The blogged out notepad journal was roughly how it started with lots of Max 6 work and trials and failures.
Remembering that there is no easy fix until you get to understand how things go together. and that always takes time. No matter how you approach it.
For a long time even going through Max 7, I couldn't burn back into the game...
So hex work was all I could do with some Graphical work.
Then I started up Max 8 on another machine and it could burn, I also started using Photoshop for DDS work and that allowed me to get load screens.
FFE came along and I started bumbling around in it with lots of grumbling people about how things worked.
I figured out how to burn through multiple versions of DOW tools, and that made life even easier.
The more FFE exploration and With the introduction of DXTBMP, textures got so easy it was unbelievable.
Gimp came into play again to give me translucent textures and actually save true 32bit tga's.
In the first weeks you feel lost and confused and no one seem to be able to give you knowledge.
It is the usual feeling as you pick up the procedure and how to work in it.....
So be patient and hang and you can pick it all up also. :)