When you’ve been working in your field for a while, you’ll eventually become an expert of sorts at what you do best. Whether you’re an illustrator, a graphic designer, a painter, work in video or animation or you’re a web designer. We all find ways to do what we do more efficiently. We hone our process over time to make each job flow much more smoothly and as time goes on, so does the quality of our work.
Problem is, when you’ve been doing the same thing for years it’s common for stagnancy to creep in. Some creative friends of mine have suffered the dreaded burnout too. So I wanted to talk about the importance of learning something new and my own experiences with picking up new hobbies and skills.
Playtime is necessary
I often look back to the work I did when I was at college studying for my graphics and illustration degree. My work was nowhere near as polished or as practised as it is now, but there was something about it. Nearly all of those college projects had a sense of freedom and experimentation. Of course, we were given extremely long deadlines to complete projects. You’d rarely get that in the real world! But this gave us the chance to play. Sometimes I would practice with glow-in-the-dark painting, other times I would be trying my hand at screen printing or lino printing. It was so much fun! That chance to play and discover new mediums informed a lot of my early work and taught me what I enjoy or don’t enjoy doing.
This can be difficult to do if you’re in a full-time job or freelance full-time. So give yourself a chance to play outside of these hours. I go to a watercolour painting class once a month on a Sunday at the local art shop. It’s a great way to unwind, step outside of the world and your usual work/home life routine for a while and try something new.
Be patient and stick with it
Remember when you were learning your trade? I bet you made lots of mistakes at first. But you stuck with it and look at you now!
The first skill I picked up in my spare time was knitting and then later crocheting. My first attempt at knitting was horrendous. It looked like I’d fought with a bowl of ramen. But I stuck with it and eventually ended up wowing my friends and family with beautiful hats and scarves and little toys I’d made them. The same is true for painting. I am still not an amazing painter but I’m sticking with it and slowly improving.
There’s a sense of pride in sticking with something and then looking back and seeing how far you’ve come.
When you work in the creative industry, learning a new skill can often be transferred to your current work. If you’re a graphic designer and you decide to take the time to learn UX design…congratulations, you’ve just added a new skill set to your belt. Perhaps you’re an illustrator who only works with one medium; trying painting or printing could enhance your current style even further.
Part of learning a new skill is connecting that skill to information and skills we already know and building on our existing knowledge. This can make it easier to learn even more new skills. It can also help us to further develop our process and allow more experimentation in our work to get out of stagnation.
Something happens when you try something new. You do have moments of doubt, that maybe your efforts are terrible. But if you ignore that and carry on, your confidence will increase! You get a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
When we are learning, we allow ourselves to fail and accept that as part of the process. The process of going through failure can teach us a lot about how to reach successful conclusions in all of our endeavours. As Thomas Edison said:
“I haven’t failed – I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
You can either learn independently or within a class situation. YouTube is one of my favourite sources to use when I want to learn anything or up-skill. But also there are plenty of online or offline courses you could take.