Ways of Learning

I am not a taker of workshops. I have been in workshops, but it was mostly as a writer doing research. The few I took as a student didn’t go so well for me. In one, I just kind of wandered off (read: skipped out) after lunch and went shopping instead. Why? Workshops aren’t fun for me, and it’s entirely my fault: I am, at heart, a grade grubber. By the time I got to graduate school, it wasn’t enough to get straight As; I had to try to get the highest score in the class on every test. Did this always happen? Of course not. But it was always there, in my head, and “class” to me isn’t something fun and relaxing but, instead, something requiring concentration and massive amounts of note-taking and muttering under my breath and just plain self-imposed stress. Great for mastering geological time periods, not so great for learning to work with wax. Forget about making new friends; I need quiet in order to focus on what’s being taught. I would be that annoying student in the first row, pens and notebook spread around her, glasses perched on the end of her nose, asking questions, taking notes, being a general buzz kill the whole time.


Now, I think workshops and classes are marvelous, and I’m beyond thrilled that there are ways for almost everyone to find one that’s right for them, from online workshops to classes at large retreats to small local workshops in people’s homes. I love that this is the case, and Destination Creativity is all about that. But I know that there are other people like me out there–people who have other learning styles, people for whom taking classes just isn’t going to work. For some of those people, books are the answer, and they’re in luck. There are tons of how-to books. Check out these books in “mixed media art instruction,” for example–and that’s just the beginning.

For some of us, though, the only way we really learn anything at all is by figuring it out ourselves. I’m not–absolutely not!–claiming this is The Best Way. No. I know I would have a much easier time of doing what I do (making and altering clothing) if I had a solid background in pattern drafting and construction. Or if I had any background at all: the only sewing instruction I ever had was that ubiquitous 7th-grade home ec class, and I still have the dress to show for it:

Learning styles: try it out


Learning new stuff is, for me, a process of much trial and error. Here’s the blog post I did about my current obsession of trying to make asymmetrical linen tunics. It would be funny if it weren’t often so frustrating, involving piles of cheap test fabric, lots of wadded-up brown paper, and huge amounts of sighing (along with some Very Bad Words).  The good part, though, is that I’ve learned this about myself and understand the way I learn new stuff, and if I figure something out myself–with help from lots of Googling, of course–then not only does it stick with me, but I can tweak the process as my needs and ideas change.

If you want to learn something new and have been putting it off because the learning curve seems so steep, maybe it’s time to spend a little time figuring out how you learn. Not all of us know this–I didn’t know it until well into adulthood; for years I kept thinking there was something wrong with me because taking classes wasn’t appealing to me. Once I figured out that I need space and quiet and complete solitude and plenty of time to experiment (plus an internet connection, because, really: how can you figure out how to do anything without Google? What did I do before I could look up “balloon pockets” or “stay stitching”? I have no idea), then everything became possible. Obviously, if I’m using Google, I’m not doing it all alone. Of course not. But just knowing what I need to do to learn something new? That’s half the way to mastering it right there.


Set yourself the task of learning something new that’s relatively simple and not too demanding, and then take a little time to see how that works for you. Make some notes. Maybe it’s changed since the last time you learned something new. Maybe you used to learn from reading a book but now like the give-and-take of a more social setting. Whether you need to download some tutorials or sign up for a workshop or order a book, you’ll find learning new stuff way more fun if you do it your way rather than if you try to fit yourself into a learning style that just doesn’t work for you.

Go learn something new! And have fun~~


Ricë is the author of Living the Creative Life, Creative Time and Space, and Destination Creativity. She also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.


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