Chris Padilla/Blog / Notes

The Best Time To Be an Autodidactic Polymath

Autodidact is the 10 dollar word for saying someone is self taught. Polymath is the one for someone who's know-how spans multiple subjects.

Wikipedia keeps a tidy list of Autodidacts, some of them are polymaths.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Libraries raised me. I don't believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don't have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn't go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years. — Ray Bradbury

Here's Terry Pratchett, a great autodidact, on his schooling:

I didn't go to university. Didn't even finish A-levels. But I have sympathy for those who did.

It comes up in Terry's biography that, late in life, he takes up professorship to explain to creative writing students all the reasons why you can't teach creative writing in a classroom.

My absolute personal favorite has to be David Bowie: a "singer, musician, multi-instrumentalist, actor, and painter, only received a few singing lessons in the 1960s."

A few others include Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Heitor Villa-lobos. I've also written about Walt Stanchfield, Disney animator, mentor, musician, poet, writer, and teacher.

Easier Than Ever

Stories like this inspire me because it's where my mind bends. I'm always falling into learning something new. I also have trouble feeling like I can settle into one practice. I feel more fluid creatively when I have many different post boiling. So it's comforting to see legendary levels of fooling around, people stepping into different roles and mediums, while still bringing the same creative spirit to each.

I taught myself web development, but then again, we're all teaching ourselves on the job. The learning never stops.

The same is true in art and music. I went to music school, but my day to day musicing is a result of learning new instruments and styles everyday. SO MANY visual artists are largely self taught these days, myself included.

Creative work today, in software or music, leads to constantly evolving inherently. We're also living in the absolute best time to learn new things all the time with having access to the internet. Y'know, the world's repository of knowledge.

Because it's so easy to self teach, it's also easier than ever to be a multifaceted creative.

These fancy words — Autodidact and Polymath — felt more like exceptions. Now, the thrilling thing to me is that we all can wear those fancy labels.