Blogs began dying somewhere around 2008. Personal blogs are on the endangered list between the rhino and the saola. Writing about what you’re up to used to be enough. Doing that with photos was a step ahead. There weren’t billions of things being shared every day, because it wasn’t easy to do. You’d need a digital camera then some know-how for getting a website up. Content management systems made it easier, but one-click installations weren’t the norm.
There were things with many names—365 Project, Project 365— but it was posting one thing each day for a year. It was usually a photography project but some people did other art. Now these things are just hashtags. Back then they were presented as a challenge. I failed multiple times.
“I’m starting my 365 challenge.“ — Me in high school
“Nevermind.” — Me, on day 17.
I would then play 7 hours of Counter-Strike
Finishing one of these annual photo projects was a big accomplishment.
Sharing a video every day? Before YouTube? You could probably win a Webby. Or at least a custom ribbon to slap on your page.
Now people do this in their sleep. Even kids. Multiple videos and photos. Every single day of the year. It’s called Snapchat.
There are millions of WordPress blogs with people sharing things they’ve made. I’m adding another one to the mix.
On not being just another WordPress site
Blogs are still the best way to broadcast longer-form text and images. (I’m counting Medium as a form of blogging.) There are tons of blogs, though, so it’s important to niche down. That also helps in staying focused.
I’ll write about things that interest me. The through-line will be that I’m learning to draw. The bigger picture is that I’m learning to tell stories visually. I’ve always wanted to be good at combining text and visuals.
Each week, I’ll make one video and a post to accompany it.
In learning to draw, I did some searching on recommendations for learning to draw digitally. Almost all of them said to start with paper and pencil. You’ll learn bad habits. You’ll use the tool as a crutch.
It reminded me of something I read in Smartcuts: The Breakthrough Power of Lateral Thinking, by Shane Snow. Children in Finland use calculators early. They end up excelling in math:
The overwhelming majority of academic research about calculators indicates that leveraging such tools improves conceptual understanding. By learning the tool (calculator) first, we actually master the discipline (math) faster.
This is my long-winded and tenuous defense of buying an iPad and Apple Pencil anyway. I’m going to learn to tell stories visually and I’ll take an entirely digital route.
Hopefully that’s a deep enough niche to find readers.
My larger goal is learning to tell stories with visuals and text. A lot of the inspiration for the format I have in mind comes from Extra Credits — a video series about game design. Mostly conceptual rather than actual implementation details. Most videos are narrated stills with some animation.
The thing that really got me was their episode on minimal viable products (MVP). I’m familiar with MVPs for startups and their episode talks about MVPs for video games. An MVP is likely more basic than it might seem. Mario would just be a block running and jumping over pits. No koopas, no fire flowers, nothing.
I got to thinking about what the MVP would look like for this project. I think one minute of narrated images will be the MVP. If I eventually want to make five minute videos, it’d be five interesting minutes. Making one interesting minute is a good start.
I admire that Malcolm Gladwell can take raw material on a subject and make it interesting for a chapter. Gladwell said he admires Michael Lewis for being able take make something engaging for an entire book.
I’m striving to make something interesting for one minute. So I’ll start broad with the topics. When I improve, I’ll be able to take that full minute on one topic. Then multiple minutes.
One great minute is the goal. One minute of any quality at all is the first baby step I’ll take.
On the Pro Blogger podcast, Darren Rowse recently talked about taking imperfect action to build momentum. This first post and video won’t be perfect, but it’ll be one step forward to build momentum.
This week, I was thinking about how to come up with the video. I’m going to start with recording a Keynote presentation and narrating it.
To make the presentation, first I’ll start with the post. The way i see it, the presentation is a condensed version of a post with just the best parts. The longer version comes first.
I’ll aim to draw 50 things each week. Some will be more complex than others. Some might be a few words.
From those 50 slides I’ll pick 12 to share and write about. That’s what I did for this post. Then, aiming for a one-minute video, I’ll talk about each section for 5 seconds.
That’s the MVP. And I’m already learning from it. 12 might be too many each week. I estimate that I had more time this week than I’ll usually have. Eight might work better. And that’s about 8 seconds per section in the video.
Make things, show people, learn more things
Other title ideas for this weekly video and blog post: Creativity weekly, Making things weekly.
When thinking of a title, I thought “What do I want this blog to be about?” If I’m dedicated and have 40 posts a year from now, what would I want them to represent collectively?
Learning. I’m learning how to tell stories. It’d be great if I could show my progress as I learn to draw. And I can try pulling stories from links and books that I find interesting.
I had the title already. My Twitter account used to be @makeshowlearn. I’m gonna switch it back. Make, Show, Learn was based on a slide from a WWDC presentation about prototyping with Keynote.
The slide described steps for testing prototypes: make a prototype, show the prototype to people, and learn from their use of the prototype. Repeat.
I used to write about design and the Twitter handle reminded me of steps to follow to grow as a designer. Make things, show what I made to people online, and learn from that process. Repeat.
It worked. Some people liked what I was showing. (Some people hated it, of course.) A few people commented or emailed saying I helped them learn. That was very rewarding.
Then I stopped.
Now I’m starting again, but with storytelling as the focus.
Getting my reps in: 100 posts, 100 days
Earlier this year, I wrote 100 posts in 100 days. I learned to enjoy the process and I appreciate the collective end result. However, a lot of the individual posts are just so rough. I’m not proud of every single post. I needed to edit more.
I do like some of them though. Here are a few of my favorite posts:
Japan Trip 05 of 10: Ramen — I went to Japan earlier this year with my girlfriend. A lot of my favorite posts are about that trip. In this one, I go over a few of the ramen places we ate at.
Japan Trip 06 of 10: Five more thoughts — Some thoughts on the Fushimi Inari temple, which really stood out among all the temples we visited.
Japan Trip 08 of 10: Rico! Ospreay! — I read that in lieu of mastering words and sentences to make the writing interesting, you can do something interesting and then write about it. We went to a New Japan Pro Wrestling show and it happened to have one the most insane matches from this year.
Book Notes: Save the Cat! — I wrote a lot of book notes posts. Some were better than others. I want to continue doing these.
Book Notes: Smartcuts — Another book notes post. David Heinemeier Hansson is an example of someone that used a Smartcut to success. He created Rails when Basecamp was still called 37Signals. It’s not in the book, but I enjoyed learning that Ernest Kim and Kicksology had roots in 37 Signals.
I’ll continue linking to other posts in future issues. Some of the content is worth checking out, so I wouldn’t want it to go completely unseen.
As mentioned, I have a bunch of posts that I’d like to link back to. Some of my drawings this week are about existing posts. This solves two things: 1.) it gives me concrete ideas to draw and 2.) it allows me to link back to posts. A couple weeks ago, I wrote about almost drowning. It’s a book note post about Steven Pressfield’s latest book Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t. It’s is about the importance of storytelling and served as motivation to become a better storyteller.
I was sketching ideas for the front page of this blog then I thought this part looked like a mouth. So I made it the mouth of a monster. (It also looks sort of like a building.)
I showed it to my girlfriend and she said it looks like ube. We had ube ice cream recently and it was actually labeled ube instead of taro. I wonder if there’s actually a difference. I can look this up.
They’re different. And I’m delighted that ube is a tuber.
This monster’s name is now Ube.
A drawing of a tree
Each of the posts will have drawings. I can talk about the process. I’m pretty new to this. Right now I’m doing something like this:
- Sketch with a pencil tool
- Use one of the ink tools to go over the pencil
- Add a layer and set its blending mode to Multiply. Use a paint tool to color things.
I mentioned bad habits earlier. Some tutorials I’ve watched mentioned learning bad habits. Artists reviewing the 9.7″ iPad have side remarks saying you might pick up bad habits learning to draw on it. You might get used to zooming too much. You might lean on being able to undo. You won’t be able to draw with pencil and paper.
Drawing with pencil and paper isn’t a goal of mine right now. The tradeoff of these potential bad habits is that I’ll be able to build a good habit: showing my work. I want to make digital things because they’re easier to share.
I’m also having more fun learning to draw digitally. It’s likely that other people are in the same boat. They want to draw using their tablets, because it’s fun. Maybe I can provide value to those people.
Ben Orenstein, a developer at thoughtbot, wrote about landing a Rails job and the value of blogging daily:
Write about what you’ve learned so far. Don’t make the excuse that you’re just a beginner. Imagine someone who is two months behind you and write for them. An active blog shows passion, demonstrates skill, and helps you make more Ruby friends.
I can at least help someone two months behind where I’m at. Right now I’m at 1 week so I’d be helping someone at like –7 weeks. It doesn’t quite apply. Eventually I’ll be able to share resources and learnings helpful for someone just getting started.
I mentioned writing 100 posts in 100 days. On Fridays, I’d share links that I found interesting from the week. The idea was inspired by/stolen from Tim Ferriss. I’d like to continue sharing links. Part of this weekly dozen will be link shares. It might even completely be that in the future.
In Ferriss’s most recent 5-Bullet Friday, he links to a video of his evening routine. The first part is really followable (NOTE: No red squiggly came under this word. ) — tea, apple cider vinegar, and honey. It’s supposed to knock you out for the entire night.
Then he goes into his private soaking tub. Some people say the cider and honey combo creates more vivid dreams. Dreams like owning a home with a private soaking tub.
Closing with honey and some links about drawing with an iPad
Here’s a honey bear that looks more like a honey squirrel. Something that occurred to me here is that I used a white paint tool. I don’t know how this would work if I was working with markers. I mean I’m guessing there’s probably a white marker so that’s probably the answer.
Scratch what I said a couple sections ago. I’ve already got resources that were helpful in my first week of drawing digitally.
Procreate 3 tutorial by James Julier — This was a great overview of a lot of Procreate features and how he uses them. It’s great to be able to see how experts work, knowing you have access to the same tools they’re using.
How to Draw Using Procreate by Will Terry — Another Procreate overview and he draws with his finger.
Spiderman speed painting by Danny Glasglow — I will never be this good. (“Especially with that attitude!” I know.)
Drawing on the iPad Pro by Scott Johnson — This was fun and, again, it’s good to see an expert work. I’d like to be able to draw this well but I know I’m thousands of reps away.
iPad Pro 9.7“ vs 12.9” by NihongoGamer — The previous four links were all centered around using Procreate for drawing and painting. In this video, I saw that he was using the Notes app for sketching. He explains that he likes how the pencil feels in it. I liked that he was just creating new notes with a two finger swipe.
I started trying that and I really like it. Constraints can be good. Not being able to tweak paper size and all the different brushes is good in many ways. I can just get right to drawing.
I’ll continue using both Procreate and Notes and I’ll learn what works best for me for different situations.
Thanks for checking this out. Now I gotta go make that video. Give me a minute and I’ll give you a minute.