I’m no newcomer when it comes to self-learning. I taught myself how to write novels. I learned how to build a website with the Internet and YouTube tutorials. I built the website you’re reading from right now. I also taught myself how to use Photoshop, which took upwards of nine months, involving serious research, study, tutorials and practice. I make my own book covers. I also taught myself how to use Scrivener, a writing program. Scrivener’s tutorial has improved since the last time I tried to learn it, and the process only took me three or four days.

I’ve always wanted to make my own soap, but I was intimidated by the unknown. I love the look of homemade soap, and the art of creating something that you can use every day inspired me. Soap is just beautiful. A friend showed me how to make it, which helped me overcome my initial nervousness and, from that point on, we made soap together several times before I branched out to begin making soap on my own.

A bit of background: I read too much. I went to TAFE to study MYOB and business administration. I am intensely interested in budgeting and the financial cost of items. I think money is an important aspect of life and I like to keep track of it where I can. I routinely budget, shop around and save oodles. So with all this, you can probably see why I was interested in keeping track of how much I should charge for a bar of soap and what my hobby was costing me.

I keep a soap diary with a list of dates, recipes, findings and methods, and I am familiar with Excel, but it was a PITA to set up everything by myself. I loved the idea of having software where I could just input everything and it did all the calculations automatically.


Cue learning curve.

The first few hours after I downloaded the Soapmaker 3, I noticed something decidedly lacking in the tutorial. Yes, there were examples written in the program to show you how you could fill out things, but there was no interactive help. As I was reading through Scrivener’s tutorial, for example, you could click on something and see it work in real time to gain a better understanding.

After an hour or two of reading through “Getting started with Soapmaker 3”, I realised, I would need days, maybe weeks even to truly understand the program. And that’s normal. I think one of the aspects that makes people rush through and try things without knowing what they’re doing is a lack of patience. And I am sympathetic to that, as I have three children, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned while spending days upon days wrangling with Photoshop, it’s that you either have the patience to learn on your own or you won’t get the maximum use out of a program.

It takes time to read through a tutorial and I never move on to the next topic until I completely understand the last one. If I don’t understand the point, I read it again and again, or I Google the problem, watch videos, ask people and generally hunt down the answers. This is a part of what I do as a writer as well. I have to hunt down information anyway, so I’m used to it.

There were some things that could be improved in the tutorial which I noted straightaway. The font could be larger so that readability was easier for the learner. Better use of paragraphs and spaces so all the information wasn’t clumped together, which made it a trial to read through. (In my mind, I can kind of get why editors ask for double-spaced submissions). Having the text beside the pictures would also help, that way you didn’t have to constantly scroll up and down, trying to figure out what’s what. On the “Features and Workflow” page, there’s a flowchart, but you have to scroll down to read what this diagram means. Yes, that’s how annoying it is to not have the text beside the chart so you don’t have to go back and forth every few seconds and it takes longer to learn that way.

Time for a cup of tea, methinks. Perhaps, I’ll look at it again tomorrow. I have to remind myself all I wanted to do was to input my costs and inventory and work out what I should sell my soap for. Patience is a virtue. Patience is a virtue. 

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