I used to study the martial arts. There’s an ancient tradition surrounding how new students were taken on. Usually it went something like this:
A kid is interested in learning and starts hanging around the dojo – peeking in windows, walking nearby, following people around – that sort of thing. The current students pretty much ignore the kid, or possibly harass him (it was nearly exclusively “him”s, so I’ll go with that). It’s obvious the kid is eager to learn, but no one’s giving him the time of day. This can go on for months. Then finally someone tells the kid to go run an errand or do a dirty chore, almost as a joke. The kid is just happy someone spoke to him and quickly carries out the task, to the amusement of the students. Then he gets ignored some more. About the time he’s getting weary and disheartened of ever being able to study with the others, perhaps one student will ask him why he’s still hanging around. “Because I want to learn” is the usual answer. So after more longing to be included, and practicing on his own, he might be asked to do a chore on a regular basis, like washing the floor. It’s not becoming a student, but at least he’s allowed to hang around more and get a little closer to the students, so the kid is happy to do it. (Starting to sound like the Karate Kid, isn’t it?) After months of hard work and longing and frustration and observing from near and far, the day finally comes when rather than being handed a wash bucket the kid is handed a uniform. And promptly told to put it on and get in the dojo where he is quickly thrashed by the other students. While it is a rough initiation, it does mark the entrance, the transition, to being a “real” student.
I just became a “real” student in the WordPress world.
Well, at least that’s what it felt like. Over the three-day Labor Day weekend, I finally buckled down and wrote up my first WordPress theme from “scratch.” I still hesitate to use that word because I used the _tk starter theme that has much of the WordPress and Twitter Bootstrap code embedded in it already. But that IS what it means to build a custom theme from scratch. On day 581 of the “1400 Days to Becoming a WordPress Ninja” plan I think I just got handed my uniform. I had done my peeking in windows and hanging around the senior students and getting glimpses of the masters. I had gone home and tried to mimic what I had seen, which as you can guess could be pretty pathetic at times. But I stuck it out and kept coming back. I studied on my own and I studied from others. And I’ve now crossed that line and entered the dojo. I’m prepared for my thrashing, almost looking forward to it. It’s part of the process and the only way to learn.
You can’t learn martial arts from books or movies, and you can’t learn WordPress that way either. They both require that you DO it. Repeatedly. With guidance. And bruises.
Bring it. I’m ready.