I sometimes teach folks in the art of blacksmithing. These are things I like to share with them.
You Must Think:
Find something like your brain to think with. It is your most important tool. “’Learning how to think’ really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think,” said the novelist David Foster Wallace in a commencement address at Kenyon College in 2005. “It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.” You are paying attention, I hope.
You Must Be Aware:
Be aware, which is akin to BEWARE. Be conscious of your surroundings and your place within those surroundings and other folks around you. This is a dangerous game we play. Hot, heavy, and sharp things look for opportunities to harm you. Grinders, drill presses, and other things in that category like to throw things at you, or else pull you into them. Give everything in the shop the respect it deserves.
You Must Do:
You cannot learn this craft by watching me or YouTube videos or by reading a book. You must practice. Ignore those who tell you that you have no talent for this craft. A passionate interest and repeated effort leads to success. Others may be more accurate than you are now. Others may be faster than you are right now. Practice. Have patience.
- Since the late 1970’s, psychologists have been documenting a phenomenon called the “generation effect”. It was first observed in studies of vocabulary, which revealed that people remember words much better when they actively call them to mind — when they generate them — than when they simply read them. You must do this craft to improve in it.
- When you engage actively in a task, you set off intricate mental processes that allow you to retain more knowledge. You learn more and remember more.
- When you repeat the same task over a long period, your brain constructs specialized neural circuits dedicated to the activity. It assembles a rich store of information and organizes that knowledge in a way that allows you to tap into it instantaneously.
- An expert can spot patterns, evaluate signals, and react to changing circumstances with speed and precision that can seem uncanny. What looks like instinct is hard-won skill! (my emphasis)
The above points are quoted from the article “The Great Forgetting” by Nicholas Carr in the November 2013 issue of “The Atlantic” magazine.
Last but not least, an assortment of ideas:
After studying the book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Bettty Edwards, I’ve come to the conclusion that you typically don’t really look at something until you try to draw it. Most people don’t look carefully at things. Learn to look and know when something is straight or crooked, when it is a smooth curve or not.
And speaking of seeing; you must realize that you are a complex biofeedback system. You hit the iron; something happens. Was that something that you wanted? Look closely. Slow down and think. How can you change what you have done and will do to make happen what you want to happen?
You cannot do unless you try, and you must be willing to fail. Many successful people failed many times before finally succeeding.
Francis Whitaker often said that forging iron will make you stubborn. Visualize what you want the iron to be. Do not let it dictate. View this as a challenge, not an obstacle. Be stubborn.
THINK! Sometimes spending time thinking through a process will save you a LOT of time at the forge.
The artist Paul Gaugin recommended being mysterious, “soyez mysterieuse”. Why not?