in reply to Reading the manual and knowing if you are getting good
When did you start to notice that you were getting good?
I wouldn't put it that way, because it implies that there is a clear boundary dividing the before and after "getting good." I don't think it's like that; there's always stuff to learn, and there's always stuff to get better at.
I look at Perl code that I wrote 1, 2, 5 years ago, for example, and I definitely see a pattern of improvement, but I can't point to a watershed moment after which my programming "got good".
BTW, I read the docs all the time. I doubt I'll ever know Perl well enough to be able to make do without reading the docs this often.
the lowliest monk