Marilag Lubag's Blog

Copying Your Way Through Mastery

January 1, 2017
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While learning from a teacher is a good way to learn a craft, there is another way of learning. It’s called imitation. Imitation allows you to learn the basics of a craft. It also helps you to develop your sense of style. In addition, it gives you a direction on how to practice your craft. Although people often look down upon people imitating others, it’s actually the best way to learn anything.

I’ll use singing as an example. If you want to learn how to sing, you have to list your top 5 favorite singers and practice by imitating them. You do this by picking one of their songs matching them note by note until you’re close to perfection. This can take weeks—even months. And be careful—don’t overdo it. While it’s impossible to copy the singers exactly, you’ll develop your own skills by copying them. If you keep on doing this, you’ll become a good singer after a few years.

Why?

You’ll learn the basics of singing. The basics of singing are simple. Knowing how to breathe, hitting the right notes, having the right rhythm, and knowing how to modulate your voice. The rest you can learn through practice. Who could show you better how to sing than the greatest singers that have ever lived? If you imitate them, it’s like taking a voice lesson from them. That’s how some teachers teach singing to begin with—imitating them. I should know. I took voice lessons for years and have had the privilege of having a handful of teachers.

You’ll develop your own sense of style. Picking singers to imitate helps you refine your taste. You’ll realize that you don’t like a certain singer’s “screaming” while you’ll admire another’s way of hitting high notes. You might prefer Bruno Mars’ type of music over that of the Celtic Woman. You won’t know what you want until you’ve listened to a lot of singing and pick the ones you like the best. And because they are who you think are the best, it would do you good to imitate them. That way, their influence could be incorporated on you as you develop your sense of style.

You’ll have a direction to practice your craft. Practice can only help if you have a direction you want to go to. For example, if you want to be a singer and only practice singing without knowing the basic guideline of how to sing, you won’t become a good singer. Now, if you say to yourself that you want to sing like Whitney Houston (may she rest in peace), you’ll take out Whitney’s recordings and start imitating them. Now, you’re never going to sound exactly like Whitney Houston but you’ll improve more as a singer imitating Whitney Houston than if you do it without having a particular person to imitate.

If you want to be a writer, list five people you admire as a writer. Then, buy their book (articles, short stories, etc.) and start copying what they wrote by hand. Yes, the entire thing. Now, it’s going to take months (if not at least one year) but from this exercise, you’ll learn how they put words together. If you realize that you admire how they tell the stories more than how they put their words together, make an outline of the novel action by action. When you write your piece (this should be only for practice), replace the part of the sentence they used with your chosen words.

For example: “I have never given much thought of how I was going to die.”

That’s: Pronoun + auxiliary verb + never + verb + adjective + noun + of + how + pronoun + was + going to + verb

The point of the exercise is not to completely copy the masters. The point of this exercise is to better understand how the masters do things so that we can incorporate them in our work. We can learn more from them if we imitate them than if we do things our own way. To me, imitating someone is the best way to learn anything. Imitate as many people as you admire. Your sense of style would be the sum of all the people that have influenced you.

 

What do you think of imitating the masters?

 

Sources: Image via http://bobby-parker.com/architectural-rendering-blog/copying-rendering-techniques


Stages of Learning

June 20, 2016
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I am good at singing, crocheting, writing poetry, doing hula hoop, and other things. I wasn’t born with these skills. It took hours and hours of practice and learning. You can be good too if you want.

Looking back, I realized that I went through three stages in order to learn the new skill. The fourth stage is still a work in progress but it’s part of learning too. The more you practice, the more you’ll become good at your craft. You start by having fun.

Multicolored scarf

It took me hundreds of hours to learn how to crochet and yet I still have a lot to learn.

Stage 1: Having fun

The key to learning is having fun. If you’re not having fun doing something, you wouldn’t want to do them again. Being good at something isn’t as important as having fun. If you’re having fun, then you’ll do the same activity repeatedly. I couldn’t hula hoop before the age of seven. Then, I was forced to join a hula hoop contest as a part of school festivities. I did so poorly that we were last in our grade level. That was when I decided that I want to learn. One day, while we were shopping at a mall, I bought myself one. Everyday I practiced. At first, it kept falling down my waist. After a lot of tries, I finally got the hang of it. I was having fun. I used to count how many rotations it would take before it falls down from my waist. Eventually, I tend to lose count so I started counting the minutes. I’ve learned how to do hula hoop with other parts of my body since then too.

Another example would be my crocheting. Back when I was in second or third grade, my classmates were crocheting. As I have a creative bent, I wanted to try it too. I was nine when I first held my crochet hook. At first, I couldn’t even make a slip knot. Eventually, my classmate took a pity on me and I learned how to do chains. My grandma showed me how to do a slip stitch. It was fun trying to make rows and rows of slip stitch. I didn’t know if it looks good but I was enjoying myself. I loved every moment of making fabric using a crochet hook and plenty of yarn.

Stage 2: Learning

The second stage of learning is getting yourself educated. Nowadays, all you need to do is to watch Youtube videos (which makes learning cheaper) but you can also pay an instructor or buy some books. During this stage, start learning the basics and practice. Once you’re confident with the basic skills, you can build on it and learn more things.

When I was trying to learn how to crochet, my mom bought me two crochet books. They were very small and very thin. I devoured it. Those were my only two crochet books for the first five years of my path to learning crochet.

It’s important not to get ahead of yourself during this phase. It’s better to learn the basics and do them well rather than learn too much too soon. You could overwhelm yourself. That’s what happened with me when I was learning how to write a novel. I tried to learn so much that eventually, I find myself in a writer’s block—something that shouldn’t have happened if I didn’t try to learn too much too soon. Since then, I’ve taken a long time to unblock myself. I’m still writing. However, it’s been a while since I finished a 50,000 word story.

My foray to novel writing could be crochet for you. It could be singing. Please do not make the same mistake I did and discourage yourself out of learning by learning too much too soon.

Stage 3: Sharing with others

The third stage is when you become so good at whatever it is you want to do that you’re now confident to show it to the world. Sometimes you get pushed into it. At other times, you would share it just to overcome your fears.

Back in grade school, I got into writing poetry. I just write and write and keep it in a notebook. One day, a classmate saw it, liked it, shared it with the teacher, and got it published in the school newspaper. Eventually, it gave me self-confidence to share more of my poems. I published a few more in the junior high newspaper. Then I went to college. I recited my some poem as part of the campaign to stop violence against women.

Stage 4: Becoming a professional

Once you become very good at it, you could start charging people. Sometimes, it’s your decision. Other times, it’s your friends who tell you to start charging. Either way, you’re now transitioning from making things as a hobby to becoming a professional.

Since my friends and family seem to like my crochet projects, I have decided to charge people everytime they requested something. I didn’t come into that decision on my own. Everytime someone sees me make something, they eventually ask me to make them something. I needed the money to buy the yarn. It also takes time away from the projects I enjoy making for myself. This is why I decided to charge people. Selling items require more than your skills—it requires your ability to sell your work. Sometimes, you might not want to get to this stage and keep on doing things because you’re having fun.

 

In my experience, the stages of learning can overlap. Still, you need to get to stage 1 first before you can get to stage 4. You need to give permission to have fun and do things even if you’re not “talented”. Play with words if you’re a writer—write even if things don’t make sense. Paint like a child. Have fun with making a mess. You need to hone your craft. Eventually, you’ll become good at it. So good that people will want what you’re offering. When you reach that point and you’re ready sell your work, you’ll be confident in what you’re offering.


Step 1

March 31, 2016
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The hardest step we’ll ever had to take is the beginning. Often, people make excuses if they want something. For example, if someone dreams of writing a novel, they would dream about it but don’t start writing page one. If that was the case, our first step should be to start writing one paragraph. If we want to get to where we want, we need to start start somewhere.

The difference between a dream and a goal is if we’re actually doing something to get there. If we haven’t figured out how to get to our destination, the first step would be to start. We need to start walking. We would figure out what we need to do as we go along.

If we’re doing crochet, we should start with a slip knot. The chains and other stitches would follow. Whether we decide to make a blanket or a doily, there is a place we need to start first. The rest would come easier the more we practice.

The first step into any goal is to start somewhere. If we don’t start somewhere, we would only be dreaming—it’s not a goal. We would remain in step 0 and not move on to step 1. If we want to do something, we need to start. Once we start, everything gets easier.


Target

March 29, 2016
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Having a goal is essential in figuring out what you want whether in life or in your work of art. If you know what your priorities are, it would help you decide what is important and what it is not. It helps you save your energy to figure out what needs to be done and what you can put off doing.

For example, if your goal is to become a crochet designer or a crochet artisan, it would help you choose crochet magazines and books instead of buying books about writing. Having a goal helps you figure out the things you need to do first. If you don’t know your goal (and therefore your priorities), it would be easy to go with the wind and find yourself not able to accomplish anything.

Goals are necessary since they help us have priorities. When we know our goals and our priorities, we can make choices easily. Sometimes, it’s the things that are not essential that are stopping us from doing the things that are. If we know what our goals, then we cut out the inessential and choose only the things that are necessary.

What are your goals? A bigger goal helps us create smaller goals. This should help us get our everyday choices. If we don’t know our goals and the steps necessary to take them, we won’t accomplish anything to get to our bigger goal.

Have you figure out your goal? It’s okay to have one goal and later on, figure out if you actually like where you’re heading. If you don’t like where you’re heading, then it’s time to reexamine your goal and make necessary changes to get to the goal that you want to accomplish. Sometimes, we would start with one thing and make things that are completely different from what we started.

Goals are necessary. However, we need to determine whether we want that goal or we want something else. Before we change our goals, we need to examine things more fully—don’t just pick a goal based on feelings. Is this what we really want? Why do we want it? It’s often the why that would help us what our goals are.

What are your goals? Why did you choose them?


I Love You But Please Back Off!

March 18, 2016
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Often, it’s better to not show what you intend to do in the beginning of an artwork. That way, you can do what needs to be done and create what you want. After all, too many chefs in the kitchen would spoil the food.

Remember who’s in charge of the project. It’s you and not anybody else. You’re the one who had the vision. Don’t let other people change it without examining them thoroughly. When someone tells you otherwise, remember that they’re not factoring what’s important to you.

While other people may offer invaluable advice, it’s good to remember that you’re the one who’s going to do it. It’s hard to accomplish what you want if you listen too much to other people. You need to remember that they cannot see your imagination. They’re only spectators who’s watching your progress. You’re the one running the show.

There are times when it’s good to tell people to back off. However, do it with love and kindness. They mean well. However, they’re not helping you in terms of creating your vision. After all, you would do the same thing if you were in their position.

How do you tell people lovingly to back off?


Clear Vision

March 17, 2016
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People need to be clear with their vision. Otherwise, people would derail their plans. After all, they know their project the best.

While it’s good to incorporate other people’s advice, we need to keep in mind who’s completely in charge of the project. That way, if we have someone in our lives tell us that we’re making a big mistake and that we should do things their way, we would know to put our foot down in order to fulfill what was in our mind.

Remember that it’s you who’s in charge of the project. It’s you who’s making them and not whoever would give you advice. It’s also you who would be dealing with the consequences and not them. It’s your hands that does the painting, the typing, or the crocheting. It’s your body that creates these things so you shouldn’t let other people tell you otherwise.

Sometimes, people need to back off. What you need to realize is that it’s you making the decision and not them. There were times when it’s good to listen to other people’s advice. Then, there were times when you had to tell them to stop giving you the advice. Otherwise, it’s going to derail your plan to accomplish what you want. You need to do what you need in order to accomplish your goal. While it’s good to listen to other people’s advice, there would be times when you need to tell people to back off even if you love them.

That way, you’re going to do things according to your plan. While they might have good advice to offer, they might derail your plans because they would not factor the things that caused you to decide what you’re doing. Their idea of what you should do is very different from what they want you to accomplish.

Hold on to your vision. Don’t let other people tell you to do things differently or otherwise if it will hinder your goal.

Have you been clear about your vision?


Other People’s Opinions

March 16, 2016
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Sometimes, it’s not good to show our work when we’re not clear with what we truly want. I make things for people, only to have things changed because someone close to me would see one aspect of it that while I did consider, was not the major reason why I would be doing them. Then, I would follow what they want according to their vision instead of my own.

As often the case, it’s better to do what I want and then to show them the results later on. They often like the end results anyway. It’s not that I don’t value their opinion—I had other factors that they’re not considering. This is why it’s better to take a step back and to figure out what I want. Did what they tell me complement with my goal? Or would their opinion derail my plan completely? I have to make sure that I know what I want. This was one of reason I’m not showing people the things I’m making in the beginning. After all, they’re going to have a lot of opinion on how things should be done but I’m the one with the vision. My input is what matters the most.

Similarly, you need to be clear with your goals. Otherwise, other people would come in and tell you what they think. While they might offer valuable insights, the most important factor is what you want. After all, you’re the one creating them. If you’re not clear with what you want, whatever advice they tell you could hinder you instead of help you. If you want to make fuzzy socks, someone would tell you that they think it’s not practical which would cause you to buy a different yarn. If what they’re saying is different from what you want, you might create a completely different thing that do not align with your vision at all.

When you’re clear with what you want, only then can you compare it with other people’s advice. Since you’re the creator, you’re the most important factor of all. Don’t let people into talking you out of doing what you think is best.

What do you want? Would other people’s opinion hinder you or help you?


Don’t Mess with My Plans

March 15, 2016
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Sometimes, listening to other people how to do your craft would cause whatever plans you have to get derailed. Though they could offer invaluable advice, you have to see for yourself if what they’re telling you is something that would help you with your goal instead of going opposite what you want. Often, I would have an idea, only to have it changed because some people would see one aspect of it that’s not a factor for my decision. However, they’re not accounting for what I would consider to be very important at all.

An example would be me trying to make a blanket for my friend. I had the idea to make it lacy because I don’t have enough time. Then my grandma and my mom told me that it has a lot of holes and would not warm people up. I consider what they’re saying so I had to unravel my yarn and start over again. It’s a good thing that I had done it at the beginning of the project.

Later, my mom saw my blanket. She said to just buy my friend a gift because according to her, I don’t have time. That’s when I had to put my foot down. I told her that I let her talk me into changing my plans to begin with.

I’m not blaming my mom. I like creating my own design instead of using some pattern. Still, I was the one that had that vision. They couldn’t see what I see when I make that project. When I let people tell me what I should do, they often don’t factor how long it’s going to take me to do it. They just look at what they think looks good without even considering everything I was trying to accomplish. That’s why it’s sometimes better not to share my vision in the beginning. They’re going to derail your plans.

It’s better to show them what I did afterwards, when it’s all done. That way, they could see what you want them to see and they won’t have a hand in your creative process. After all, they can’t tell me I’m making a big mistake when something had already been completed. It’s better to show people the finished product, get their opinions afterwards, and then incorporate their opinions on the revision of my work. It doesn’t mean that it’s bad to take advice from other people. However, we need to be clear of what we want or other people would take that from me.


Simple Taste

March 10, 2016
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I love simple design. They might seem understated but the more I study them the better I like them. Some people might think they’re boring but there’s beauty in simple patterns. They don’t go out of style. Some people might love trends but one minute they look good and the next, people wanted nothing to do with them. I prefer the classics.

Simple design would suit a simple person like me. I would rather pick clothes that would look fashionable even after a year or two rather than pick something that would be hot right now and not the next. It’s a matter of sticking to the basics and picking accessories that would make your outfit stand out.

Similarly, we don’t need to be ornate in creating anything. It would be just as beautiful even if it’s not as ornate.

 


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Back to the Basics

March 9, 2016
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The basic stitches in crochet builds into one another, creating a more complex design. The combination of chains, slip stitches, single crochet, double crochet, and treble crochet creates different shape that would eventually become a bag, a sweater, a top, and other things. If you’re a beginner, it’s better to use less combinations and develop your skill of reading a pattern. Often, one false step would result in a product that’s way different than what was written.

If you’re serious about your craft, you should start with something simple. Even if you’re no longer a beginner, simple is the way to go. A true master is able to create something exceptional—even if it involves very simple elements. In terms of crochet, my stitches are going to look a lot different than the beginners. Mine are even and had the right tightness. A beginner would look crooked and have uneven tension.

People often want to try more complex patterns when their skills are not on par with the pattern they pick. That’s like me trying to play a Bach when I don’t have the ability to do it—something I had done before. Not only did it not sound like Bach, I spent the entire two hours staring at the page trying to play the note but totally lost with what I am doing. Technically, I had managed to finish the piece. However, it’s not Bach at all as the notes are too far apart.

There is nothing wrong with simple. Simple allows us to develop our skillset before we have the ability to develop a more complex skillset. In fact, I prefer simple especially when learning a new technique. Simple is a way to get results without being frustrated about it. If you want to learn something, simple is the best way to do it.

What’s the basic elements of your craft?


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