Although this is supposed to be an article about learning creative skills (eg: art, writing etc.. techniques), I’m going to have to spend most of the article talking about computer stuff.
As usual, there’s (sort of) a good reason for this (eg: the approach I took to the computer stuff in the article reminded me a bit of learning a new creative skill). But, I’ll try not to get too technical.
Basically, the day before I prepared the first draft of this article, I finally got round to installing a version of a non-commercial, open-source (eg: programmers can freely study and modify the program) operating system called Linux on my other computer.
Installing Linux on a computer was something that I’d been meaning to do for a while – but Linux has something of a reputation for being an ultra-geeky, ultra-technical thing. Not only that, getting programs to run with Linux is somewhat different to doing the same thing in, say, Windows. Still, one of the cool things about Linux is that it provides several different ways for people to dabble with it without permanently switching over to only using Linux.
The one I’d used in the past was using something called a “Live DVD“. Basically, some versions of Linux can be run directly from a DVD, a USB stick and/or your computer’s RAM (eg: the “short-term memory” of your computer), meaning that you can try out Linux without actually installing anything on your computer.
But, when I went a step further and actually installed Linux (on my other computer), I was still able to do this in a way that didn’t plunge me in at the deep end. Basically, I used a very user-friendly version of Linux called “Linux Mint MATE“. In practical everyday terms, it looks and works a bit like a modern version of Windows:
This version of Linux contains an easy-to-use installer that allows you to reserve (or “partition”) part of your computer’s hard drive for Linux – so that you can run both Linux and, say, Windows on the same computer (which is called “dual-booting”). There’s even a screen that allows you to choose which one you want to use every time you turn the computer on. So, if you get too confused by Linux, you can take a break from it and go back to your old operating system in a matter of minutes.
Yes, I’m still dabbling with Linux and getting used to how it works. I mean, it took me an hour or two to get Linux Mint to play MP3 files & DVDs, and to find a version of “Doom” that will run on it (Freedoom, with the PRBoom+ source port, if anyone’s curious). But, it has been a lot easier than I expected.
But, what was the point of all of this? What does it have to do with creativity?
Well, it’s all to do with learning new skills. Simply put, the best way to learn anything new is to dabble with it at a pace that seems right for you. If you’re nervous about making mistakes, then try to use things that minimise the amount of damage and/or wastage that mistakes cause (eg: use cheap art supplies, write short stories etc..). Likewise, don’t be afraid to use simplified versions of things at first.
Going back to the computer-related example, I’m still very much a “noob” when it comes to Linux stuff. For example, the only reason I was able to dual-boot Linux Mint is because the program itself did a lot of the hard work (eg: partitioning drives etc..) that other versions of Linux require people to do manually. Likewise, I’m still not using Linux on my main computer. Yet, I’m feeling a lot more confident than I probably would if I’d just jumped straight into the deep end.
Yes, dabbling might mean that it’ll take you longer to learn something. But, it has a major advantage. Your motivation will be better. Why? Simply put, dabbling is usually motivated by curiosity. And, curiosity is one of the best and strongest sources of motivation out there. So, although it might take you longer, you’ll feel more motivated and enthusiastic.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂