On Learning by Doing

"I am always doing what I cannot do yet in order to learn how to do it."
-- Vincent Van Gogh

Several months ago I came across the above quote. It struck me that Vincent Van Gogh — an artist whose work sells (posthumously) for hundreds of millions of dollars — felt, at least at one point in his career, that he didn't know what he was doing. And that he would learn what he needed to by DOING it. This resonated with me for two reasons. First, because in my current stage of life I seem to be continually challenged by things that I have never done before. And second, because I'm a careful person by nature, the type that always looks before she leaps. It occurs to me that perhaps its time for me to stop being so cautious.

My old way of learning was this: when confronted with something that I didn't know how to do, my gut reaction was to stop, think about it, and then research it. Then maybe think about it some more. Then experiment just a tiny bit before defaulting, once again, to research mode. All the time wondering, "how have others done this" instead of "how will I do this?" 

As I've launched myself (headfirst) into a full-time business as an painter/printmaker I'm discovering that this old approach to learning doesn't work well for me anymore. To find my own path I cannot follow the trail made by others. I have to forge my own way. I have to throw myself into that dark unknowing space and just fumble my way through. And though I have the unfailing support of my family and friends, this is in many ways, a one woman journey. I will undoubtedly make mistakes, but instead of fearing them I just need to learn how to grow them into successes. Not by researching, over-thinking, or being timid. But by doing.


Rhonda Lynch