I knew a little girl who hated to read. Her mother labored to find books that interested her enough to overcome her dislike. This grew harder as she got older, because things on Deborah’s reading level were often an insult to her intelligence.
I urgently needed to add my drive across Canada, and my shipyard paintings to my website. Website maintenance is my most hated job, and I drag myself kicking and screaming into doing it. I used to use an expensive editing package, but I didn’t understand how it worked. Then my daughter—who builds and maintains complex websites for a living—redesigned my website using Visual Studio Express. I could make simple changes of text, but anything more complicated was beyond me.
Over the years, I’ve gotten a little bit better. As long as I’ve got the existing site as a template, I can clone bits here and there and get an approximation of what I want. Still, I’m always focused on the mechanics, and the content is secondary. When I look at my website, I’m disappointed in its lack of elegance.
This process, I thought, must feel a lot like learning to read feels to a kid like Deborah. The coding/decoding is so much slower than one’s thinking that the brain loses the thread.
In addition to not understanding what I was doing, I’d developed an emotional block. I’d failed at it before. I expect to fail again. Just sitting down to work on it gave me the heebie-jeebies.
And then, suddenly, the picture started to shift. Back in the day, graphic designers sometimes used metacharacters to fix badly-formatted documents. I began to see parallels between these and HTML commands. Tiny bits of text would stop swirling around the page long enough to resolve into an intelligible sequence. I wouldn’t call myself fluent by any means, but I can at least make the changes I need.
We like doing what we’re good at; we hate doing things that are very difficult. I would never have persevered with the website if I’d had anyone to hand it over to, but I’m glad I did. I don’t know whether I’ll ever end up enjoying it, but it’s less excruciating than it used to be. There’s a life lesson in there for me.
I’ve lost track of Deborah, but I hope she ended up in the same place.