NENgage is “a new social media project which offers free training to community groups, local citizens and activists in how to use social media and online tools” in the Inverleith area of Edinburgh.
It’s being funded by local news publication The North Edinburgh News and lead by multimedia journalist Tom Allan and multi-talented writer/presenter Emily Dodd, both of whom regularly work for the BBC and a number of other organisations.
I’m volunteering at two of the sessions, and also helped Tom and Emily film four short videos to promote the events – you can see the first two of these below.
You know what it’s like – you get up, shuffle reluctantly to work, survive the day on a combination of strong coffee and illicit internet surfing, only to arrive home an exhausted shell of your former self and be faced with a list of tedious but necessary chores.
You then go on to complete these in a zombie-like trance before collapsing on the sofa to watch the latest mindless dross that passes for entertainment in the modern age, obliterating your increasing feelings of existential panic by eating an entire chocolate cake and polishing off a bottle of red wine by yourself.
Before you know it you’re lying in bed staring at that unsightly crack on the ceiling wondering where the time went and why you just wasted another 24 hour period of this precious existence we all have only one shot at.
Well the solution is here!
Ok, perhaps not, but at least you can find momentary relief in the brand new
Yes it’s here at long last! Well actually I only released the trailer yesterday, but I’m sure you’ve been slavering with excitement about it ever since, I know I have, and I’ve already read the bloody thing.
Here’s what’s included in the micro-manifesto:
The Six Key Steps to Unleashing Your Inner Mad Genius
& a Quick-Start Guide with some basic actions you can take right away to get started with each step.
That’s it! It’s only 21 pages long, and most of that is pictures, so you’ve got no excuse not to have a look!
A few of the photos I took on a recent trip to Berlin, given the Instagram treatment. I was there for the weekend for a friend’s stag do (or bachelor party). It was great fun, and I loved the city.
Despite the recent buyout by Facebook, I still really enjoy Instagram as a way of sharing the more interesting things I see and do during my everyday life, and for keeping up with other people in a more personal way than the other social networks.
Alas you do need either an iPhone or an Android smartphone to use it, but if you don’t have one yet you can see all my photos on the web at my instagrid profile. I quite often send the pictures to Twitter too.
I’ve been a fan of Alex Mathers and his Red Lemon Club blog for quite some time. The site provides really solid advice for freelance creatives of all kinds. Alex’s own speciality is illustration, a topic covered by his other site, Ape on the Moon – so he talks from experience – and of course this means all of his sites and products are extremely well designed.
Alex is releasing a new ebook today designed to demystify the latest social network from Google that hardly anyone seems to know how to use properly, Google+. The guide is designed specifically to help creative freelancers to attract new clients and simplify their online presence. As you can see from the below interview, he knows his stuff.
Please can you describe who you are and what you are up to at the moment?
I’m a London, UK-based self-taught illustrator and writer working on various illustration projects, including something for Wired magazine right now. I run a website called Red Lemon Club that aims to help other freelancers, entrepreneurs and creatives with going it alone, finding clients, doing business, and so on.
I’m about to make a move to Tokyo to experience things from a different perspective and can’t wait!
Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?
Practically everything that I’ve ever done up until this point has been a result of trial and error, and gradual change. I like to try out new things but also make a point of sticking with something once I’ve started it, and allowing it to evolve over time, fine-tuning as I go.
I’ve stayed focused on particular things, like my illustrations, by always having a vision in mind of where I would like things to go. The thing is, that vision always changes slightly (but not dramatically), and that’s how things progress. When I first started illustrating, things looked a lot different to how they do now.
Every New Year’s Eve at midnight we wish each other Happy New Year, but how much do we really do to help make it a happier year than the one before?
In the run up to January I’ve already discussed simple goal setting as a way to ensure you don’t drop your New Year’s resolutions like hot potatoes the minute all of life’s myriad distractions get in the way by around say.. 6th January.
The Difference Between Resolutions & Goals
But according to Gretchen Rubin, whose bestselling book of the same name describes her year long Happiness Project, which she continues to write about on her hugely popular blog, there might well be some wisdom in making resolutions rather than goals:
I’d noticed idly that a lot of people use the term “goal” instead of “resolution,” and one day in December, it struck me that this difference was in fact significant. You hit a goal, you keep a resolution. “Run a marathon” makes a good goal. It’s specific, it’s easy to measure success, and once you’ve done it, you’ve done it. “Sing in the morning” and “Exercise better” are better cast as resolutions. You won’t wake up one day and find that you’ve achieved it. It’s something that you have to resolve to do every day, forever.
Striving toward a goal provides the atmosphere of growth so important to happiness, but it can be easy to get discouraged if reaching the goal is more difficult than you expected. Also, what happens once you’ve reached your goal? Say you’ve run the marathon. What now—do you stop exercising? Do you set a new goal?
With resolutions, the expectations are different. Each day I try to live up to my resolutions. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but every day is a clean slate and a fresh opportunity. I never expect to be done with my resolutions, so I don’t get discouraged when they stay challenging. Which they do.
Keeping track of how well you’re sticking to your resolutions though is another matter. Rubin was inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s ‘virtues chart’ to keep her own Resolutions chart where she could tick off each day that she achieved it. You can use the toolbox she provides on her site to do the same, or for a simpler solution, Joe’s Goals does a similar thing (or you could even use a good old fashioned pen and paper).
There Are No Good Answers Without Good Questions
Rubin also has some good suggestions for questions you can ask yourself if you want to be happier in the year ahead. I talk through a few of these in the video below – hope it’s useful (our cat certainly didn’t seem to find it very interesting, and even yawns at one point!).
You can buy The Happiness Project from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk if you want to find out more (Amazon affiliate links). Personally I found I didn’t relate to her life very much so found the details a bit mundane, but I still think a lot of her research was very interesting and the book will definitely make you think about how to improve your day to day life in small but effective ways.
If you’re in Glasgow and around between 6 -7pm it would be great to see you (Roddy Woomble of Idlewild is playing a solo set afterwards if that helps persuade you!)
How I Stopped Worrying and Learnt to Love the Tech
I was actually quite slow to get the tech bug, for example I didn’t get a mobile phone until relatively late and I was fairly clueless when it came to computers until the last few years. My first ever blog post was in July 2005 so I was by no means an early adopter of blogging either , although 6 years is quite a long time now that I think about it.
Since I bought my Macbook a few years ago and then an iPhone, I’ve become a bit of a fan of Apple’s products, and I’ve also become quite a geek generally. For over a year I spent a fair chunk of each day reading blogs and trying out new web and mobile apps, and although my attention has now expanded to many other things, I still have a keen interest in modern technology, the internet and the latest gadgets (not that I can afford as many as I’d like).
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s essential to embrace technology if you want to further your creative goals – even if you’re not a blogger.
Note: If you do want other people to find your creative work having a blog is still the best way to get the word out and connect with people online. I may be preaching to the converted on this point though!
Technology Can Help You Go Pro
Obviously technology can help you with the actual act of creation – e.g. Michael Nobbs is now using an iPad for his drawings – and there are powerful programmes like Adobe Creative Suite which are used by designers, photographers and video editors. If you put the work in, these packages can allow you to present yourself in an extremely professional way, allowing you to compete with established creative pros when selling your work.
And whilst decent tech is certainly not cheap, these days you can create things on a reasonable well-powered laptop that would have been unimaginable less than a decade ago. The fact I can now film and edit HD video on my iPhone is mind-boggling to me, not just because I’m a lover of all things Apple and shiny, but because of what it allows me to do – film footage anywhere I am, and share it to the world via my blog.
Technology allows you to connect with the world
Using Skype, I’ve interviewed some of my favourite musicians like Bonnie Prince Billy and Regina Spektor, and received coaching and seminars on a variety of topics from people I like and admire from all over the world. I’ve made a bunch of friends on Twitter, and I can keep in touch with family and friends from all over the world on Facebook. I’m old enough to remember when NONE OF THIS WAS POSSIBLE. It wasn’t that long ago.
Hell even MySpace, which is now dead to me, was useful at the time. I remember when there was as much a buzz about it as there is now with Twitter. My music was appreciated by a few crazy people in different parts of the world, even though most people found it unlistenable tosh!
And I’m delighted to say a bunch of amazing creative people from all over the world read this blog. That’s one of the most exciting things about blogging for me.
Staying aware of the latest trends keeps you one step ahead
Now believe it or not, I’ve never been massively comfortable with bragging about myself. The beauty of blogging and social media means you don’t have to boast about what you’ve done, you just have to show the evidence and it will speak for itself. But on this occasion I’ll make an exception (didn’t take much persuading did it?) as I want to show you how being up to date with the latest trends can be of benefit.
Here’s some stuff I’ve achieved because I’ve embraced technology and the latest trends:
I’ve attracted paid freelance work due in part to my blogging and social media experience.
I was promoted to a digital engagement role at work thanks to my self -taught knowledge in the area.
I was asked to take part in a debate at St Andrew’s University with some very well respected and established journalists and academic figures, because I had written online about the future of journalism.
This weekend I reached 1,000 followers on Twitter for the first time – and it has happened organically just because I enjoy chatting to new people and finding out what they’re doing (and it’s helped that I’ve been on there for over two years).
I founded the I Hear a New World podcast for Scottish culture magazine The Skinny, which I hope helped in some way to raise the profile of some excellent but under-appreciated musicians.
And I”m not even a proper early adopter! There’s loads of people out there who are way ahead of me, but the fact is that by at least being aware of what’s going on in the world of technology, I can foresee trends and take advantage of them if I’m able to.
But Everyone’s a Blogger Nowadays
True, a lot of people have blogs these days, and not all of them are that great. But if you’re not in the game, you’re never going to win. Social networking sites aren’t going to cut it – look what’s happened to the aforementioned MySpace.
Writing for other publications is all very well but you need your own web ‘real estate’ if you want to get people to visit you and follow you over time. You need your own blog (preferably on WordPress) and you need to keep it up to date if you’re really serious about spreading your work to as many people as possible. Of course if you don’t want to to do that, then fair enough but if you’re reading this I’m guessing you probably do!
Just do yourself a favour – include a link so people can subscribe by RSS and email – and use Feedburner so that they can subscribe using their favoured feed reader without having to copy and paste the link. Okay, only obsessive blog readers like me might use RSS, but they’re exactly the people you want as long-term readers as they are more likely to share your stuff with other people.
Technology allows you to teach yourself pretty much anything
This might be the biggie. You can pretty much learn anything you want in terms of creative skills with the information that’s now readily available online.
Personally my first port of call is always books, and I now read a combination of print books and ebooks, either via my Kindle or downloaded directly from the website of the author. You can find info for free on pretty much anything if youre willing to take the time, and there are also a bunch of useful info products and subscription services which will distill this infiormation into an easy to follow guide and even provide it in audio and video formats (though you do need to be somewhat cautious about which of these you invest in).
YES, TECHNOLOGY CAN BE A PAIN IN THE ARSE.
Technology is never perfect, and I have to admit I do get frustrated sometimes when trying to use technology but that’s mainly because I either haven’t taken the time to learn something properly or am trying to do too much too quickly, without proper preparation.
And of course being online all the time does have it’s disadvantages and can be hugely distracting and that’s something we all need to learn how to deal with if we’re to stay sane and clear-minded.
What’s worse, environmentally and ethically there are a huge amount of issues with the sourcing of components and the disposal of obsolete tech.
But it’s hard not to see the positive sides. technology and the internet levels the playing field (at least it does for the time being) and allows anyone who’s got a creative urge to set up a website and get their work out there.
Of course the amount of effort and time involved in doing that is not to be underestimated, but I think it’s fair to say that technology currently gives creative people an opportunity that even 15 years ago would have been unimaginable. Who knows how long it might last? Get on board while you can.
The Ditch the Day Job Video Diaries are 20 video diaries I have filmed since I took voluntary redundancy in February 2012 – after ten years working in the Scottish civil service.
The videos also feature footage from a couple of adventures I went on to meet other bloggers and self-employed people from around the world and get their perspectives, including the World Domination Summit in Portland and a trip to Oslo.