Learn By Not Doing (Then Doing Again)

There are so many disheartening trends in the world — not to mention the ultimate disheartening trend, that entropy is an immutable law of the universe and all things disperse into cold chaos — that it can be refreshing to recognize a tendency of life that’s heartening.

Have you noticed that when you do something for a while and then put it down and then pick it back up again, you are better at it than you were earlier?

The first time I noticed this was with fiction writing. I will get into voluminous spurts of writing for months at a time, and then that becomes a strained trickle. No new ideas, out of ideas and feelings, all the same stuff. Then I put it down. And then months go by, and then I’m in another spurt again, and it’s all better than it had been.

Home Inventory - Bedroom.png

That’s a pretty nice trend. Maybe it doesn’t work with everything. It probably doesn’t work with exercising, but it does work with writing fiction. And, I’m learning, it works with programming.

Right now I’m working on a portfolio project using Sinatra and ActiveRecord. It’s a simple home inventory app: you can make a user, login, add rooms to your house, and (by some time this weekend) add items to those rooms. The assignment called for an app with those kinds of interactions, without any styling or anything, but looking at ugly browser default HTML renderings was bumming me out, so I used Bootstrap and some custom css to make it look nice enough.

It’s not going to win an Apple Design Award or anything (especially because those aren’t given to privately hosted webpages) but but it beats unstyled text with no padding.

But the main point is, I remembered how to do things I hadn’t thought of for months: that Bootstrap even exists, how to use it, how to add custom styles, CSS with complicated selectors, etc. Stuff I was worried I starting to forget. But instead of forgetting, I had somehow improved at it in the time off.

The more I learn about anything the more I see how it’s all the same. Writing fiction, and writing a Sinatra web app, and living one’s day to day life have fundamental aspects in common.

Which gets to my big 2018 goal: bringing it all together.

“Add ‘em up, Bobby. Add ‘em up.”

Nothing a few rounded buttons and some ASCII art can’t fix. 

Nothing a few rounded buttons and some ASCII art can’t fix.