This article is by Carolyn Henderson, the managing half of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She is a Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews and her freelance writing appears in regional newspapers, online magazines, and her humor blog, Middle-Aged Plague.
Like all good mothers, mine only wanted the best for her children, so beginning two years prior to my starting college, she began the theme song:
“Go into computers,” she said, in numerous varietal forms. “They’re the future.”
Well, in one way she was right – many people who have “gone into computers” have made a good living at it, but in a crucial way she was wrong: her youngest daughter, who is talented in many areas that didn’t necessarily pay well, was a total inept in the groundbreaking world of 1980s computer – FORTRAN, COBOL – remember those?
These ancient computer languages were somehow tied to hundreds of punch-key cards that you set in a little holding area; then, when you pressed a button, the cards flew through this machine thing that read the punch holes, and whatever you told the computer to do by the arrangement of those punched holes – “Add 4 and 2” is one I remember struggling with – it did, provided, of course, that you had punched the right holes in the right places.
Which I never, never did.
The next quarter, despite my mother’s protests, I entered the journalism department.
I’m telling you this to set up an important piece of background: I am not a computer genius.
Remembering this crucial point, let’s flash forward, “Lost” style, to the early days of the 21st century, when I took over the reins of Steve Henderson Fine Art as its manager, and faced re-entering the brave new world of computers after a 10-year absence during which I raised babies and gardens and milked goats.
The distinct advantages on my side were these:
- FORTRAN and COBOL were gone somewhere.
- I had successfully run a business 10 years before using a computer.
- I was a reasonably intelligent, competent and confident woman.
- Because of some computer genius who thought like a normal human being, it was no longer possible to erase everything on your system by accidentally hitting one button.
- The computer world changes quickly, and a ten-year hiatus meant that everything I knew before, with the exception of the letters on the keyboard, was hopelessly archaic.
But remember point number four in the advantages section: I learned by trial and error (a lot of the latter, incidentally) and pushing buttons with abandon. I started with e-mail, then progressed to office software applications like Microsoft Word and Excel and Publisher, then jumped into social media, and built upon what I had learned before as I completed projects that I actually needed done: contacting a gallery and attaching images for their view (e-mail; Microsoft Explorer); expanding the client base beyond our little burgh (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn); maintaining records (Excel, Access); entering shows (online art services).
I fumbled, stumbled, and wasted a lot of paper. I pinned people into the corner when I discovered they knew more than I. I bought Dummy and Idiot books. I actually listened to my teenaged children and their friends, easily admitting that, in this area, they were clever indeed. (This did not change my attitude toward them as novice drivers.)
And bit by bit I became less and less of an incompetent, to the point that my mother – who knows nothing about computers – is actually impressed by what seems to her to be a vast level of expertise.
If I can do it, mon ami/e, so can you. I encounter far too many artists who bemoan their ignorance of the computer, lamenting that they “just can’t do it.”
But they can, and you can – far more than you know, and next week we’ll continue this conversation.