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The 3 Secrets To Learning Technology

writers can learn computers well tooSeveral days ago I posted 3 Steps To Getting Published – An InfoGraphic. In truth I was a bit tired of writing and fiddling with graphics is one way I relax. I’d also seen a lot of infographics and wondered how difficult it would be to create one.

Turns out it isn’t that difficult if you’ve got some graphics savvy and know what you want to say. That one I posted, my first, took about two hours. I kept the information I wanted to convey really simple.

The first version probably took almost an hour-and-a-half and I didn’t like it. But by that time I’d figured out a whole lot more about what worked. The second version, which I published, was easy and almost quick.

Over on the 5 Buck Forum someone commented that I and another forum member seem to adapt to new tech in a hurry.

He probably hasn’t heard me tell folks I got into computers because they’d check my spelling – literally true.

The 3 secrets

The recognition that none of us were born knowing how to use computers or their $#%^%* software (or cars or bicycles or cell phones or washing machines or spoons, forks and knives for that matter) is the first secret to learning tech. Just because the 7-year-old next door can do it easily doesn’t mean you should be able to. We’ve all had to learn whatever it is we know about these machines, and we can always learn more.

As I think about how well I use tech, and I’d rate me as a pretty competent end-user, I remember how awful it was to learn how to use my first computer, and it was horrid. But I’d bought the darn thing and was determined.

Being determined to learn it, whatever it is, is the second secret. I got involved with simple graphics, which is all I know, because I wanted images on web pages. Someone in an office I worked in knew PhotoShop and showed me the basics which have stood me in good stead ever since. Asking for help is part of determination it seems.

But my real hero was a young man named Randy who was also part of the very early Match.com staff. I was learning the Mac on the fly and he knew it well. I’d bugged him with question after question until one day in utter frustration he said, “Anne! Click some buttons! You won’t break it and you’ll probably learn something. Which is the third secret.

Do you need to be able to make infographics to be a successful freelance writer? No, not really. You probably don’t need to know how to use a graphics program or a digital camera or anything other than your word processing and email programs.

On the other hand, learning these things can give you more options as a writer. I’ve been paid for digital photos and understanding a bit of graphics is just plain fun.

Learning new software is time consuming. Fortunately if you decide you want to expand your tech skills you can, online, in the classroom, with a book or even a google search.

Several hours later, or as we use to say, time passes… I just spend a good twenty minutes restarting my computer a couple of times and fiddling with settings because I couldn’t get any sound. It turned out I had accidentally turned off my speakers… so Step 0 is make sure it’s turned on/plugged in!

What sort of tech would you like to learn?


Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Todd Huffman which I found using a Creative Commons search of Flickr.  – the statement under the picture said this:

Kate teaching some of the little Afghan girls how to use computers on an OLPC.

Yes, this is significant. That a woman can show up to Eastern Afghanistan and teach girls how to use computers is no small achievement. It took a lot of work from some amazing people (thanks Amy and Dave) so that this could happen.

There aren’t enough desks or chairs, so a piece of plywood is laid down to have a clean-ish place to work.

Which reminded me of John Soares post: The Girl Effect: Why Educating Girls Is Important

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • I’d like to learn HTML and Photoshop stuff. I like to doctor pictures, or make up funny LOLz for my blog but right now I’m limited to Paint. That’s not the best way to make them, since it’s very basic and does almost NOTHING. I was thinking when I find a day job again I’ll look for a class at the community college.
    Elizabeth West recently posted..Prometheus: Afraid of its Own Ideas?My Profile

    • Community college classes can be a huge help, Elizabeth. You know that I think. Go for it when you can.

  • It’s insane to me how many people have a total block when it comes to technology, especially writers. I’m constantly reading and learning more about social media, SEO, etc. etc. It’s incredibly helpful.

    I want to learn coding and website design. I signed up for a program called CodeYear and I’m learning some basic coding languages like Java. Start small and break it down into chunks and there’s no reason why you can’t learn.
    Amelia Ramstead recently posted..The Care of Alphabet Soup ParentsMy Profile

    • Amelia, you’re braver than I am… I stopped at html – I hire folks when I get beyond that.

  • Hmmm… I wonder who that guy was? When I take a moment to reflect I have learned a significant amount of technology. It wasn’t that long ago that I hadn’t sent a text or posted on a blog. I agree with your point about having more skills to offer clients as an added benefit. Thanks for reminding us that learning never stops.

    • And if continuing to learn really does slow aging I may last forever Wade.

  • jorgekafkazar

    It helps to have an actual necessary task in front of you, too, or at least something very nifty you’d like to try.

    There is a certain logic to the way most programs work. Not all, unfortunately. After learning four or five unrelated programs, you often pick up on the underlying principles, the ways programmers cover all the bases. My son was complaining of a problem with a game he was playing (badly) on his computer. I looked over his shoulder and suggested “Try right clicking on that list, there.” He did, and vwallah!–the menu for changing battle order.

    Yeah, I know it’s voilà, but it’s more fun to write vwallah.

    • I like vwallah! And yes, a task helps. The trouble with the logic, which is often there, is it’s pretty obscure to most people. I’ve always thought part of my job was to learn how computers ‘think.’ otoh it’s amazing what we get done with a bunch of on and off switches!

  • I would like to learn HTML. While not technically software or a piece of hardware, it is a mystery to me. I can do simple things like insert a link into Squidoo, but I’d like to be able to really write it. I’ve tried to, but it just doesn’t click. Guess I need to buckle down and just practice. Like your friend Randy said, just push some buttons. That’s how I learned the computer. I pushed the buttons and clicked everything I could until I figured out what it all did.

    Great article Anne!

    • Kathryn, back before we had web editors I bought one of the dummmy type books on html. It took me the better part of a day to actually understand it enough to get my name to display on a page! But knowing some html has made working on the web easier. I use editors because they are easier, but when something does’t work, understanding a bit of code really helps.

  • So true. We can’t get away from technology. It’s better to embrace it rather than run away from it.

    I would love to learn web design. I have a graphic design background and some of the WordPress themes/templates drive me nuts! I’m not sure if web design degree programs don’t include graphic design, but it’s important to know about white space, line space, font size, image placement, and color selection.

    I tweak web themes the best I can, but knowing ‘how to design my own website’ would allow me to create my own design or at least ‘tweak’ a theme to my liking with the proper line space, header size, fonts, font size, etc.

    • Actually, it sounds like you’d really like to design your own wordpress template… I suspect that’s a learnable skill…

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