. It was called an 88 (part of the form number). An 88 had an area to record everything a customer said and take any type of order they wanted. I thought I’d never remember where everything went, what all the codes meant and when to use them. But I did learn. It seemed strange later that I thought it was so difficult.
Secondly, you can’t learn higher level techniques until you’ve mastered the basics. When I took piano lessons, we didn’t start with Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor. Why? Because I didn’t know where middle C was much less what’s the difference between a major or minor chord. I had to learn about musical notes, keys on a keyboard, timing, metronomes, how to read music, music theory and so much more. Each time an element was added, like my left hand or right foot, I had to practice, practice, practice. If would be unreasonable for my teacher to expect anything more.
Thirdly, each success along the way builds your confidence. Confidence is what gives you the push you need to try more new things. This is why our training takes you step-by-step beginning with the easy stuff and practicing that then adding more and practicing more. In addition, I give you tips and hints so you can skip some of the mistakes I made along the way. You become less fearful about trying new techniques. As an added bonus with digital you know you can always start over or change things up.
You may be an experienced traditional scrapper but new to digital. If that’s the case, you can translate some of what you already know about scrapbooks to digital scrapbooks. For example, you may understand how to use design rules such as color, balance, contrast, rule of thirds, repetition, etc to create an incredible page but lack any knowledge about photo editing software. So, while the traditional experience will help you in the future, you’ve got to learn some basics that apply to digital scrapbooking first.
Getting good at anything requires effort. Start with the right training. Choose an instructor that you want to emulate. If a teacher’s portfolio doesn’t speak to you why would you want to learn from them? As you go through our training remember each lesson builds on what you learned in the previous lesson. Getting a firm foundation with the basics builds confidence and prepares you for more complex techniques. Practice, practice, practice!
Take advantage of my experience. Click PSE4DS Primer to enroll and learn the basics of Photoshop Elements before undertaking any digital art projects.
PS. If you are brand new to Photoshop Elements this article answers 3 questions every newbie wants to know.