Category Archives: Business

Two Types of Purpose

In the first post we talked about why having a purpose behind your work is important.  I also mentioned briefly that there are two types of purpose we can use in creative projects, this post shows how to create both of them.

In order to succeed, wildly, you’ll need:

In order for your project to ‘work’ to the best of its ability you need two different types of purpose.  Rather than belabouring the point at this stage, lets dive in and take a look at how to make them.

Creative Type Definition

Creative purpose gives life and soul to your projects; it deals with the higher meaning, why you want to do it, and what change you’re trying to make in the world (or whatever social group you’re comfortable with).  Without this, even if you have an amazing business purpose the idea itself will be a shell, possibly uninspired and definitely lack spark.

Creating the Creative Purpose

Look at your life and what matters to you.  Think about what you believe, feel the things that tug on your heart, and start from there.  The creative purpose is the most personal part of any project; I couldn’t and probably wouldn’t tell you how to find it.

There aren’t any road maps to defining what’s right or what you want to say and it’s different for every person.  In my opinion this is why we’re able to have so many different art forms and artists; not one of us thinks in exactly the same way as another, and we all have different messages and things we want to talk about.  This part can take a long time to find, and to get ‘right’.  You’ll know it when you have, sometimes you have to start work before it’s fully formed (that’s another issue entirely) however I’d urge you to wait until you have at least a rough idea before beginning.

Creative Purpose is your cornerstone after all, it’s worth taking the time to do this part properly.

Structuring your Creative Purpose

The beauty of the creative purpose is that there’s no iron-clad structure.  Often a simple statement is enough.

That is, as long as the statement conveys the following points to you (and those you work with!) whenever you read it:

  • The change you want to make
  • The circumstance you want to improve
  • The emotion you want others to feel
  • The message you want to send
  • It has an emotional connection with you; you should feel it in your gut

Example: Creative Purpose for July’s Themed Posts

My creative purpose for this month’s feature series reads something like this:

Provide clarity to creators so we can see more awesomely cool stuff.

Ulterior motives aside, that works for me.  My logic follows that we can’t make our absolute best projects without having a reason for doing so, and sometimes we can start with one and lose it along the way (or without one, which is scary but we’ve all done it).  By defining both types of purpose there’s a clear direction for us to travel in, since I believe this is really important and I want to be around to see some really well written games, animations, scenes, stories, etc… This theme was born.

Business Type Definition

On the other hand the business purpose gives structure to the idea.  What you’re making, what targets you’re trying to reach, who will use the finished product, and so on through all the more practical concerns.  This determines how successful your project will be at getting the message out and/or making money.

Building your Business Purpose

Before you can write your business purpose you’ll need to make three main choices.  First you’ll have to decide what you’re making; can’t go far wrong here and your creative purpose might point you in the right direction.

Second, what you’re trying to achieve.  This is a little trickier and speaks to your motives more than anything else.  Maybe you have a product and you’re trying to generate more sales.  Or you have a website / blog and you’d like more visits and views.  Possibly you want to win a competition, or get your message out to the greatest amount of people possible.  Aim high, but not cripplingly so here, and be specific.  Instead of saying something like ‘I want more people to visit my site’, go for something like ‘I want 50 people to visit my site per day by 1st January 2011’.  Constrain your goal.  Make it achievable, but not too easy.  Really go for it!

The third and potentially most important decision is about who you’re trying to reach.  Do you have a specific target audience (if not, why not?)?  Who would you most like to connect with?  How do they spend their time?  Are they students, working, not working, within your industry, in a specific age range, location, gender… There are a lot of questions you could be asking here.  As with your ‘goal’, your target audience has to be specific.

Structuring your Business Purpose

Unlike the creative purpose your business purpose has a generally accepted format.  It takes the form of a short sentence covering each of the three areas we just discussed.  You can almost copy/paste each section into the structure below:

A [what you’re making] for [target audience] in order to [business target/goal].

Example: Business Purpose for July’s Themed Posts

Continuing our example from before, the business purpose for this month’s themed features looks a bit like this:

Create a series of blog posts for creative professionals looking to make their own, successful, projects in order to revive my blog and bring visitors per day up to 45 by August 15th 2011.

Since it’s a blog project I’m running my first section was a given (I actually cheated and had the form before my creative purpose because I had a specific slot to fill per week).  My target audience was defined in a fairly broad sense because this particular set of blog posts can be applied by multiple disciplines, since I have a few creative avenues myself it makes no sense to over specify at this stage.

However, I did pin-point it to creative professionals (people working within creative industries, or wish to, with the skills required) and a mindset (looking to make their own, successful, projects).  The mindset it key at this point because it focuses the direction of each post back to an ultimate goal – partially defined in my creative purpose.

As for my target – I’m a blog owner that’s had a semi-dead blog for the last year due to time constraints.  I needed to come back out with a bang though traffic doesn’t grow overnight.  45 people seemed a fair goal, and by placing the deadline half way through next month each post should have time to gather a little momentum.

Next Time

This week we’ve gone through the process of creating our own creative and business purposes in order to define our projects and give ourselves definite goals.  In the next post we’ll be taking a closer look at finding these purposes in existing projects; both client defined and personal.

Right now though I’d like you to choose one of your projects (or things you do) and come up with both a creative purpose and a business one.  Comment below and let me know how you got on.

Purpose Introduction

Why do we create what we create?  What is our purpose?

July Monthly Feature: Purpose

No one likes to stumble around, not quite realising what it is they really want to do with what they’re creating, or how a client really wants to see a brief fulfilled.  By being able to create, identify, and use purposes we can eliminate some of that confusion and make every project from here on out much simpler to understand and more effective in execution.

Because it’s such an important concept we’re going to be exploring it as our feature throughout July.  This post kicks it all off by talking about purpose, what it is, and why we should bother and then over the next couple of weeks we look at creating purposes, identifying them in existing projects, the two main types of purpose, and how to use them.

What is Purpose?

According to Uncle Google, a purpose is:

The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

As a broad definition that’s perfect, and exactly what we’re looking for.  The reason behind what you do, and create, or why something exists.  We can take this definition and apply it to just about everything, from a kid building a sandcastle to one company buying another.

Taking it into our industry though there are two levels of purpose that I want to explore within this series.  The first is business purpose.  Examples of that include making business cards to generate more leads, designing an e-commerce site to increase sales, starting a t-shirt line to increase brand awareness.  Anything that relates in some way to money, visitors, and power can come under the ‘business’ purpose.

The second purpose, and probably the more fun one, is the ‘creative’ purpose.  This deals with the less tangible meanings, like educating someone, causing a tear with your story, encouraging laughter, changing a behaviour, awareness of an issue.

I propose that in everything we do as creative professionals, we should be defining both of those purposes.

Why bother with Purpose?

    1.  Stay on message

If you know exactly what you’re trying to say and why it’s much easier to build that into whatever you’re doing.  Design and functionality choices become more focused because they’re there to enhance rather than define.

2.  Measurable results

When there’s an end goal, you can test and track your product/project to see how well it’s progressing towards that goal.  And make tweaks where you need them.

3.  Clarity in Execution.

Ever reached the point in a project where you’re not absolutely certain what you need to do next to improve it, take it to the next level, or complete it?  By knowing what you’re trying to do you’re in a better position for planning, and deciding when it’s done.

What happens without one?

We do our best.  And guess.  Some of us are exceptional guessers and can get work done for clients and themselves really quickly and effectively (personally I think these people are subconsciously determining the reason first), others not so much.

Can’t answer for anyone else, but I’d much rather work on something while knowing exactly why I’m doing it and what the outcome is.  Wouldn’t you?

Next week we’ll be looking at how to create both types of purpose statements.  But before you go; what is the most poorly defined project you’ve taken part in?

Idle Musings – Fear

Fear is a summers day in the garden, with the birds singing and the daisies being gently chained by your children.  Fear is that indescribable, wonderful moment where he finally works up the courage to ask, and you finally say ‘I do’.  Fear is graduating, diving, riding, dancing, singing, running, playing, joy.

 

Fear is your best moment on your best day.

 

Fear is the benchmark, by which all things after are measured and found wanting.  And when found wanting, its that sickly feeling in the pit of your stomach, the whispers in the dark at night saying it’ll never be that good again.

 

From the moment we’re born until the day we choke out our last breath, we fear.  A little is a good thing; it drives us to improve, make things better, explore.  Too much fear combined with too little improvement and exploration causes problems across the board.

 

It’ll start small, you won’t notice.  First as dust, then as a mite…  progressing to caterpillars, snakes, worms, dragons – it never ends if never addressed.  Sometimes when you notice it’s too late and you have a battle on your hands to return.  Sometimes you refuse to notice, instead doing all in (and sometimes outwith) your power to avoid triggering it, all the while telling yourself it isn’t there.  Other times it doesn’t grow past a certain point, becoming more like a pet than an insidious, devious, killing machine.

 

Don’t let the puppy eyes fool you.

 

If caught early it can be turned aside, chopped, boiled, burned, stomped on – pick your destruction.  Get good enough and it becomes a game.  Fail at the game and the very things you’re afraid of losing move that much further from you; fear causes problems, rarely prevents them.

 

Oh, and it also saves your life.  Best to throw that in there; it’ll stop you doing truly dangerous things, like a guardian angel or over-protective parent.  Pushing through it prevents stagnation and ultimately decay.  It’s a beautiful thing that lets you appreciate what you had, have, and could have.  It’ll run your life if given an inch, it’ll save it if not.

 

I’d recommend you juggle; someone dear to me said that was nonsense, and  you should fly.

Concept; The Impact of a One Sentence Purpose

I love the beginning of a new project.

You’re given a set of parameters to adhere to (or very rarely a clean slate), you have a specific amount of time and usually some form of budget or lack of one.  With those parameters and limitations you’re then set loose to come up with an idea.  Blank slates excluded, it’s usual to have some form of a goal defined for you and a set of targets to reach.

Increase sales, redefine brand x as being for people y, launch a product, make one person say ‘wow’, educate, entertain – there are a lot of reasons for what we do, sometimes on a day to day basis.  The important thing is to know which one of these goals is the most important for any given project; which one matters above all else and, if delivered, would count the project a success.  Setting your main goal, defining its purpose and scope, and wrapping it up into one neat, concise sentence can make the difference between a tight design and a sloppy one.

Golden Goal Rule (Not ‘the one who has the goals makes the rules’ though I was tempted)

All goals should answer one simple question in order to be effective; ‘What’s the point?’

Let me explain.  If your example goal is something like ‘Increase number of clients by summer’ it’s easy to get diverted.  There’s no reward built in and there’s no definite point at which you can cross it off your list as complete.  Not very motivating and if you ever venture into the land of late nights/early mornings for this sort of goal you’re likely to start wondering if you can just forget about it instead!

At least, I would.  Raw stubbornness can only take you so far.

Goal++

Let’s go back to the point at the start of the project where we’re all happily bubbling away over new ideas and dancing around gleefully at the thought of having something fun to do (maybe that last part was just me, but you get the picture).  Right then you may know perfectly well what you want to accomplish and why, or at least you’re in the best place to figure it out.  While you’re enthusiastically yet diligently writing out your initial plan (right?) it’s worth taking a moment to write this sentence:

[Action] [Object] to [Goal] for [target audience] (by [timescale]).

Let me wash the mud off the window:

  1. Action:  Create, Redesign, Realign, Launch, Increase, Decrease
  2. Object: Tutorial interface, website, logo, ebook, sales, bounce rate
  3. Goal: Make sharing easier, to reflect the new branding scheme, for a more professional look, to teach people how to skip, from 5% to 10%, to 60%
  4. Target Audience: students between the ages of 16-25 studying 3D, adults working in offices full time, sophistocated young investors, children 6-10 years old, teenage girls with an interest in drawing, visitors from USA.

Formatting the first example so we can see it properly:  Create a tutorial interface to make sharing easier for students between the ages of 16-25 studying 3D.

Why bother?

Someone asks you what you’re doing? You can tell them your statement.

Get stuck or muddled part way through the project? It’s right there to remind you of where you’re going.

Focusing too much on an unimportant area of the project? That statement brooks no excuses.

Of every piece of planning I’ve ever done for a project this is the quickest part, and also the part that provides the most benefit (says the planning addict that usually has at least 10 pages of stuff).  It’s also the part that’ll make you want to throw the most objects our your window, but that’s another story.

Do you stall at the start line?

It starts with ambition, and possibly talent.  You come up with this really good idea in response to a brief you were given, you’re sure you can finish it within the allocated time, you’re all fired up and ready to go kick ass!

Then you sit down to work and your mind goes completely blank.

Overwhelm is a wonderful thing

In fact, the larger and scarier the end product the better chance you have of creating something truly amazing.  Or doing the whole crash, burn, stress, scrape thing.  The beginning of a project around the time the actual work starts is always the scariest for me; once I’m working I can keep going without much trouble and create something on time.

The Unspoken Choice

When it’s time to work you can decide to stand by your plans, or chicken out and minimize them.

Phrased like that most people are going to say ‘of course we’ll go for the former!’.  I believe you.  Now lets move on and look at how we can actually do that without accidentally reverting to the other path.

Speaking as a Professional Minimizer…

The fear there is based around whether you can produce to specifications before deadline.  It’s not whether you can do it period, it’s the time element that makes it harder.  Because I absolutely hate being undermined by ‘silly fears’ like that, I have a few coping mechanisms:

Break the product down – Decide what you absolutely have to create, what would add value, and what would make it look prettier.
Focus on the Necessities – Write down what you need to do that day to get started.
Pick on the Smallest thing – Finish it as quickly as you can, and score it off your list.
Breathe, then do the next thing – The breathing is important.  Enjoy that you have one thing done, then launch into the next.

The Feel-Good Factor

Some people like to use the ‘Tackle the biggest part for a specified amount of time’ trick instead of the knocking out the smallest task.  That may work better for you; after some trial and error it doesn’t help me much unless I’ve already completed one task.

Either way, the point is to do something that can quickly give you a sense of accomplishment.  Once you have something it’s no longer ‘Oh god, how do I begin?!’ it’s ‘Ok, what’s next?’.

How do you get around it?

Project Management for Creative Perfectionists

Are you a planning fanatic or do you prefer to just dive in?

Since this post is based on a tweak to project management and how to use it to sidestep one of the most irritating design problems you can come across (in my opinion) it’s probably going to appeal more to the fanatics among you. If you do just dive in, it’s still worth reading – there’s something for everyone to take away.

For the duration of this post we’re going to define ‘projects’ as on-going, unique tasks that require you to be creative, and have a deadline of some description. This isn’t the only sort of project the concept applies to; it’s just the one I have experience with. Feel free to adapt, prod, poke, and squeeze it into your own situation as we go through.

Introducing today’s example

Our example refers to an Infomercial I have to create this semester in order to pass two (or more) of my classes. Up until now I’ve been horribly over-ambitious with every project I’ve undertaken, and this one is no exception. To pass it must have film footage, interactive elements, and be based on selling an existing product to a target audience.

The Famous Triangle

Step into any Project Management class and one of the first things you’ll be introduced to is the ‘Project Triangle’. While there have been some murmers of it becoming outdated, a lot of working project managers agree that it’s still a good way of viewing work and priorities.

Like all triangles it has three corners; Time, Budget, and Quality. The idea is that you can choose two of those corners to be fixed, and the last is where you’ll make sacrifices should they become necessary. For example, if you have to complete your project by a certain date then it’d be your main priority, and you could choose whether to sacrifice Quality and keep within budget, or sacrifice the Budget and keep within quality.

In another example you may choose to keep the Quality at all costs; then you can decide whether the budget or time is more important to the overall success of the project.

Whenever you keep the two corners you chose at the start of the project within bounds, even if the last corner gets blown out of proportion you can still consider the project itself a success. In theory this means that if your priorities are time and budget and the quality turns out to be very poor the project itself was still successful, though it’s possible others outwith the project may not agree.

Time and Quality

Continuing with our example I choose the two corners that most college students would; Time and Quality. Especially since I’m in my final year the Quality is important (that was a no-brainer decision) and with deadlines being more concrete Time had to be the overriding consideration.

However, there’s no wiggle room in the budget (unless I choose to spend out of my own pocket) because for college projects budgets don’t exist. Considering Time is our immutable corner, that leaves Quality as the only area in which I can cut back if necessary. Obviously this is flawed, but we’ll get back to that in a moment.

Let’s talk a little bit about the relationship between Time and Quality. Deadlines often mean that Time can’t move, or the project has failed. Everyone wants to do their best work to get the best grade possible. How many of us have, at some point, designed a project that was far too ambitious given the time available then had to scramble at the last minute to make it fit?

At that point, are we happy with the sacrifices we’ve made to get it done on time? If you’re anything like me, I doubt it. Sure, you’re happy you got it done on time and therefore haven’t failed – but it looked so much better when you imagined it! Oh, and if you’d had just a little more time, say a week, then it would have looked so much better!

Yet, when you have more time, you choose a more ambitious project. Same results, but a little better than before in technical capability (because you’ve learned a few shortcuts).

The problem there is that you always feel you could have done better, and never truly show your best work. Using whatever your piece was in your portfolio actually makes you a little sad, and you just know that no one else is going to see what you’re capable of based on that… right?

Let’s reframe!

Recognising that cutting Quality rarely left anyone feeling good about a project is probably what led to the modification of the triangle to what you see above. Quality has been moved to the centre as an ideal or goal, and Scope has taken its place as the third corner.

In real terms, this means that when you have constraints of Time and Scope, and you really need to cut Scope – you can remove features and maintain the Quality of the rest. For a student, that means you can cut out the ‘awesome’ extra parts and deliver your best on the main core of your product. When it comes time to add it to your portfolio, you don’t have to worry about how much better any particular area could have been with more time, and anyone looking at it can get a better idea of where your skills currently are.

Shifting Quality to an ideal or goal also gives focus to your triangle – the questions move from ‘How do I do x within y amount of time?’ or ‘How can I cut costs so that z will work?’ to something like ‘What’s the best way to get the right level of quality within x time/budget?’.

In short you move it from a passive ‘I’ll just do what I can’ to an active ‘How do I make this better?’ with regards to the level of work you’re producing. Emphasis moves from what you’re doing to how well you do it, and so far I see no downsides there.

What this also means is that the scope of your project is considered properly at the planning stage. If you know you only have a few months to create something, there’s no way it’s going to be the same scope as something you’ll have a few years to create. When you bring it into the discussion you can fine-tune your ideas into something manageable for the time or budget available. And you can do it without pulling all-nighters towards the end. Maybe.

As you go through a project it’s really tempting to add more and more features; small things that won’t take much time to implement but that could look really cool. Again, by bringing Scope into the discussion you have a way of analyzing these small additions and deciding (even if it’s further down the line) whether to drop them.

(For the record, this ranks very high on my ‘I wish I’d known before…’ list)

Getting to the point; How do we use this?

None of those concepts are new, in fact a google search for ‘Project Management’ will have you tripping over them before you can say ‘Search done’. If I’d really wanted, I could have just pointed you to various other websites and articles, wished you luck, and called it a day. Those parts were just the introduction; this next part is the bit that makes the difference.

Knowing about the updated triangle and the addition of Scope is great, but knowing how to apply it in the real world is better. I found resources on how to practically apply it to creative projects a bit thin on the ground when I was buzzing around like a headless wasp looking for answers. Having struggled with this for years (despite being organized with my projects to the point of obsession) I finally hit a realisation last week, the day before deadline (storyboard, not project – still a big deal).

With the infomercial I’m working on I’ve done more market research than in previous years; I got to know my intended audience, the product, the current audience, and method of communication. I looked at other advertising campaigns to see what worked and what didn’t, and I immersed myself in brand style.

Then I happily skipped off to draw up the first plan for the introductory video. Pitch one rolled around a few weeks ago, the first idea didn’t stick. That was ok, because it was horribly technical and anyway the new idea was much better.

The second pitch happened the day before the storyboards were due in (of course by this stage they’d all been drawn out). Attention was drawn to how ambitious all areas of the project were, how little time I had, and that the story itself didn’t quite gel properly.

Honestly? It was depressing. And demoralising. And with the deadline the next day I had a choice to make; try and fix it, or ignore an obvious flaw in the plan and carry on regardless.

The next morning I drew up a plan that I believe is actually possible and works better than the other two combined. The revised storyboard was submitted on time and I didn’t have to draw as many frames either. The only thing that changed was I suddenly started looking at time and taking it into account when designing.

Again, How?

Because I’d worked on projects involving 3D and Filmed footage before I had a pretty good idea of how long each part would take. Before while I was planning I’d plotted it all into a tighter schedule than I would have liked, telling myself that so long as I stuck to the plan I’d get through it.

When I looked at it that night when time was already critical I finally sat down and looked at how I could eliminate or scale back the more time-consuming elements. In this case it was the animation. I also re-worked the story and script, but how that works is the subject for another post.

Switching mindsets from creative designer to project team let me make massive time cuts and brought my enthusiasm back too (added side bonus).

More than enough about what I did though! Let’s break it down so you can use it too.

Step One – Define your timescale

It’s a good idea to work out how much time you have for each stage of your project before you start planning how to use it. Write down all the parts of your project (planning, design, parts of the product you need to create, etc) and your final deadline. Add any other deadlines you have before the final deadline as well; this will help when you have to schedule everything.

Working back from your deadline, write down each section and how long you can afford for it to take and still be finished on time. If it helps to have a rough idea of a project at this stage then work with that too, but at this stage the sections are more important than what you’re going to do with them. Once you’ve worked that out, see if there’s any wiggle room (in my project if I want a more complex video I have to make the game less complex) between sections and make a note of that too.

Step Two – Brainstorm

Sit and scribble for a while. See where you might want to take your project, write it all down, and hold nothing back. This is by far the most fun bit – have fun!

Important Note – Message

The most important piece of advice I can give you here though is to decide what the point of your project is before you go anywhere near the design stage. The point is to deliver the message, not always to create flashy, beautiful pieces of work (unless that is your message of course).

Step Three – Refine your Idea

Once you know what you want to do and how long you have to do it, take your idea and figure out how. This means (for me at least) writing down what tasks you’d have to do for your idea as it is, working out how long those would take, then seeing where you can make changes in the idea to use less time and keep the message.

Since all projects are different, I can’t tell you exactly what to cut and what to focus on. If you know your project and your message well, you shouldn’t have too much trouble with this stage; the point is to know that you have to go through it before you start work.

Parting thoughts

Simply following these steps won’t magically make your project a success, but it should help you free up the time you need to make it shine (rather than spending the duration scrambling to fix all the features you’ve added!). Practice. See if it works for you. Or better yet, if you have a method of your own share it in the comments.

It’s time to step up and make the things we could make ‘if we had more time’ with the time we already have. We can do it; and I get to say ‘I told you so’ when we rule the world.

Further Reading and References

Project Management PDF by Marion E Haynes
Project Management Basic Principles – Project Smart

Scope Creep Management – Project Perfect

Traue – Let’s grow your Business (first image was from here)

Graphing the Triple Constraints of IT Failure – ZDNet (second image)

Relaxation Guide; Make Your Weekends Count


In the past we’ve talked about ‘Sudden Lull Syndrome‘ and taking a break in the middle of a project.  Which is great, and we should definitely do more of that (me included, it’s a constant battle).  This post isn’t about relaxing after something big.  Today, ladies, gentlemen, and frogs we’re going to talk about weekends.

Behaviour One – What are weekends?

When Saturday rolls round do you look at the calendar, shrug, and go back to work?  Or (worse) do you say ‘Yay, Saturday!  Now I can catch up on…’?  Does this happen on Sunday as well?

If so, for the duration of this post, we’re going to classify you as an ‘Intentional Workaholic’.  Do not be alarmed (whatever a ‘larmed’ is) I know lots of people in the same boat, and for the purposes of this post that’s my current label too.  Score one for the team.

Behaviour Two – Sweet! It’s the weekend!  I can do something fun, just after I check on…

Do you play Facebook games?  Are you forever losing hours and hours to simple things like msn and gmail?  Do you check stats and messages constantly throughout the day?

Then proudly attach ‘Attention Wanderer’ to your list of labels.  This is my typical Sunday behaviour, because I make it a rule not to work on anything in particular.  Time likes disappearing in this mode, and usually I wind up feeling bored after the first hour – too bored to do anything more fun!  Horrible isn’t it?

Behaviour Three – Screw you guys, I’m not doing it any more!

Do you get to the weekend and want to go into hiding?  Does the hermit lifestyle sound appealing so long as you have all the necessary comforts and distractions?  Have your weekend gaming sessions exceeded 3 hours at a time?

Congratulations, you have the ‘I’ve had it’ label.  After a particularly stressful week this is what I turn to; completely ignoring everyone around me, I retreat into something fun and solitary for the better part of the day.  Then feel guilty that nothing got done.  Aside from the guilt, this is probably the least damaging behaviour.

You can now throw away your labels

Or burn them and dance round the fire should you wish.  If you’ve read this far you’ve already found something to relate to in one of the situations above, and that means this post is for you.  Hi there.

For the especially observant among you, you may have noticed that I ascribe to all three behaviours.  Who am I to tell you how to do things differently?

I’ve made the wrong choice often enough to know its the wrong choice

Somewhere, you know it too.  Inside there’s something you’d rather be doing when you’re working on a Saturday, chatting for hours on msn, or hiding with a game.  I don’t know what it is, it’s different for everyone.  What I do know is that so long as we keep on as we are we’re missing out.  Big time.

Possible Actions for Possible Results

  1. Get up at the same time as you would during the week
  2. Work for at most two hours on a Saturday morning to prepare for Monday
  3. After the work go and play for a few hours (whatever this means for you)
  4. Check your websites etc in the evening
  5. Then go and unwind with a film or book
  6. Instead of work on Sunday, do something that makes you truly happy for a couple of hours
  7. Rinse and repeat

Between us, let’s run a test.

From a whole boatload of reading and paying attention to my own emotions and energy levels I came up with the short list above.  I think it may save our sanity and our weekends.  I’ll follow it myself, and you can choose to do the same if you like.   Feel free to suggest more points, or strategies in the comments; we could even make a case study together at some point.

Until then, let’s just keep this between us.  One weekend waster to another.

Fifth Life Crisis; The way forward

Reading the rest of the series becomes optional at this point.

Cutting the rest of a long story short, visiting another country opened my eyes to what’s possible.  Both of the rest of the world and the potential there, and of myself.  I’ve moved on quite a bit since this site started back in January, and some of my interests and focuses have certainly changed since then!

So why bother writing about it at all?

Well, had I come back and just altered the way I did everything with no explanation I’d have had people wondering if I’d sold the site (not likely, for the record) or gone insane!  This series was my way of making sure we were all starting from the same, new page.  It went on a little longer than I’d originally intended however I had a lot to say this time.  For better or worse I indulged in my own need to talk about some things I’d learned.  My bad.

Statement of Purpose

To provide students in 3D and film (with a particular emphasis on visual effects) with the background knowledge needed to make full use of the tutorials and tools at their disposal.

Changed quite a bit from ‘Tutorials, Reviews, and Advice for 3D Students’!  The reason for this is that you can find tutorials anywhere, many of them as good or better than the ones I’ve had the time to create for you.  You can also find the larger concepts all over the place; the whats, whys, and whens of the art.  Arguably the concepts are far more important than learning any one tool or technique, since they are what allow you to create your own.

They’re also harder to decipher for beginners or those with a minimal amount of time to learn.

And they have the side bonus of being far more interesting to me personally as well.

Commence Evil Plan Beta Testing

Twice a month I’m going to research and write an article (between 1500 and 2000 words long) on one of the key concepts behind what we do.  In those posts we’ll look at what the concept is, what it does for you, how to start implementing it, and where to find out more information.  No fluff – the real nuts and bolts.

Every time I write one of those posts I’ll be learning as well.  Because of that there’ll also be a list of references or further reading at the end of each post.  This means that even if you don’t particularly agree with me you’ll have access to the same material I did.

Extra New Shiny Things

In addition to the main concept posts some of the other site features will keep running.  The Practical Tips series will continue once a week, along with the Student Advice posts.  Not much is really going to change for either of those features except the day of the week they’re delivered on.   Reviews are once a month, other than the frequency they’ve not changed a lot either.

Tutorials will run each Wednesday, however they won’t be written by me.  Guest posters are going to be brought in for the bulk of that (possibly with some compensation, more details on that soon) or, if none can be found for a week, I’ll link you to some of the better ones on a certain topic.  The reason I’m no longer writing or recording them myself is that I’m now in my degree year.  I no longer have time to make independent projects one day a week, every week.  While I do enjoy doing them it’s taking more effort than I really have the resources to give just now, so it’s time to let other people share their ideas with you.  Higher quality, better presented, wider range…  Bonuses all round.

The last new update I need to cover is the introduction of progress reports and monthly roundups.  As some of you are aware, I have projects of my own that I need to complete for college.  Rather than keep you in the dark about these (as I did last year) I’m going to spend a little bit of time once a month showing you  what I’ve worked on.  This can be anything from a short paragraph or two discussing what I did, or examples of my work and how it was achieved.  When a project is finished you’ll be able to see that too.

Those posts will also have details of where else I’ve written over the month, things I’ve found particularly inspiring, and an idea of what’s going to be covered next month.

The Master Schedule

Monday:  The first and third Mondays of the month are for the concept pieces; the real keystone content.  Second Mondays are for reviews, and Fourth Mondays are for the new progress posts.

Tuesday: Evil Masterplan

Wednesday: Tutorials from guests, or links to tutorials on another site.

Thursday: Evil Masterplan

Friday: Practical Tips Series.

Saturday: Student Advice

Full steam ahead!

What do you think of the new schedule?  Any questions or queries?

5th Life Crisis; Cutting to the end

This is not a Home.

If you’re just joining us head on back to the first post, or view the entire series.

Wrapping up this story

The author of this tale has become bored.  From past experience, this happens to me with every single story I’ve started to write, been distracted from, then tried to return to at a later date.  I genuinely want to continue in the same vein however the mindset and emotions have moved on since.  Thus, we’ve arrived at the part of the journey where the writer had one or two clever things planned, cuts some out for expediency, and finishes the whole thing out of a sense of duty and due course.  In order to dash off to that bright, shiny object in the distance.

I’m still going to add my clever things and there will still be one more post after this to tie it all together properly (and raise more questions than I could ever hope or want to answer).  Still want to skip though, partly.  Therefore I’m going to be as concise as I can possibly be, take far longer writing a post because I want to be concise and clear, then somewhere along the line re-capture my vein of thought and have a climatic final post.  Sound good?

Returning ‘Home’ and Travelling back to Scotland

As it turns out, not the same thing at all.  Before you go racing off thinking I mean that Canada’s more home to me than anywhere else, I miss it, and I don’t know why I ever came back – wait a moment while I explain.

Home cannot be a place.  It cannot be a person.  It cannot be a thing.

For a long time I’ve been thinking of it as something more than ‘just’ any one of those things, but up until I left my usual haunting ground I still had ties to it, or people (mostly people, a fact that creeped some of them out) being an important factor.  I thought that so long as I was with x person I would be at home.  I thought so long as I was somewhere I found welcoming, or beautiful to me I would be home.  I thought that so long as there was some place I could call my own, where no one else would bother me and I could do whatever I wanted (within certain confines) I would be home.  As a result, it’s taken me this long to figure out what home actually means for me.

Home is an emotion.

Or, if you will, a set of emotions or experiences that trigger a specific feeling within yourself.  Whenever I was with that person, or in one of those places, at times that would create an environment where the ‘correct’ set of emotions would present itself.  Hence my overall confusion.

When I left Canada again I felt confused and a bit hurt.  I didn’t want to go back to my old ‘Home’ because I’d found somewhere that felt more like it for me.  I was in a place that caused the right set of reactions, with people that triggered the right emotions, and in an environment that allowed me to grow and be myself.  Returning left me disjointed and lost, and for a short while I forgot what I’d learned about choices and being happy.  I felt too out of place and awkward to remember.

Time, Improvements, all that stuff

Over the last couple of weeks I remembered the ‘choices’ part of my new mindset.  It got thoroughly adopted again and I’ve been in an extraordinarily good mood ever since.  Ups and downs still, as you’d expect through the course of everyday life, but nowhere near extreme enough to phase me, or rock my mood in any lasting way.  More up than down, in a balanced manner, for the first time in my teen/adult life.

Over the last 4-5 days I’ve been thinking about and discovering something even more important.  Something that’s taken me from feeling ‘happy’ to feeling whole.  This one thing has given me more lasting comfort, freedom, and granted me more permission to play than just about anything else I’ve come across.  Recently.  I have to add recently because there’ve been quite a few things in my life that have revolutionised the way I think to that extent.

Acceptance

What really lets us come home is accepting ourselves as we are, not wishing to be anyone else, and if we truly want to become better – it’s the belief that we can.  It’s treating yourself well; your thoughts, your emotions, your ideas, who you are.  It’s loving yourself enough to stand with yourself, by your beliefs, and not apologise for it.

I don’t know everything, I haven’t experienced everything, and over the course of my life I’m going to make as many mistakes as I possibly can.  Let’s be honest, if that’s my goal I’m already on my way (and I’m sure that everyone here can say the same).  I’m happy with the way I am, and with the knowledge that I can continue growing.

Return of a Thought

Going back to the second post I wrote in this series, I asked what would happen if you took someone away from the life they lived and placed them somewhere else, where everyone knows them as the way they present themselves online.  The best of themselves, for the sake of argument.  I hope you had an answer in your mind, if not just think about it for a moment; what would happen to you if that was the case?

… I’m serious – think about it.

Do not read any further until you do.

I didn’t think about it until it happened; not in those terms.  I just wanted to go and see someone, and I was nervous about going so far though I was more excited than anything else.  Nothing could have prepared me for this.  Frankly, I don’t think I wanted to be prepared anyway.

Sometimes you have to leave your ‘home’ to find yourself.  Cliche, maybe.  Tired old phrase – sure, why not.  True?  I believe so.  Go find out for yourself.

Fifth Life Crisis; The Magical Moment

You can find the first post in the series over here, and all the posts here.

Winding down to a neat ending

Confusing part of the story dealt with, a new sense of enthusiasm for the tale, and a night of drunken debauchery (Sounds much more fun than it was) later we’re ready to continue on with the clean, fairytale ending.  In a mad race to get things over with the writing takes on a pace of its own, cliches are thrown around to taste, and everything wraps up neatly into a nice little package.  Until said author gets bored with the sappy, happy stuff.  Ah well.

The lightbulb that changed me

It was a concept so simple, so easy, so ludicrously effective that I’m actually embarrassed I didn’t figure it out before.   Overnight it took me from a rebellious, moody teenager/new twenty year old to someone pleased with life and happy to live it her way.  It wasn’t even one of those huge industrial-sized lightbulbs either; it was one of those small energy savers you pop into lamps and ceiling lights.  Pretty common fare really, nothing special or dazzling.

In fact, the lightbulb was so common that I’m certain people had been trying to explain it to me for years.  One of those lightbulbs.

Hopeful, but not certain

When I first got it through my skull I didn’t quite believe it was so simple.   The first moments were full of hopeful disbelief.  Like those moments where you’re sitting on Christmas morning, hoping you get the super-amazing-skateboard of doom (as an example), you see a package that looks like it could be it from your parents.  You hope that’s what it is.  Sincerely, hope that’s what it is.  Time comes for you to open it, by now you’re getting excited, hoping that its the skateboard (of doom) but somehow managing to keep a voice in your head saying ‘That can’t be it’ in case you’re disappointed.  At the very last moment you see something that makes you believe your initial hope, you open it up, and you’re rewarded.

Happiness and running around like a lunatic ensues.

It was like that with this idea.  I hoped it was right, it felt right, I was excited about it being right, but I didn’t expect it to be anywhere near as easy as it was.  I remained unconvinced until after the first day of testing it out.

Then I was blown away

I started the day happy, I ended it happy, and wouldn’t you know it – the middle part was happy too.  No hiccups, no mood swings.  And most important of all, it didn’t feel forced or fake.  It felt real.  Damn it felt good.

So I tried it the next day, and the next; same results.  By then I was nearly jumping for joy internally – I’d found it.  I’d figured it out, and I was no longer hard work (well, not in the same league in any case).

The secret that helped me?

It’s only a choice.

You can choose to look at things from another’s point of view.  You can choose whether to be happy, or to be hurt.  You can choose how stressed you become over simple, everyday things.  You can choose not to feel like the whole world is out to make you miserable (because it isn’t).  You can choose to really care for another’s comfort and well-being, without sacrificing your own.

Not flashy or sparkly but fundamentally useful

Unfortunately, it’d taken me right up until the last week to figure it all out.  I went home a few days afterwards, back to my old dynamic and set of rules.  I love my family dearly and I’d been missing them a little bit; do you think I really wanted to return?

And more; Do you think my new found ‘happiness’ could survive the plane journey home?