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Consistent Practice Builds Skills

On the games programming course I did there was only myself and one other that had come from a creative background. Everybody else had taken maths and science courses prior to starting. This knocked my confidence as I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to fit in. However, there were definitely some areas where my different mindset was a benefit. Some of our classes required us to create animations. I got a fair bit of attention for my work as only a few of us had the skills to give it a good go. Something that I heard a lot of was, ‘I could never draw like you do. I’m not creative at all.’ I appreciate the compliment, but it’s a bit of an odd thing to say when you think about it, considering that it was coming from people that hadn’t even tried to draw. If you don’t try to draw, well of course you’re never going to be good at it.

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Creative Block

I was watching an episode of ‘Portrait Artist Of The Year’ and one of the artists was explaining how she was sometimes scared that she would approach the canvas and find that she had forgotten how to paint. It seems kind of silly, but I could totally relate to that. Quite often I feel hesitant to sit down and create because I’m worried that I’ll have forgotten how.

It happens a lot when I’m programming, a fear that somehow all of that syntax knowledge will be erased from my mind. Of course that has never happened, but sometimes I’ll flick through a programming book just to re-assure myself. I have had bad days where the logic just doesn’t seem to come to me. I’ll sit there staring at the screen unable to process what it is that I need to do; apparently writers are not the only ones to suffer from block.

I’ve been feeling it recently with my art too. Regrettably I don’t always have the time to draw, but even if its been a few weeks it will always feel natural to me again when I return. I don’t suppose I’ll have improved, but I have found that once you’ve honed those drawing skills you never seem to lose them. Yet this still doesn’t stop me from having that brief moment of anxiety when I first put pencil to paper.

I’ve found the trick to conquering this is just to learn to trust yourself and to go for it. Even if something takes a while at first, eventually it’ll get there. There’s also no reason for why any well-practised skill would just suddenly disappear. All creative people have good and bad days.

Enjoy The Journey

It really amazes me how often I come across people with the notion that there’s no point in trying something unless guaranteed quick success. When I tell people about my dreams they seem to enjoy pointing out all the reasons for why I shouldn’t try. I’ve known people who after not getting any success on a project for a month or two have grown despondent and totally given up.

Throughout history humans have always had a strong focus on inventing tools to make it faster to complete tasks. Sometimes I wonder if we’ve become so adjusted to getting things done quickly – using technologies such as the internet – that we’ve now come to expect it in many areas of our life. When we want to learn something many of us will try to information cram even though this is really ineffective. If we want to lose weight we have many get slim quick diets to choose from, but it’s probably better to take it slower and build healthier habits into your lifestyle for the long run. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making life easier through the creation of new tools, but it’s also important to realize that not all aspects of life have a short cut to success.

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Using jQuery To Display XML

Last week I wrote about how I displayed some gig listings on a web page (see ‘Web Development: Displaying Content From A Text File.’) I was left a comment asking me why I hadn’t used jQuery to do this instead. I admit that I’m still in the process of learning jQuery and haven’t yet fully covered topics such as AJAX. I would also like to make sure I’m proficient with Javascript first (It’s not one of my favourite languages and I don’t get much practice with it.) Finally, I wasn’t sure if it was worth including a library for the small bits of functionality that I wanted to achieve (see ‘Do You Really Need jQuery?‘) Of course jQuery can make coding easier by removing things like version checking, and so therefore it is worth adding to your toolbox. I’ve taken another look at my gig listings, did some research and have created another version that uses jQuery.

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Displaying Content From A Text File

I’ve recently been working on a website for The Stoops. It’s a one page site with a fairly simple layout; The main thing was that they wanted to be able to have the option to update the gig listings themselves (otherwise they’re having to constantly go through the web developer.) Normally I’d jump into using databases along with PHP for dynamic content, but this felt a little bit like overkill. So I did some research for different ways of getting text to appear from a separate file onto the web page. Here is what I found:

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