Learning by doing is underrated

I’ve always considered myself a good writer. I was raised by an English teacher who gave me good genes and good examples. I majored in English in college. I’ve used my writing to open doors, to get access to opportunities, and to rally the groups I was part of or leading. Ten years ago, if you’d asked me to name something I felt I was good at, writing would have been at or near the top of the list.

But when I go back and read any of my oldest blog posts, many of them make me wince. Too many words. Too long to get to the point. Too many sentences that should have been more tightly edited. I don’t even recognize the writer who penned many of those entries a few thousand posts ago.

Since starting this blog, I’ve never taken a writing (or blogging) class. I’ve never reached out to a successful blogger and asked for writing advice. I’ve never taken steps to learn how to get better at this. I just wrote. Every single day, at least one entry a day, for ten years.

I’m not implying that my little blog entries are channeling anything Hemingway-esque. Every day, I read authors and bloggers whose writing is much better than mine. And I suspect the posts I’m writing today would make me cringe ten years from now if I kept this practice up.

But while I’ve got plenty of room left to get better, nothing has ever made the demonstrable writing difference like simply writing every day has. Done regularly over time, incremental improvements begin to add up.

Lesson #6 of my final 31 posts: Learning by doing is underrated.

One of the many advantages of the technologically infused world we live in is that the obstacles on the path to actually doing something have been lessened or outright removed.

If you want to write for an audience, you don’t need a book proposal or an agent or a publisher. Blogs, shareable PDFs, email newsletters–they are all there waiting. You can start writing without going through a gatekeeper.

If you want to be a leader, you don’t need to get elected to a leadership position. Find a cause or goal that other people care about, stand up, and offer to lead them towards the place you all want to go.

If you want to learn how to play guitar or paint with watercolors or restore a vintage Chevy truck, the internet has all the lessons you need to get started almost immediately.

If you want to make films, don’t start by strategizing how to get a job as a production assistant in the entertainment industry someday. Just grab a camera (even your phone will do) and start making films. Do those films entertain your friends and family? Does anybody want to share them with others? If you put them on YouTube, do viewers show up, view, and share them? If the answer is “no,” make different films. Shoot from different angles. Write different scripts or provide different direction or try a new approach until something resonates with an audience. The curve might feel steep. But the learning and the subsequent strides will be significant.

Whatever it is that interests you, there are fewer barriers than ever before to getting started. And one of the best ways to learn something is to actually do the thing you want to learn.