Learning Django Past the Documentation

After you’ve read documentation from a bunch of different projects, you’ll come to realize the Django Documentation is fantastic. It’s concise and contains lots of examples and suggested use cases, which I have found invaluable as a n00b.

But sometimes it still leaves you with wtf feels.

When you get to a point where something you think you need to know is far outside your scope, what do you do?

Realize you probably don’t need it

Most of the books, well-written documentation, and tutorials you’ve read and watched cover the parts of Django that are most useful or best practice. If you haven’t heard about something, it’s because most people aren’t using it. And there’s usually a reason for that. You may want to ask a professional’s opinion.

Use pen and paper

Don’t let your propensity for computers bias you.

Writing a blog on the computer is nice because you can type faster than you can handwrite. Your brain moves faster than your muscles can, so it helps you get in that state of flow.

That’s no help when you don’t know what you need to do, though.

When my mind is racing and unfocused, that’s when I reach for a pen and paper. The goal is to just start writing anything and whittle it down into something that makes sense.

Especially write down questions you don’t have answers to. That will help you focus your research.

And if you DO figure something out, write that down, too.

Django source code

This feels like the “long way” to do things, but when you consider that the “short way” doesn’t actually get you anywhere, it’s appeal grows.

Head over to the Django GitHub repository. Find the files you’re importing and start reading through the classes you’re using. They probably inherit from many other classes, so you’ll have to read those, too.

Getting into the guts of the code can elucidate new pieces you didn’t know about.

If you’ve ever worked out, it’s kind of like that: you can better understand what your exercises do when you know a little bit of anatomy.


The docs don’t contain everything you need. There is always some implicit information flying under the radar that really simplifies a topic. When trying to learn a new-to-you piece of Django…

  • Figure out if you REALLY need to know this thing now
  • Search it on Google and read through other people’s problems
  • Write out your questions with pen and paper
  • Start reading the Django source code

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