Better Blogging!

I have decided that I am going to try to be better at this blogging thing.  Since I started posting the tutorials I have gotten quite a few more followers.  I like that.  I want to reach more people and share my interests.  I never really thought I was a good teacher (to scatterbrained) but I think I can keep my posts structured and educational.  I learn through the tutorials, so it is a win, win.

How am I going to be a better blogger?

Well, for starters stop letting Stumble Upon distract me for 45 minutes before I start a post (but it is VERY fun.) I have written down things that I want to cover in my two main topics; Beginning Web Development and Beginning Artist, which will each get posts once a week.  I have also decided that I want a random post each week on a topic that interested me.  It might be news, a freak out, a book review or perhaps an ode to my preferred tea flavor that week (Touch Organics – white tea this week, fyi.) It will be a surprise every week.

That sounds like a lot of work each week.  Three posts! How is that going to work?

I am going to do most of the typing and research on the weekends and schedule them for the week.  I LOVE the scheduling feature! (That is three exclamation points in this post.  I need to calm down.  We will see how that goes, hehehe…) I still do not have set days I will be posting things.  It kind of depends on how fast I can create content images for each of the tutorials.  Drawing takes practice and Web Development is all about tinkering, both take time to do.

I am also looking for feedback and input.  If you read something in a post and it is not clear (or wrong) please let me know.  I value the feedback and will use it in future posts.  It is hard to correct things when I do not know they are wrong or explain things that are unclear if I do not know.  Tell me!

Thank you for reading and I look forward to writing more and better posts.

Scheduling Your Posts

I have fallen in love with scheduling my posts.

I have bouts of thoughts that want to be posts.  Once I move them into draft status they seem to just languish there.  I look in on them from time to time, but I cannot seem to make them work for me.  I am afraid to delete them, “I may use them.” and “They are still valid ideas.”   Being practical, I need to delete them, they are not going to be used.

There are times when you just need to go with what works.

Tonight I have written three posts.  One was posted right away, one scheduled a few days out and this one a few days more.  It is nice to have the week all planned out and not worry about what I thought I wanted to say.

Initially I was trying to do a post every week.  The problem was that all my ideas would come on one or two days of the week, or not at all for weeks.  I tried to keep any that I got for the day I needed to post.  That was a failure!  They are just sitting in my drafts, doing nothing.  I have forgotten where I was going to go with them, or they are no longer interesting to me.  Some I still need images for (like a tutorial I have planned.)

With the scheduling I can type up all my ideas into posts and not worry about forgetting what I was writing.  Just write, save, schedule and go.  Now I know my post is going out and I will make sure it is what I wanted to say.  None of this humming and hawing over the topic or content.

If you have not, try writing a few posts, all on one day (when the inspiration hits you,) then schedule your posts.  It was a load off my mind.  It might help some of you who are struggling to meet your blog post goals.

Remembering: A September 11th Story

This is the day for everyone in the US to post memories of where they were and what they were doing on September 11th, 2001. Much like older generations do for the moon landing, D-Day or Women’s Suffrage. Usually I am just get irritated about all the “patriotism” that is thrown around. People who do not have any real connection to the event using this as an excuse to fly the US colors, like it is the 4th of July. People remembering the way their friend reacted to the loss of a friend of a friend. It just makes me roll my eyes, band-wagoner’s.

americanflag-shutterstock-615x345This year I am going to push aside my irritation and share my story. Usually I do not care to remember what happened. Not because I want to forget, or that I place no value on the lives of those that died or served during the event. I do not care to remember because nothing happened to me or those that I was(am) friends with.

At the time I was stationed at Bolling AFB. A base a few miles from the Pentagon. Home of two alternative targets, the DIA and the tallest dorm in the AF (since removed from what I understand.)

On September 11th, I was closing up my till from a long and quite night at the Military hotel I was stationed at. I was in my blues (Air Force business uniform for peace time operations,) and I my only concerned was ensuring my cash transactions balanced. I went to the gym after I got off and then went to my dorm and went to bed. A normal day for me.

I was awoken when my mom called to make sure I was okay. I had no clue what was going on. Everything happened while I was asleep. I turned on the news and got a quick sight of what happened. Once I confirmed with my mom that I was alright, and would remain so, I called my friends that worked near the Pentagon. Thankfully they were alright. I called my supervisor to make sure that our schedules had not changed and went to bed. It was going to be a long night.

That is my September 11th story.

Kind of anti-climactic right? There are hundreds if not thousands of us that have similar stories.

My life did not change greatly after this event. My uniform and schedule changed. Our base was on lock down afterwards. My mission went from getting rooms for vacationing military to finding rooms for exhausted rescuers. Over all my routine and life did not change any more than that of a new enlisted person at any other military installation on the west coast did (yes the others side of the country reacted as well.) The only real difference for a east coast base and west coast base was how long we were on lock-down and how long we screened people and vehicles. I still saw and interacted with the world the same way.

Now, one must understand that I was living In DC. Right after 9/11 we had the anthrax mail terrorist issues and the DC Sniper. Both had more of an impact on my daily life and the routine on the base than the events of 9/11.

Thanks to September 11th, I was no longer at a non-deployable base. I was able to go to Germany and Iraq. I served as an augmentee for Security Forces (AF Police.) I met so many new people, and new types of people that I would never have met. I learned more during that time and subsequent deployments than I would have ever learned before the event.

To me (and many others) the events that occurred during the latter half of 2001 were a wake-up call. A punch in the face to a country that had been dozing. The Military had to step up its game. US Citizens, those who normally hated anything “patriotic” especially, started to realize that they belonged to a nation, and that they had been sleeping, ignoring the world.

camp-fire1Remembering does nothing, it is passive not active.

It has been some time since all of this took place. We still “sit around the fire” and talk about where we were 10, 11, 12, 13 years ago. Each year the feelings that we draw upon get dimmer and dimmer. All those that realized they were a part of a nation have gone back to dozing. The US Government has started to doze as well, feeling safe in the knowledge that the events are over and that it has apprehended the culprit(s.)

Today, September 11th is just another day for people to wonder why. Why do we have this day off? Why is it on the calendar? What are we remembering? Why does it need to be remembered? September 11th is a ‘thing’ for people to use as a tool that is warped to suit their agendas. We have lost the feeling of brotherhood that we had as a nation. We have lost the faith and trust we had in our government. We are back to dozing, waiting for someone to punch us in the face again.

This is why I do not “celebrate” September 11th. It has no meaning any more. It is just another day, one of three hundred sixty-five days.

To much? A set of thoughts I am having.

I have come to the conclusion that I want to do to much in a small amount of time.  Well…  maybe that is a bad way to put it.  I want to bake the cake from scratch, frost it and then eat it.  If you only have an hour it is not possible to do all three things.  Two of the three maybe, but not all three.

I can not seem to keep focused on any one task right now.  I have so many things started and no real desire to finish them.  My paintings are already done; in my mind they are done.  But I cannot do an art exhibit with the images in my head.  We do not have the technology for that yet.  Some of the things I need to do require me sitting still and thinking about them.  I really don’t want to think about anything right now.  I want to turn into a vegetable and hide in the ground ( a carrot, beet or some other root veg.)

There is just to much going on in my head.  I have tried all sorts of things to get the things organized, but to no avail (woo, spelt that right on the first try!) I was hoping that posting my “to do” list here would help me keep on task, but it has not really helped.  I still have not gone through my PAX2013 photos, I have not finished my mini monochrome painting.  In fact I just started two more paintings!  I have not worked on my WP Theme at all, and I have lost most of my drive to work on the stuff I need to do for my internship.  Oh, and I am moving.

I am usually pretty good about doing the stuff that HAS to be done.  One can push through being uninspired or even work when physically and/or mentally tired.  But when you are lost in your “to do” list, you just get lost.  Where is the way out?  It’s almost impossible for me to pick a task and work on it.  As soon as I do something with another task rears its head and I end up running to put out that little fire.  Then I forget where I was and have to spend all that time finding my place and train of thought to work on the original task.

I am pretty sure part of my problem right now is the moving thing.  Packing and setting up a new house is time consuming and takes a lot of mental and physical work.  Plus it is a change in my lifestyle and mental state.  A lot of my future activities hing on this move. I keep getting into a thought circle of future plans, lots of what-ifs and things that need to be done, that I cannot do anything about until a future date.  Thinking is starting to be a problem… darn it, I like thinking.

Why didn’t I get my degree in graphics?  Oh yeah,  it’s easy for me.  Coding and web design is hard.  One hour of coding takes more mental energy from me than I spend doing 12 hours of graphic design, and I have more to show from the graphic design.  If I ever have the motivation to work on anything, I am sure I could do wonders.  Practice will improve my skills, but I am not really in love with any ideas or concepts right now.  That lack of love is making it hard to be interested in and work on things, especially things that will help me with my chosen career. 

Is my day job part of the problem?  Totally!  I am so tired of my dead end job.  I keep thinking that I should find a new job, or change departments.  As comfy as I am, I am bored out of my gourd.  I get super complacent (really, really, really lazy) and I still can not seem to do anything bad or wrong.  The job is either to easy or I am just that good.  Probably both.  Either way, I need to move on really soon.  Maybe after I move. 

SEE!! That stupid move has me stuck!  Always, after this, after that.  There is never going to be an after, just like tomorrow never really comes.  Tomorrow turns into today, after turns into now.  Argh…

I think I am done for tonight.

I am going to finish my painting inspired by the belly dancers I saw tonight.  The red one will be done tonight, but the blue one is going to take a day or two.  There is more detail on it.

Night!

 

Constraints

If any have taken (or take) a Project Management course you will be introduced to a new way to think about some of the simplest activities.  Your morning routine turns into a daily project with tasks that have lead times, schedules, order, resources and constraints.  Wait, a constraint in your morning routine? How is that possible?Constraint

Well a constraint is anything that limits or restricts your project (in this case a morning routine.)  The bathroom may only hold one person (size constraint), so task sharing is out of the question.  There may be only a little tooth paste or shampoo left (quantity constraint) and you choose to make it last one more day, until payday (money constraint.)  There are tons of things that can restrict the simplest activities.

Most of these things you can plan for.  You know when you are getting low on tooth paste and when you are getting paid next.  You know that the bathroom holds one, or that the hot water disappears when the other bathroom is in use.  You adjust your schedule and activities to account for these things.  Get up earlier, stop by the store on the way to work, plan for revenge…

What happens when you don’t foresee a constraint?  Or maybe you chose not to plan for something that you did foresee.  Well, you break promises and fall behind, basically messing up your day, and possibly the day of a few others.

This month I had a plan to create a WordPress template and have it up and functional by September 1st.  Well, I failed.  Here is why;

  1. I did not anticipate how hot my office was going to get this summer. It got so hot that the computer would shut down!  I don’t know about you, but I cannot work when it is that hot in an enclosed space.  I would get an hour of work in and everything would get weird.  I was dehydrated and the computer overheating.  This does not make for a good day.   Anyway that took me from 12-20 hours a week to  7 -10 hours (late nights mostly.)  That right there is enough to derail any project.
  2. I did not anticipate how hard it was going to be for me to learn and understand the WordPress system, as a developer.  WP is easy enough as a user, it is VERY different on the developer side.  I counted on my past as a quick study to move this project along.  Well I did not do so well on that respect.  Maybe the heat and short study times were part of the problem.  Either way, I did not succeed.  I spent a lot of time researching the smallest things and doing tests that would fail, because of the smallest things.
  3. I did not account for other projects.  Even though I budgeted a lot of time for this project (well over 30 days.)  I did not take into account the other projects that I ended up doing.  I did a lot of other stuff during this time.  2-3 days were devoted to events, and many hours to graphics for each event.  I was happy to be out of the office most of the time, since it was so hot, but that still took away from the project time.

There were other things that caused problems.  I had personal things (updating my site, creating business cards, blogging, family time etc) that I needed to do.  Events that I had scheduled months in advance (RenFaire, Family visiting, house hunting, and PAX(is so close!!)) took precedents over the project at hand.  And I LET IT!

That is the big thing.  I let other things become more important than my WP project.  Now I am paying for it.  I have to tell the team that I do not have the product I was sure would be ready next week.  Now I have to beg for another month to get the product done (the basic product,) and more time to get the improved version done.

It sucks.  It really sucks, that we (everyone does it a some point) let things distract us from what needs to be done.  Things like this is why people with great ideas get no where.  We let ourselves be distracted by the small things. 

Well it is time to get back in gear.  I have already broken down my project into small manageable tasks, and those into sub-tasks.  I have set up a schedule that includes all of the expected (and some improbable) constraints.  I am going to finish my project.Done!

I invite everyone to join me.  Get a project DONE in September.

 

Taking Advantage of the Creative

I am not sure if it is a trait among the creative, but it has been pointed out to me several times that creative people “let” themselves be taken advantage of.  This can be from working long hours with little or no pay or being asked to do things that are not quite in our job description (like a graphic designer taking photos for a client.)

Image

Stressed-Out Artist by Izmack, DivantArt

I usually think that I am pretty conscious of what I am doing for people, when I do it  and what I am going to get in return.  There are times when I let my guard down, and those are the times I get myself in trouble.  Working long hours is bad for the body, mind and interpersonal relationships.  The work suffers and, because I failed to say “no,” the relationship with the customer suffers.  Bad for everyone.

So what can we, the trusting artist, do?  I am not really sure.  Run all your projects or clients by someone who is more aware or immune to charm?  That seems like it is going a bit far.  I like the idea of being self sufficient when possible and knocking more than one thing of a list at a time. 

My solution is scheduling and a solid support structure.  If you have a schedule with all of the projects outlined you will see when you have to say “no” to stay within you time constraints.  This will show the client that you know your limitations and are not willing to over book yourself and allow the quality of work to suffer. If you have a long standing relationship with the client they may give you the project at a later time, to fit with your schedule. 

ImageSkipping a new project to allow yourself to do a good job on a current project may be a good thing for you.  Less stress and more time to explore and hone your skill.  This is better than doing the same things over and over, killing whatever passion you had.

The schedule will also show you how much you are doing each day and help with future projects.  From personal experience, I can say that when I get creating and am really interested in what I am doing, I can loose track of time.  I know that I can go for four to five hours at a time, with few breaks.  I usually do not stop until I am done.  I can write down my start time and end time each session to learn my patterns and figure out how much time it takes me for each project.  Handy for billing, and learning my peak productivity times and conditions.

People you trust implicitly are important too.  If you know anyone that “gives it to you straight” all the time, you might want to ask them if you are being taken advantage of.  Friends and family want the best for you and can be a big help when it comes to seeing beyond the charm others have.

In the end, I do not think that the trusting artist is ever going to avoid being abused by clients.  Only friends and family (managers and agents) can help protect you.  Do you best by being aware of your time and build a solid support structure.  Do frequent reality checks, and keep creating.