Sunday, May 25, 2014

Flippin' for Inspiration

So I managed to stumble upon yet another thing there isn't enough time for in my day: Flipboard.

According to Wikipedia (which we all know is internet law now-a-days), "the app Flipboard was launched in 2010 by former Apple iPhone engineer, Evan Doll, and former Tellme CEO, Mike McCue. The duo set out to create an app that merged the simplicity and feel of a magazine with the accessibility and collaboration that technology provides. The app integrates news from media outlets from around the world and presents it in a magazine format."

Available across pretty much all platforms, it's an app worth checking out.

It's a nifty program that allows for integration from numerous social networks - more than most of these social hubs, some of which I haven't even heard of - along with RSS feeds from Google Reader and a ton of Fipboard's own "magazines" to choose from.  On top of all that, it's an easy to use "flip" interface that makes navigating through an endless abundance of information somewhat manageable and easy to read.

To be honest, I've had it installed on my phone for over a year.

So why mention it now?

Because I've fallen for the Graphic & Web Design feed.

Nifty statistics regarding WordPress, validation concerning my obsession with fonts, inspiring designs using parallax scrolling... watch my heart go pitter-patter!  I thoroughly wasted at least an hour of my morning this way, when I'm sure there was something more worthwhile I should have been doing.

But alas, it just makes me hungry for more.

What's more daunting?  I've only brushed the surface.  The Flipboard feeds holding treasures about marketing, social networking, and so many other applicable topics stand proud, waiting - but I'm afraid.  I'll get lost you see, I'm already looking for that 25th hour in the day - where am I supposed to find the 26th and 27th?

Ugh, what's a gal to do?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Keeping Count

The other day I realized that I had surpassed the 30,000 word count mark on the newest story I'm working on.

There's a couple things that stand out to me about this.  One, how did I manage to not only miss, but pass that mile marker by over 3,000 words before noticing?  And two, why is that number so important?

I'll chalk up the first to a very stop-and-go writing schedule, being forever busy (quite often on purpose), and the current exploration of both a point of view and genre quite alien to me - but the second?  Hmph - your guess is as good as mine.

When I set out on my first novel, I had a number as my goal.


For some reason (yes, there is a reason - a quite nerdy one at that), I picked this number and told myself that if I could hit this word count I could consider myself legit - not just a writer, but a writer who could write a novel.

Yes, I'm quite aware it takes more than a word count to make a good book, but when you are the type of person who often gets in your own way, an arbitrary goal can be liberating.

Surprisingly, it really was.  As soon as I hit that target, it suddenly felt like the pressure was off.  I could turn and twist and refine the story any which way I pleased because half the battle was already fought.  (I realize now as the completed manuscript sits at just over 109,000 words that I had no reason to worry about hitting my target.)

Really, in a lot of writing there is a goal word count.

On my college newspaper, a news brief was supposed to be below 250 words, while an article should be between 400 and 800.  For work, a well optimized web page has at least 300 words.  Flash fiction should be less than 1,000 words.  With NaNoWriMo, the bulls-eye sits at 50,000 words (in a month no less!!!).

So again I ask myself, why is the number so important - when I'm writing for me, when I'm writing to write.

Well... why the hell not?

It propels me forward and gives me something to aim for, gives me a point at which I can relax, stop worrying (because of course I'll worry about something so why not let it be something arbitrary), and just write.  And isn't that the goal?

Eh, enough counting - it's time to write.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Perpetual Student

Do you know why I fell into web design?

Partly, because it's a brilliant mix of a couple things I hold dear:

1. Computers.

SimCity - The Original
(I even had the expansion pack!)
Despite my die hard affinity for PCs, my love affair with computers began with a Mac - A Macintosh Classic (named "Murphy") to be exact.  While my experience was limited to the Oregon Trail, Carmen Sandiego and above all else, the original SimCity, it was only the beginning.

2. The Internet

With my first PC I was hooked.  It had been a gift from my uncle, if only he knew what he started with that simple gift, because it wasn't long after that big bulky box was set up on the coffee table, that it was plugged into the phone line.

My first taste of the internet:  AOL 2.5.  Dial-up.  2400 bps.  Yeah.  Aside from that, it was a light bulb.  It wasn't just information at my fingertips, it was people, a connection.  To this day, I still say that's a pretty awesome concept.  (On a side note, it's AOL chatrooms I have to thank for my relatively awesome typing speed, not my 9th grade typing class.)

3. Art & Design

This trait runs strong in my family, most notably on the female side.  We're crafters, innovators, resourceful - from grand paintings passed down through a couple generations to modern day unmatched MacGyverisms, the women in my family tree are certainly something to aspire to.  

While I occasionally find the time to apply my skills to a more tactile medium, my artistic eye and the above mentioned left-brain addictions pushed me into graphic design further than I had anticipated.  My right-brain is satisfied by this combination so who am I to complain? 

The other BIG part that makes web design pretty dang perfect for me?  

I'm in a field that is forever changing, evolving and improving.  Even with everything I DO know, there's still a wealth of information out there that I haven't utilized yet that will only make my skills that much more valuable.  Combine it all, and I'm pretty lucky.  

I'll always have a way to improve, to learn and to contribute more.  

Gotta admit, that's pretty dang cool.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

One Step at a Time

I've encountered more evidence - it's becoming harder to deny:  I think I may be an adult.

Not only do I have insurance, but I used it to visit the dentist.

I know, right?  Shocker.

The absolute best part?  (Aside from walking out without paying a single dime, of course.)  No cavities!  

Whether it be confidence from the above mentioned good news, adding another year to my age in a mere 23 days, or the optimism that comes from a Tuesday that didn't suck for a number of reasons, I took another big step:  made a doctor's appointment.  While this may not be a big deal to some, it is to me.

It's been a while since I've had a doctor.  To be honest, I don't like 'em much, they make me anxious, nervous.  The big words don't help, neither do a couple not necessarily bad experiences in the past, but experiences none the less that have stuck worse than gum embedded in the deep tread of an old shoe.

They say scent is the sense that has the strongest relation to memory, and I think they're right.  Green soap I can handle, even look forward to (tattooed readers will understand this).  However, whatever antibacterial chemicals they use in doctor's offices and hospitals is enough to put me on edge as much as the linoleum tile, no-pile carpet and early nineties monochromatic paintings adoring the walls.  Ugh.

So again, this is a big deal.  I've had insurance for months now, so it's about time I took advantage of it - despite my obvious reservations.  I'm proud of myself dangit.  The doctor I found is just a few years older than myself, with a background that reminds me of a cousin and she has a focus on women's health.  I think I'm going to like her, which in a lot of ways I think will be the half the battle between me and my healthcare-related anxiety.

Maybe it's just because I've accomplished a hell of a lot in the last year, but somehow I just need to keep this motivation going or it will fizzle and burn out.  These are big strides for me - even if they've only been taken with baby steps - though honestly I'm just glad to be heading in the right direction - wherever it may lead.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My Fictional Self

The blinking cursor on a blank page is an obvious taunt.

It sits there, mocking, announcing it's readiness repeatedly as you stare dumbly at the screen uttering an internal  monologue of "uh... um... er..."

I've been missing my escape lately, consumed by that pesky thing called reality (i.e. work in one form or another) and I just haven't been able to throw myself into the story, even if only for a few minutes.  For the last two weeks or so, every time I switch over to the current story I'm working on, that damned cursor starts blinking at me and I get distracted - realize I have something else to do, something else to dominate my time, my attention.

Even now as I dedicate just a few minutes to rant, rave and ramble about my neglected pastime, I can think of at least four other things that I could be doing, should be doing.

But I have to have some "me" time, right?  You know what they say about all work and no play... right?
New York City - 3/9/2013

Time versus inspiration: at the moment, I'm only lacking one.  For me, when I'm working on a story, inspiration isn't really hard to come by - it all stems from what got me into writing in the first place.

Have you ever watched a movie or a television show, or even reading a book, and wished a twist had turned a different way?  Wished that something else would happen, that another outcome would occur - that a different hero would prevail?

Without a doubt, I have a vivid imagination.  I'm an only child and I was raised to read, raised to think.  Add that mentality to the digital age, an over consumption of information, communication, and interpretation at my fingertips... and I became the neurotic over-thinker you see before you today.

I end up getting a story, a scenario, a scene, a moment stuck in my head - one that I can change, twist, and turn into whatever I want... so... why don't I?

In an interview I saw years ago, a soap opera actress once said that it wasn't necessarily the stories that were compelling, but the people within those stories, their reactions, responses, the way it resonates - because each person is different and will respond to the same situation differently.

The concept stuck with me.

Whenever I'm facing that writer plague that will not be named (cough-writer's-block-cough), all I have to do is re-read a scene I've already written.  Before long, I realize these people - this world I've created - needs to continue in this direction or that, something needs to happen - no, that's not quite right - something has already happened, I just need to put it down on the page.  The fodder is there, I just need to figure out where it leads me.

It's frustrating at times, but I don't write in a straight line.

That would be boring.

While my fictional self is rearing to go - pawing at the ground in impatient anticipation while I just can't get the rest of me to commit.  It's a spattering of an ongoing assault to plastic keyboard keys in the pursuit of surreal excellence, and I miss it.  (Can you tell?)  In the meantime, I hold secure to a few solid truths.

I don't have to write the next great American novel.  Above anything else, all I have to do is let a story play out.  The people, the emotions, the resonance will follow, because everyone is different, even if the situation is the same.

Now...  if only I could wrap up everything else I have to do in a neat little bow so I could let my inner fiction writer out of her cage to play.

She's getting restless I tell ya, who knows what the fallout will be.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

I Heart CSS

I'm  sure there's a support group out there for me so I might as well admit it:  I'm addicted to CSS.

To others in the know of the Jedi way of the website code - yes, I know I have a problem.

To those who don't have this geeky privilege, it's a nifty part of website coding that dictates styles, i.e., design.

While I primarily consider myself a web designer, this lovely infographic (I also heart infographics, but that's a discussion for another time) depicts a rather conflicting message to me.

The obvious lack of a stubble-beard aside, unlike our web designer persona here, I would never be caught dead wearing skinny jeans or carrying a Macbook Pro.  I am un-regrettably a PC gal through and through, and while I don't bring my own keyboard to work, it's only because I have the EXACT same keyboard at work as I do at home.

(On a side note, I did take my own mouse to work, until my awesome employer bought me another so I didn't have to.  Let's face it, my boss is cooler than your boss.)

The esoteric tee-shirt is another glitch in my web designer claims.  Why I am a spectacular fan of esoteric humor, only the code-snob's "There's no place like" statement is the one that made me chuckle.

As for the fears?  Aside from Perl and server crashes, most of these rank a big "eh" on the worry-meter.

I'm not sure what all this says about my nerdtastic ways, but after having spent the weekend doing exactly what I spend all week doing (for projects outside of work), I can't help for it all to be running around tirelessly on that hamster wheel I call a mind.

I spend half my day (every day) bouncing back and forth between Photoshop and Illustrator, and the other half of my day lost in coding, most notably CSS (and of course HTML), with a dash or two of text documents, emails, databases, FTP clients, multi-tab/multi-window/multi-browser research and the occasional conversation on the telephone.

So what does that make me, a web designer or a web developer?

Hell if I know.

Either way, it's time to get back to work.