A quotation by Stephen Smale
At least in my own case, understanding mathematics doesn't come from reading or even listening. It comes from rethinking what I see or hear. I must redo the mathematics in the context of my particular background. And that background consists of many threads, some strong, some weak. My background is stronger in geometric analysis, but following a sequence of formulae gives me trouble. I tend to be slower than most mathematians to understand an argument. The mathematical literature is useful in that it provides clues, and one can often use these clues to put together a cogent picture. When I have reorganized the mathematics in my own terms, then I feel an understanding, not before.