Yesterday, I listed off a number of elements and prompts that give me major difficulties in my writing and GMing—but while understanding a problem is helpful, knowledge along isn’t enough to get through it. What can we do with knowing what we can’t stand?
Some people just deal with their discomfort zones by just plain avoiding them. A lot of us might think that that’s the coward’s way, or at least the way least conducive to personal growth—and all right, depending on why a given situation doesn’t work for us, it might very well be. On the other hand, there are times when just plain avoiding the things you don’t do well is the best strategy you can use. If what really matters is getting some product out there immediately, though, or making the best possible impression, playing to your strengths is by far the preferable option.
For some who try to work through the difficulties, the best option is research. I find this is most useful if you’re dealing with things like emotions or styles with which you have little or no experience. Learning by doing is all very well, but sometimes it’s better to get a solid explanation of the basics, or see the work done well, before you start flailing around.
Others do better by jumping in there and practicing whatever it is they don’t do well. Certainly, flailing about has its uses; that’s how we get our first languages, after all. The catch is that it’s hard to tell what you’re doing right, and often just as hard to convince yourself to get started, compared to the others. At least if you’ve got a source of some sort, you’re not going at it completely alone.
Then there are those who ask for help. No, really, that isn’t cheating; if you know someone who knows how to do something, and you and they get along well and have plenty of opportunity, there’s not much reason not to ask if they can tell you how they learned to do it or give you a few pointers. You get knowledge, they get to feel smart—and they give you a sounding board so you can get your errors corrected, something just poking around the Internet isn’t likely to accomplish on its own.
Counterintuitive though it may sound, if the weakness you’re trying to deal with is something that you do have some skill with, you might want to consider trying to teach it. If you’re looking for a way to get yourself to look at your subject material from a different angle, there’s nothing quite like attempting to explain what you’ve been trying to learn to someone else who’s still behind you in skills and experience. It’s also useful when you’re trying to collect your thoughts on a topic; during my first year or two of writing, a good half of my posts were distilled from the answers to questions people had asked me about my own work, and I still welcome—nay, encourage—questions. (Hint, hint.)
Knowing what you aren’t sure you can do is a start, but it isn’t going to get you anywhere unless you act on it.