Marilag Lubag's Blog

How to Be Good at Something

February 18, 2016
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Talents are not as innate as some people think. Almost any skill can be learned. It takes an immense amount of interest and practice in order to become a master of something. Some people think it’s mysterious to be able to do something but it’s really not. Talent is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration—I’m paraphrasing Edison. The people who are good at certain things just have a lot of practice.

If you want to be good at something, you have to get off your phone. Whether it’s cooking or singing or writing, you won’t know how to do something unless you start doing them. To be good at something, it starts with actually picking up the tool and actually doing something.

It starts with a hobby—the adult version of playing without worrying about the consequences. Whether it’s writing or singing painting or needlework or anything else, people need to get interested in something before they actually start playing. Keep in mind that things are a lot harder to learn as an adult than when we were children—we no longer practice learning new skills.

Eventually, people learn their skills. If you’re a horrible singer, you’ll become good at it if you keep on practicing and try to learn the technique. It takes time but people learn eventually. Then, people become good at what they do and then they could sell them or give them away if they choose. You have to practice over and over in order to be good at whatever it is you want to learn. It does take time but if you practice that particular skill an hour a day, you’ll become good at whatever it is you’re interested in.

To be good at something, you don’t need to be born with talent for that particular skill. Most people could learn through practice. The more you practice, the more you’ll improve. It’s going to take a few years but eventually, you’ll be good at that particular activity that people would believe you’re born with that skill.

 

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Gifts

February 17, 2016
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By nature, I love arts and crafts. It helps me express my creativity especially since I’m not as good as the other members of my family when it comes to painting. However, I’m gifted with all sorts of needlework. We each have our unique gifts and it’s up to each of us to use it and improve it.

We all have different skills and talents. Sometimes, people are born to be good at painting. Others were born to be better at singing. Then, there were those that are great at acting. Nevertheless, no matter where your gifts are, you could get better if you practice.

I believe that our natural gifts lie on where our interests are and on whether we practice them or not. One of the reasons why I’m not good with painting is because I don’t practice it. The same goes for my ability to take pictures. Plenty of people have said that I’m terrible at it. My boss often wonders why I couldn’t take good photos when I’m an artist with a lot of talents. The only answer I have was because I don’t take a lot of pictures. I’m not going to waste my time trying to find the perfect angle for a particular subject when all I want is to show people the places I’ve been at and the people I’m with. It all depends on the editing—if I actually get around it. And besides, I’m not interested in making things picture perfect. I prefer candid shots over anything else.

On the other hand, I’m good at the other things I prefer to learn. For example, I’m good at singing because I’ve practiced countless hours singing even if I was out of tune growing up. I’m good at hula hoop too—I practiced hundreds of hours trying to keep that round object around my waist. The things that I’m good at, I practiced tirelessly. I didn’t get discouraged doing them as I tried to master each skill.

I’m good at a lot of things because I practice. At first, I tend to be terrible. After more tries, I improve. Since I have the tendency to practice nonstop when I like something, I eventually become good at it. It’s not that I’m multitalented as some people have said. As far as I’m concerned, I start with only the desire to do something. With practice, I soon add it to my bag of talents.

If you’re not good at something but have the desire to do it, don’t despair. Just practice. With dedication, you’ll eventually learn and become good at it. Our gifts are tied to our interests. It’s because we practice the things we’re interested in doing more than those that we’re not.


Break Time

February 11, 2016
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Every artist needs a break. It would be a grave mistake if he or she locks himself or herself in a room painting or writing day in and day out without taking any break. I guarantee that it would be a major cause of artistic block. Unless he or she is a major procrastinator, he or she had no reason to lock himself or herself away from civilization without coming into contact with humanity and nature.

An artist needs to give himself or herself some time to let the things in his or her mind process things in order to create something new. Sometimes, he or she needs to doodle and to write crazy things on paper. Then, he or she needs to give it time to settle down so that the brain could process things and to create something worthwhile.

An example would be writing this blog. The night I wrote this, I decided to write as much as I could in order to have a good idea for the blog posts during the week. I had plenty of idea for Monday’s post but I was lacking topics for Tuesday until Friday. Nevertheless, I wrote a few paragraphs for each of the remaining days even if I didn’t have anything to say then I went to sleep. The next day, my mind was coming up with a ton of ideas for the blog posts. I was able to come up with topics for the rest of the week including this post.

If you find yourself not wanting to work but you’ve been working nonstop for days, maybe it’s time for a break. Go to Starbucks. Do your chores. Go to the park. For a day or two, do something else other than writing. You can even watch a movie. Then, come back and work. You’ll notice that you have more ideas.

Every artist needs a break. It’s a way to recharge and to generate more ideas.


Starting Small

February 9, 2016
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As an artist, our vision often doesn’t match how our creation would come out. Often, our brains come up with visions of grandeur but the rest of our skills had not caught up.

In an episode of Super Girl, Kara’s boss Cat Grant told her that if Super Girl really wants to become a superhero of Superman’s quality, she needs to start small and work her way up. Her boss’ point was that Super Girl is making a lot of mistakes and the city was paying for it. Kara defended her tactics by saying that even Super Man did make his mistakes. Kara’s boss explained that starting small means that someone won’t cause a lot of damage while they improve their superhero skills.

Supergirl 021016 post

Even superheroes have to start small. Check out the show at CBS.

There was wisdom to Cat Grant’s words. After all, it would mean that if you are learning how to use a particular medium, it would mean that you would have a lot less materials to waste if you would start small. However, I myself am a very impatient person. I prefer to make a ton of mistakes, not caring if I waste a lot of materials or not, especially since my preferred medium costs me little. When it comes to yarn, all I needed to do was to unravel and I could reuse it again. When it comes to singing, I could sing all I want and only my entire family would hear if I’m singing out of tune. They’re used to hearing me sing that they don’t even care if I mess up. And writing? It doesn’t even cost anything so I write all I want even if it’s horrible.

Now, for those who had to use a more expensive medium, Cat Grant’s advice is essential. After all, oil paint costs hundreds of dollars. Playing with paint is even more costly on canvas than with strong white paper.

Nobody should bite on more than he or she could chew. For example, if one wants to write a novel, it requires determination and perseverance to finish one. It’s like making a crocheted blanket—a very daunting task. If you or someone you know plan to write a novel, you need to pace yourself and write even when you don’t feel like writing at all. Like blogging, it’s easier to fix words on a page than starting with an empty space.

It is your choice whether you prefer the Cat Grant method or the Superman method. Both would make you a hero but the damage would be very little if you do the Cat Grant method. Meanwhile, the Superman method meant that it would be a very expensive method in terms of time and money while you learn your skills.

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Practice

February 8, 2016
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Every single artist has a desire to be successful. Still, he or she needs to know about the learning curve.  People like Stephenie Meyer are more of the exception rather than the rule. More often, our path would be like that of Rick Riordan—teacher by day, author by night until we hit the bestseller list and write full time.

Just because you publish your first book, it doesn’t mean that it would be good enough that people would buy it. It would be hard work to learn the necessary skills and it could take years. Are you willing to put in the hours in order to succeed? To be adept at something, you need to practice.

If you want to be a successful artist, you need to learn two things: your craft and how to sell your products. While it was a noble thing to do to only improve your craft, not showing it to anyone wouldn’t help selling your work. After all, Van Gogh painted 900 paintings in his lifetime but only sold one.

Now, if you want to be actually successful while you’re still alive, you have to learn your craft and you have to learn how to sell. In order to do that, you have to give yourself permission to be bad at both. If you’re bad at something but keep on practicing, you would improve. If you don’t practice but dream of becoming a successful artist, this dream would remain what it is: a dream.

The time when someone isn’t famous is especially essential. This would be the perfect time to hone your skills. Whether it was with painting or with writing or with designing or with singing, a person who isn’t famous could make a ton of mistakes and nobody would care. But, if someone like Beyoncé or Kelly Clarkson hit the wrong note, everybody would judge them even though they did well the entire time.

The only way to get better is to practice. Every artist needs to put in the time in order to get better. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of practice rule was popularized in his book, Outliers. The point was that it took the Beatles 10,000 hours of practice to become the world class band that they were. Whether or not the 10,000 hour rule is true remains to be proven but the idea still remains—we need to practice in order to get better.

Every artist must practice his or her craft. Though each one of us had a particular eye for what looks beautiful and what sounds wonderful and what doesn’t, practice helps us hone our skills so that when inspiration hits, we would know what to do with the materials we had been given.

 

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Bruges Lace

February 8, 2016
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Bruges Lace Gym Bag

My first Bruges Lace design: a gym bag for my clothes.

Lately, I have been obsessed with making Bruges lace. For the uninitiated, crocheted Bruges Lace was an imitation of the real thing. It involves creating straight tape made of double crochet in a straight line. You can then form it into any shape you want.

The best explanation of Bruges lace was what I found in Crochet Master’s Workshop. That was where I learned more details about its origin and how crochet was able to recreate it but was a much faster and cheaper method.

The first time I crocheted a Bruges Lace, I followed a pattern and made a scarf. Afterwards, I tried to design my own Bruges Lace design. It’s not as good as I hoped it would be but it serves a purpose. I’ve created a Bruges Lace bag. This would serve as my gym bag as the one I currently was using is beginning to be too small.

I wish it would look prettier. However, none of my first attempts in anything ever looked pretty. My first attempts usually look flawed. However, it taught me a lot about Bruges lace and on how to make them look more beautiful the next time I attempt to create another Bruges lace project.

When learning something new, it wasn’t important to make things look pretty. What’s important is to finish the project to develop the skill involved in creating it. With practice, my Bruges Lace design would improve. For now I am satisfied that I managed to create something that would hold my workout clothes using Bruges Lace.

Similarly, you have to allow yourself to create lousy projects. I’m sure that there were other people who could do better Bruges Lace design than me. I had two goals when I made this bag: to build something functional and to use the Bruges Lace design. What’s necessary is for me to finish a Bruges Lace bag. The design is secondary. After this, I plan to craft a much smaller one so that I could have somewhere to place my makeup on. That one would look much better than my gym bag since I’ve had more practice.

 

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Indie vs. Sponsored

February 4, 2016
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To be a professional artist, which is better? Becoming an indie artist or the ones with major sponsor? In our current world, becoming a successful indie artist could eventually lead to someone working with a major company.

Take for example, Rocket Jump. It was started by a group of friends who just graduated from college. They kept working on their Youtube videos, improving on their skills, and finally creating Video Game High School, their most successful creation. RocketJump currently has a show at Hulu that goes behind the scenes of their productions.

Another example of an indie artist that had become so famous a major publishing company was interested in signing her is Amanda Hocking. To make the long story short, she self-published her novels after getting tired of waiting for a publisher. Eventually, she sold a ton of her novels, selling 1 million of her books. She was then signed on to St. Martin’s press.

With the advancement of technology, indie artists had gotten an equal footing with those who were backed with major sponsors. The key is to know how to utilize the technology so that you can compete with them. One of my friends, Kristen Lamb in particular, is good at showing artists how to do that.

Gone were the days where indie artists had to go from fair to fair to sell their work. If we still want to do it, we can. However, we also have the technology on our side. When we learn how to utilize SEO and other forms of social media, we’ll be able to sell our works while we’re on our pajamas. Technology increased an indie artist’s platform at no cost.

So, which one is better? To become an indie artist or one backed with major sponsors? To me, becoming an indie artist is better because once you have gotten successful, major sponsors would be interested in signing you up. As an indie artist, you can publish your work anytime you want often free of charge. Since you already had a self-published book out there, it would get you in the mindset that you are already an artist. As a professional artist, you need to work on your craft to improve. Through practice, you would get better at whatever medium you choose. Eventually, you would be good enough that you would get traction and could actually sell things. It would take years but you have to keep on improving your craft. Eventually, there will come a time when you would be able to sell enough to make a living. At that point, you have to decide whether you want to sign up with a publisher or to keep self-publishing your own work.


Quality vs Quantity

February 3, 2016
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As artists, we all have to pay our dues. That being said, there was an age-old debate. What is better? Quality or quantity?

To me, quantity is better than quality. The more things you create, the more you get to practice your craft. The more you practice, the better you get. Quantity is better than quality because quantity leads to quality.

For example, if you want to become a novelist, you should write your story even if it is a total trash. Your first goal should be to finish your novel at the shortest time possible. Once you’re done with your story, you set it aside and start a new one. When you’re finally done with your second story, you go back to your first one and you edit it.

I’m good at crochet not because I was born with the talent but because I worked nonstop on my craft from the time I was nine. Everyday after school, I would get my hook and my thread, trying to get things right, making sure that everything is tight, not realizing that it’s better to do loose stitches than tight.

It took me years until I was finally able to do things well. By the time I was in junior high, I was able to show my classmates what the teacher was talking about in terms of crochet. Because of my years of practice, I learned what works and what doesn’t in terms of crochet.

If you want to be a good artist, you should create things as much as you want without worrying about the quality. Learn what works and what doesn’t, filing everything in your ever growing knowledge of your craft. Read the books about your particular craft. If you like a technique you read, use it over and over just because you like it. You have to enjoy the creative process and forget about the quality. Eventually, because you have practiced a lot, quality would follow.

If you want to be a professional writer, I encourage you to write a novel and self-publish it in sites such as Amazon or Smashwords. Be sure to self-publish it for free. I doubt that your work would have a lot of buyers. People don’t know your enough to buy from you. That’s the way it was to first time self-published authors. My fanfiction stories are just started to get traction even though I stopped publishing fanfiction four years ago. Meanwhile, since your work is not picking up the traction, keep working on other stories and improve your writing skills.

Having no one buy from you early on your writing stage is actually a blessing in disguise. That means there won’t be a lot of harsh critics wasting their time pointing out every single flaw you have as an artist. Review your work from time to time and edit it. The goal is for you to be prolific because quality follows quantity.

To me, it’s important for artists to be prolific. It’s a way for an artist to practice on their crafts and learn from their mistakes. Eventually, the artist would be so good at their crafts that people would actually buy their products not because there are too many of them but because they are good artists.

And for those who would criticize me regarding my stance? The goal of my blog is to unlock your creativity and not to improve your craft. To do that, you need to allow yourself to produce crappy work. I am well aware that other people would criticize me for my view. However, the only way to improve your craft is to practice. The more work you produce, the better you’ll get.

 

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Finishing


Finishing

February 2, 2016
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What was on an artist’s mind never translates well on the said artist’s medium. Nevertheless, it was better if he or she keeps on working on his or her craft even if their creation falls short of his or her expectations.

Everything I learned about finishing and creating something unique, I learned from practicing crochet. From creating a project that stands out to actually finishing an object, I learned by using a hook and a ton of yarn.

I am good at crochet. If you ever see me crocheting, you would see that my stitches were even. My rounds were really round—they don’t curve unless I want them to. The flat fabrics were even as well. You won’t see my fabric produce a scraggly edge. It was flat and even if I raise it up.

And yet, I could never seem to finish a project. There were plenty of unfinished projects in my room—unfinished yarn projects where I keep on changing my mind and then redoing them the way I wanted them to be and then unravel the yarn to start at another project again.

I learned that my tendency to undo my creation was because of my desire with perfection. If I didn’t like the project, I would unravel it and start over again. This time, to create something entirely new. I try to grasp all the ideas in my head, often, things look way better in my head than when I execute them. I was so ashamed at what I did that I had no choice but to unravel my yarn and start over again.

When I realized this, I told myself that I would finish what I wanted to create—even if they don’t turn out well. Whether it’s having gaps on my scarf, or the fabric did not have the right color, I would keep on working on it even though it didn’t turn out to be as good as I hoped. Since I had implemented that idea, I had finished a lot more things. Most of them turned out okay even though they have flaws.

It turned out that actually finishing the project did teach me more than my usual unravel and redo. It taught me how the yarn actually behaves if I try to do things a certain way. Of course, I had learned that I could adjust things while working on my project along the way. It wasn’t as bad if I only unraveled three rows instead of 100. My work is still a disappointment but at least I managed to finish it.

Even when flawed, a work that one actually created is better than the one that never materialized. After all, the particular work that one has actually exists. If a person keeps working on their craft, he or she would improve that one day, what was on his or her mind would translate well on their medium even if it fell short of his or her expectations. He or she would create better stories, better artwork, better sculpture, etc. His or her visions would match what they bring forth to the world.

 

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Quality vs. Quantiity


The War between Mess and Cleanliness

February 1, 2016
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People often stereotype artists for being messy and unreliable. Like other artistic stereotypes, it’s an exaggeration of how artists really are. It’s the sliver of truth among the mountain of lies. An artist needs mess in his or her life because creativity thrives in chaos. Often, there are hidden treasures hidden in the cesspool of mess. An artist could see the association—like a spark that could create the fire. As long as there’s mess, an artist could organize it to his or her advantage, creating something entirely new.

Artists thrives in the mess, either in their lives or in the way they organize their materials. That isn’t to say that an artist won’t benefit from being organized. It would simplify their lives. Last week, I was trying to remember the steps I took in order to create my dad’s beanie. However, I had forgotten the color of the yarn I used. I had to go to the yarn’s website in order to get the color of the yarn. Needless to say, it taught me to become more organized. That afternoon, I spent the entire time cataloging my yarn collection.

Having an extremely ordered environment kills creativity. For some reason, I find myself experiencing writer’s block if I had to do an outline. That being said, when I’m writing a story, I let my mind wander and let myself sort through the mess that was my mind’s vomit after I step away from my story. New ideas occur more frequently when it is between cleanliness and chaos. If an artist is extremely organized, I would have to wonder if the person is truly an artist. I understand if a painter is organized in terms of their paint or their brushes. However, if they don’t make a mess while they’re working, I often wonder if they’re using their right side of the brain—their creative mind. On the other hand, it would make things harder to find if people are extremely disorganized. Instead of making a quick edit, it would take a writer two hours just to find the special pen they use for that particular job.

An artist needs to find a balance between the two—they need to be messy enough so that they could be creative but organized enough to find the things they needed to find quickly. Finding the balance is the key to creating the project they were making in a unique and timely manner.


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