Sometimes, it can seem impossible to learn some new skills without putting your whole life on the back burner.
As a younger person, without children, it was entirely possible to set out on a learning path by simply sidelining everything and going “woodshedding”.
Woodshedding is a term I learned from musicians. It describes those times in your life when your peers blow you away, practically putting you to shame, and you take your instrument out to the woodshed – a secluded, enclosed, quiet place where you can struggle endlessly with mastering the things that stand between you and kicking all the serious butt you want to kick. And key to the experience is that no-one can hear you. You’re in the woodshed. You’re not on stage, you’re not in the studio, you’re not even in the rehearsal space with your chums. You’re alone. Out back somewhere. Where no-one can hear you. Where it’s quite okay to screw up a thousand times before you get those certain somethings just right.
Well, as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve downloaded and installed Blender. And while I had a fleeting exposure to a 3D modeling tool back in the ’90s, (I was mostly into creating models algorithmically or by hand) firing up this program was mostly an exercise in being totally lost. Like, totally lost. I could create a primitive, then couldn’t even find a way to see the other side of it. Nasty business. Quite humbling. And when one feels that way, the thing to do is hit the woodshed.
Hitting the woodshed doesn’t just help you feel better – it helps you feel better by getting you where you want to be. Practice. It’s like cheating.
One Minute Woodshedding
But, unlike some times in my life, I can’t just shove it all to the side and lock myself in the woodshed. I have work to do, proposals to send, things to fix, campaigns to optimize, invoices to follow up on, kids to pick up, banana bread to bake, laundry to fold, all that stuff. I’m lucky if I can pull 10 minutes away to woodshed before the phone rings and sends me off on some adventure to retrieve someone’s lost password.
Well, that’s that then. It’s kinda like this “blog”. Most of these posts were written over a couple of short sessions, between episodes of swirling chaos. That’s all I got. But the thing is – that’s all you need.
I started writing this post late this morning, as a site I was backing up was FTPing onto my computer. Earlier in the evening a chunk of quiet time appeared, so I alt-tabbed over to my Blender window for a quick bit of woodshed.
I’ve checked into my new Blending installation a good number of times over the last few days. At first, I could do almost nothing. Then, when I had a few minutes, I watch a couple of very introductory videos. Later, when I had a moment, I’d create a couple of things and manipulate them. But things were still totally out of control, as I kept getting sucked back into work, family life or bed.
Before today, the most I’d been able to come up with was this:
Not very nice, really. But that’s not the point. The point is that I got from zero to somewhere, with nothing but a few minutes at a time to throw at it.
But again today – I found some snippets of time to play with it a little more. Minutes in the woodshed. Every time I went back, I started to get a little clearer on basic little things. How to manipulate the workspace and the viewport. How to manipulate the shapes. How to control which axes you’re manipulating them around. How to mess with their vertices. How to set the cameras and lights for less-than-lame results. And how to do it without a spazzy out-of-control result like above.
Now because my woodshed here is just an alt-tab away, I can actually check in for a minute. Or 3. Or 10. Today, I did that maybe half a dozen times, when the real world permitted. And I came up with this:
I made progress! I’m learning stuff. It’s like playing scales for the first time. It’s so clumsy, and not too pretty, but it’s movement in the right direction. A few minutes at a time. The one minute woodshedder.