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Trial and Error: If At First You Don’t Succeed…

February 19, 2010

I love to learn, and to try new things.

As such, I do it a lot. A lot a lot. Like, every day a lot. And there are some patterns that I have noticed in myself that are very interesting.

An abstract description of the process: The first time I try something, nine times out of ten, I spend about thirty minutes with it before I get completely frustrated with it and deem it un-doable. I write it off and move on to something else, something more in my comfort zone, that I’m more familiar with.

But later–it could be two days or two weeks–I’ll come back to the thing I tried and became frustrated with, and try it again. And, in the time between when I tried it the first time, and when I approached it the second time, something will have changed. I’ll spend a little more time with it, and actually accomplish something. Or be able to use it in a way that I didn’t understand before. And that leaves me feeling excited an accomplished. This thing that I thought was impossible and stupid is actually not as hard as I thought. Awesome!

And that rush of excitement leads me to come back to the thing again a third time, and I learn a little more about it, and grow a little more familiar with it, and feel even better about using it and how it works. And after a while, just playing and around and seeing what’s what, I start to really get it. And a while after that, I’m completely familiar with it, it’s become second nature, and my brain starts to itch for a new challenge, and new thing to learn and explore.

All of that was really abstract, and some of you will be nodding along going, “Oh, yeah, I totally get it,” while others will be saying, “For the love of Pete just give me an example already!”

A concrete example: Using GIMP (the open-source shareware alternative to Adobe Photoshop)

I first tried GIMP three or four years ago. I had had to wipe my harddrive because of a virus, and my dad had my Photoshop install disks. I’m not graphics designer, and I don’t use Photoshop regularly, but I do use it enough that not having it really started to wear thin. One of those “I didn’t realize how much I relied on it ’til it was gone” situations.

So I heard about GIMP from a computer geek friend, and I decided to try it out. It. Was. AWFUL. I hated it. Nothing was where it was “supposed” to be, and I couldn’t figure out how to do anything with it. I abandoned it after about an hour, and a few days later uninstalled it completely and called my dad to have him send me my Photoshop install disks.

That was trial #1.

Trial #2 happened just a few weeks ago. I had a shiny new computer and didn’t really think anything of putting Photoshop on it (I really hadn’t used it much in the last year or so) so I stored away my old computer and went on my merry way. Then I started working for my mother and she’s asking me to design a patch for her to advertise her company, and I’m thinking, ‘Shit, I really do need photoshop.’ ‘Cause there’s only so much you can do with the Microsoft Office Suite.

So I tried to import Photoshop from my old computer to my new one. No luck. Stupid Photoshop.

I search for several hours, trying to find the install disks (not that my new computer has a disk drive; I didn’t figure I’d need one, most things you can download online anymore. And I haven’t needed it since…), but no luck.

So my options were to not help my mom, and send her to someone she’d have to pay more than me, or to try my hand at GIMP again.

I opted to try GIMP again. My first experience with it was pretty bad, but this time had to be a little better, right?


It was awful. I couldn’t figure out how to open anything at first. And then after that I couldn’t figure out how to bend the letters around a curve. In Photoshop (and Word) this is really easy. Not so, with GIMP. Or at least not obviously. So I put it aside and figured out how to jerry-rig something for her in Word (it wasn’t so bad, just a simple black and white image with lettering).

But I didn’t uninstall GIMP this time. Because by now I had learned that sometimes it just takes a few cracks to get something to make sense. So I let it sit.

Trial #3 came about a week later, when my mom, who was thrilled with the patch that I made, asked me if I could create a couple of black and white ads for her business to go in a concert program in a few weeks. Listening to her describe what she wanted, I couldn’t help but think that it would be so easy if I could use the Layers feature in Photoshop. Grumblegrumblegrumble. But I knew that GIMP had layers, if I could figure out how to use it, so I decided to give it another go.

Four hours later, with no real sense of how much time had passed, I emerged victorious. I had not only figured out how to do layers, but I had figured out how to bend text and change layer size and EVERYTHING that I wanted to do. Of course, the next time I go in to do something, I will probably hit a small wall where I’ll have to figure out how it’s configured in GIMP vs. Photoshop, but I now know how to do almost everything that I once knew how to do with Photoshop, and I almost like GIMP better (it certainly takes less time to load).

The moral: If at first you don’t succeed, let it marinate for a bit, because your brain will process what you experienced and you’ll learn a little bit more each time you try, try again. 😀

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mackensen permalink
    March 9, 2010 7:00 am

    I have a fairly out-of-date version of Photoshop kicking around somewhere.

    For all I know I was the person who recommended GIMP; for what it’s worth I find it pretty frustrating for all but the simplest tasks :(.

    • March 9, 2010 10:31 am

      Actually, since I posted that, I’ve gotten more familiar with GIMP and now really like it.

      I don’t know how it works for anything really fancy, but for the simple stuff (which is all I know how to do anyway), it works great.

      But thanks for letting me know who I could have shaken my fist at, if I still felt inclined to do so. ^_^

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