My grandfather had an eighth grade education, yet that never stopped him from being a lifelong student. If he didn’t know how to do something, he taught himself through books and hands-on work. My memories are filled with images of him bent under the hood of a car, hunched over a workbench in his cellar workshop, and kneeling in the dirt planting flowers.
Nothing was an obstacle (except maybe that low-hanging basement pipe, but he put thick foam padding around that after he almost knocked himself out).
He laid tracks for the railroad during the week and, in his off hours, worked in the house: putting up wallpaper, repairing plumbing, tiling a shower, building cabinets, hemming pants, fixing broken toys, taking apart a electronics, laying bricks, and fiddling with new-fangled gadgets. When mobile phones were still the size of an arm, he installed a mount in his car and made his own damn car phone. He tried to plant a new tree in the yard more than once and failed, but that didn’t stop him from gardening. When he retired, he was busier than ever. I often inspected his fingers for new black nails or band-aids to see what shenanigans he’d been up to while I was in school.
He never went to college and he didn’t collect any degrees; he was an example of what lifelong learning means.
As I have ventured on the self-publishing journey, I have read so many articles that have treated the process as something lesser than what a trained professional can do. That an amateur’s work is not good enough and shouldn’t venture into the process on their own. They advise not to do self-proofing, copy-editing, or do-it-yourself-covers.
A professional has far more experience and training. Their services relieve the burden of time required for a DIY venture. However, their skills are not exclusive. They were once novices and had to learn by doing and studying. Other articles and blogs and books I have read have amassed so much information in one place in a massive gulp that the process becomes overwhelming.
I have made many stumbles in the self-publishing process, and I have encountered a few people who have been less than kind with their assessment of those bobbles. An amateur’s work does look unpolished, but that doesn’t mean that what they’ve done isn’t good (or at least a good effort). Everyone has to start somewhere. Who hasn’t read professionally published books that were terrible or encountered a professional whose skills were not particularly impressive despite decades of experience. A student shouldn’t be shunned in school for making an error, and a novice shouldn’t be shamed for imperfection. Experience comes with practice. If you aren’t making mistakes along the way, then you aren’t practicing enough.
Instead of being elated at my accomplishment, I have been full of embarrassment over rookie errors and mortified over normal mistakes. These are the feelings that kept me from sharing my writing for years.
The other day, I was thinking of my grandfather and my admiration for his can-do attitude, his wrecked fingers, the repairs that didn’t pan out, the paint he stepped in, the wood he measured wrong, and the way he smiled through a set-back.
“Kid,” he’d say (even though I’m forty-something), “next time will be even better.”
Curious minds want to know:
You know, I once made my own soap just for kicks.
What do you DIY?