Daily Archives: May 23, 2012

2 posts

Skill Set

I’ve set out to do several things this year. I’ve listed twenty-one of them, but I have a few things that aren’t specifically on my list. Much of that includes things I’m trying to learn and skills I’d like to develop. I feel that I am uniquely qualified for some things because of how my life is and the time I was born.
I’ve essentially lived on the internet since I was 14. My friendships were kept and often times made online, my social outlet was primarily online, my access to the outside world was (and still is) primarily online, and I’ve been blogging since late 2005. I started out using xanga and moved to blogger where I learned html and css while trying to tweak my theme. My best friend and his best friend started a company doing web design around the same time. Alex taught me xhtml, css, and gave me a start with PHP in 2007 just after I switched to wordpress. I made a few sample sites, and themed and provided tech support for the local chapter of a Teenage Republicans website from 2008 to 2009.

If the internet exploded
from HuhWhatWhen.tumblr.com

So, to say that the internet comes naturally to me is an understatement; in many ways it is and has been my home. Sad as that may be, I feel this puts myself and others like me in a unique position. As citizens of the internet we quite possibly understand it better than people who have had to adapt to the new technology. What is second nature to me, could be very valuable to others.
This in part is why I decided to use Team Treehouse to get back up to speed with HTML5, CSS3, and learn a new language. I would eventually like to make a wordpress plugin and ideally get paid for part time website management services – where I would tweak, support, and manage a website for a client; similar to what I do now.
I like Team Treehouse and find them better than college courses is for two reasons:
First, they’re current. They are constantly evolving and adding new information as time goes on, which is crucial to internet related work as the nature of it is constantly growing.
Secondly, their format is bite sized, easy to follow, and encouraging. Every so often I’ll unlock a special video, and every set that I do completes a badge. Paired with my nerd-brain, the unlocking of badges offers motivation – much like leveling up.
The problem that I face, is reminding myself that there is value in developing my skill set. I have a tendency to feel guilty about spending money to learn things when there’s no immediate payoff even though I know that it’s the wise, and “grown up” thing to do. When I go for periods of time when I’m not immersed in learning this new skill, the voice inside my head starts berating – telling me it’s not worth completing.
Logically, I know this voice is wrong. Developing my skill set is a good decision for the long term and the immediate future.

It is in learning new things that we’re better equipped to deal with life and find solutions to problems even if the topics are unrelated.

I have learned to overcome the negativity by reminding myself that I am worth it, that learning is worth it, and the unknown opportunities are worth seeing it through. I remind myself of that with every new endeavor, not just web design. Motivation is hard to come by with an internal art/writing/development/brainstorming/acting/rude-and-not-ginger critic.
The one issue that I haven’t addressed so far is portfolios. Or what you have to present before you get paid. It’s difficult. I’ve been spending time brainstorming different ways to market myself – and while I haven’t done a whole lot professionally, I do have experience behind me. It’s complicated in a world where it’s hard to find any job, let alone a good paying one, or one that is sort of niché and would allow me to work very part time so I could pursue the other things that I have going on.
I decided last month, that after I watched all the videos and unlocked all (excluding the iOS) badges, I would make myself a website that was essentially a living-breathing-portfolio. A site that showed my skill and ingenuity and creative thinking; I still plan on creating.
As I was planning, an opportunity to add to my portfolio arrived out of the blue. My strategy for making portfolio pieces, which I’ll share (and still produce) consists of the following:

  1. Make a lovely site with lovely functionality
  2. Make another lovely site with different lovely functionality
  3. Make yet another lovely site, with lovely functionality that I could actually use (probably a book site that’s slightly better than the current splash page I whipped up in 10 minutes).
  4. Rinse, repeat, learn new things.

I’ve also contemplated recording an interview to go along with my resumé and portfolio.
In the meantime, I will enjoy this bit of inspirational perfection and take it to heart.


 

Entertainment

Every so often art, technology, and entertainment are made to be some kind of new evil. Articles, emails, and teachings are produced – mocking and and devaluing the art and the industry that is a large part of our world. Many good things have fallen victim to this, and many people (myself included) have spent years being mislead by organizations with a specific agenda. Organizations that use lies, misinformation, and bad reporting to keep everyone from engaging in something they personally feel is not worth engaging in.
They want to live in a world where everything is monitored, judged, and valued on a scale of what messages a given story contains, how it fits into the company’s worldview, and if there is anything that could remotely be imperfect (or above G). A lot of parents seem to want this for their children too, and thus buy into the world that these organizations purport. It comes from a place of love, naturally – that weird protective instinct all parents seem to inherit and have to try very hard not to over-do.
The problem is, that so much focus is going into the “value” as rigidly defined by various organizations that the real value and the point of being entertained is lost. A large part, I believe, is due to the fact that the idea of entertainment ala Focus on the Family, The American Family Association, and others, is not really considered to have any value at all.
The idea of relaxing, and watching (or listening, or looking at, or playing) something for no reason other than it is interesting and appeals to you just doesn’t even compute. Because for something to have value in my ex-world, there has to be a higher reason. I had to learn to listen to music, because I thought the only value in song was lyrics. I learned to appreciate a good story, because I, like many others, was taught to believe that movies and books carried secret messages and we had to be careful to expose ourselves to only “the good ones” so we wouldn’t be influenced wrongly.
This adds a lot of work to being entertained that doesn’t need to be there. Being entertained is not a mental exercise, it’s a connection; the best things connect to you on a deeper level and that’s when art is created.
What attracts you, or what “messages” you find, may be the things that you were reaching for inside. Other people may not see that, or may find things they needed; more might just enjoy it for the quality of the sound, the stage, the storytelling, and find nothing deeper. Are any of these wrong?
Do people have to find the same thing that stirred within you when you read Lord of the Rings for it to count? I don’t think so, I don’t think anyone really thinks so.
This is what is so powerful about the art of entertainment: when done well, people from all walks of life can appreciate it on so many levels – each one just as valid as the next.
What did I do? I ever so reluctantly found good stories, and fell in love with them; not because of any scale of value, but because the stories were good. Which opened up a wonderful world that I had missed before. If you want to be a writer, an artist, or a storyteller, it helps to appreciate the art of being entertained, develop your unique taste,  and find the things that inspire you by exposing yourself to new things.
Read the kind of stories you want to write, watch the movies you hope to create, listen to the music you want compose – then expose yourself to the opposite. Be entertained for the sake of being entertained and appreciate the art and the effort that goes into it.

Keep Calm and Watch BBC
(From a tumblr that changed it's url - formerly hmbg.tumblr.com)