It often happens that something which at first seems very difficult is soon finished when we have once managed to make a good beginning. For instance, in learning to swim we may try hard, day after day, for a long time, without seeming to make the least progress. All of a sudden some day we find to our delight that we can make one or two strokes, and henceforward progress is rapid and easy. In this case the great difficulty is to gain confidence in the buoyancy of the water, and, when that is once acquired, nothing else is needed but regular practice.
A similar difficulty of gaining self-confidence renders it hard to make the first beginning in many other physical accomplishments. When a child in its first efforts to walk has learnt to keep its balance for one or two steps, it has thereby got over the great impediment in the way of further progress.
In learning to skate and ride a bicycle the great difficulty is, to learn by our own experience that it is really possible to keep our balance, when supported on what seems to be a very precarious foundation.
In acquiring new branches of knowledge it is also generally true that well begun is half done; but not quite for the same reason. In learning a new language, it is very irksome to master the rudiments that have to be learnt first, such as the alphabet, the pronunciation, and the elements of the grammar.
After these are thoroughly learnt, the most unpleasant part of the task is finished, and a good foundation is laid for the acquisition of the language.
Not only in languages, but also in science, there is generally a certain amount of drudgery at the commencement in learning the elements, which cannot be mastered without severe labour. When the learner gets beyond these elements, he is carried on without conscious effort by the interest of the subject.
But perhaps literary composition is of all kinds of workmanship the best illustration of the great importance of a good beginning.
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