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Practice, practice, practice!

Candles I read somewhere that you should practice the things you find difficult to do, not those you find easy. Well, up to yesterday I did not know how to do gradients in Inkscape. I knew how to do them in Photoshop, but everytime I tried to do them with the vector program I failed. I looked at several video tutorials on Youtube, but no way!

On the other hand I read a lot of Adobe Illustrator tutorials about using gradients and looking at the amazing results I so wished I were not too daft to learn!

And then yesterday once again I looked at a Youtube tutorial (one, that was new to me) and click! I had that aha experience. i could but try it out, although it got late in the evening. It worked! I did it!

But I knew one thing: Without practice I would lose the new gained knowledge. So I opened my Inkscape today and did these two candles. I know I can only describe them as “work in progress”, but I love the colours and how the gradients go!

And I also learnt something very important: Never ever think you’re too daft to learn something! Often it is the way things are taught which makes difficult to learn something. It just needed that one well designed and organised tutorial to put things into the right place.

Teaching how to Zazzle

One of my closest friends here in Berlin is an artist and a photographer. I’ve been telling her about my Zazzle adventures for a long time, and now she’s decided to open her own store. Yesterday we met and I helped her to get her shop online and to create some products.

She told me later on the phone that it had been a fascinating time for her, and that she had enjoyed it very much. For me it had been the same, but for different reasons:

  • I like to teach. When I say “teach” I mean it in the sense of helping someone else to discover new things, to transfer my knowledge to another person.
  • When you teach someone something you have to be very clear about the process itself. Many steps that are required to put a design on a certain object I do quite automatically in the meantime; but when you teach you’ve got to have not only in mind the single steps, but how they follow another and why.
  • By teaching my friend how to zazzle I noticed how much I’ve already learnt in the process. I’ve picked up something here and something there, have gone to the forums, have read tutorials. I’ve collected a lot of knowledge, but until yesterday, when I tried to help my friend with her shop, I was not aware of how much I know. Now I know – which does not exclude the fact that there are a lot of people outside who know far more than I do!
  • Yesterday we decided that it would be good to have a manual in the German language, with some screen shots and the single steps which are necessary to open a store, to make it stand out, to prepare the designs and to create the various products. That’s a challenge which I like, and I think it will be the main project for the rest of my summer vacation!

My Creativity Journal

Today I want to share something with you — my creative journal.

In June a friend of mine gave me a DIN A 4 notepad with a very nice cover as a present. I decided to use it as a kind of journal for my creative activities. In the beginning I mostly wrote down tasks–work on that Squidoo lens, create a new Zazzle design, put it on new Zazzle products. I also wrote down ideas regarding the next blog posts, and when to put them into practice.

From August on my lists changed into longer paragraphs. I began to write reports about my experiences with Photoshop–what did I learn? Which mistakes could I avoid in the future? I also wrote down thoughts about the use of twitter as a promotional tool. I jotted down the structure of a new Squidoo lens about my Zazzle products (I must admit I haven’t put that into practice yet!)

To say it in one sentence: The journal now is a tool for development and learning. To-do-lists haven’t disappeared completely, but often they are annotated (“This task is important because … In doing it I have to keep in mind that…”)

Having written this I would be very interested to know: What do you think about such a journal?

Learning Journal

Since a few days I am using a learning journal. It all began with participating in one of Ruzuku’s challenges. In the beginning I was just curious. I had the slight feeling that I was learning more than I really was conscious about, and I hoped that the challenge would help me to realize my learning processes.

The first step was to find the appropriate medium for a learning journal: What kind of learning  journal would that be? Another wordpress blog kept private? Or would it be a simple notepad to write in with a ballpoint pen? I had tried a private wordpress blog, and I found out that I hadn’t used it regularly. Hmmm. I have a journal where I write down what’s happened on that day and the other. It is a nice book-like notebook with a colorful cover. I discovered, however, that my hand is not suited for writing down longer pieces. I was looking for something electronical.

And I found it – at

Springnote is an online web application which is free. It is not only free, but easy to use and you can adjust it to your needs.

So I had my learning journal. The important point is that with writing down regularly in my learning journal I noticed how many things I learned and how they connected with my goals:

  • I wanted to put up a page at scribd to promote some of my squidoo pages  (private) = so I had to download Scribus and install it and learn to overcome the fear of doing something wrong in the process. I had to learn how to do desktop publishing with this program (I am still learning)
  • I had to create an animated banner for the webpage of the University of the Arts (job) = so I had to learn how to do it with imageready and photoshop
  • I wanted to create a focus for my various online activities = so I had to learn how to do it with tumblr which includes to look at other people’s way of working with tumblr

These are only three examples, and they concentrate on learning when solving problems.

I have no difficulties to write down that kind of learning process. But what about the things I am learning when reading a blog post or a book? This seems to be much more difficult. I haven’t written anything down which covers those kind of learning processes. It seems to me that there is still a lot of learning to be done…

Do you write notes when you read a blog post, an article or a book? And if you do, do these notes contain what you learned by reading them?

Tumblr – what is it good for?

Today I had one of these aha-moments. I had been quite busy at work and gave me the permission to tweet a bit. One of the links I followed was the link to Rosa Say’s tumblr. In my opinion she uses tumblr as it should be used: she announces her new blog posts, directs the reader to interesting and inspiring posts on other blogs, presents interesting videos.

I was so inspired by this that I rediscovered my tumblr for the second time. Sometimes in the last months I had got the impression that I was participating in so many social media activities that I was losing the “red thread”, as we say in German. I was creating squidoo pages, I was blogging here and at crabbysbeach and writing a weekly classical music column, I had openend a zazzle store, and of course, I was tweeting. I was hopping from one activity to the other and had the impression that all these activities were not connected with each other.

As far as I can see it by going through Rosa Say’s tumblr (I highly recommend reading it!) tumblr is used here as a kind of focus, a means of connecting her online activities. I now declare: I will try to do that for the next 4 weeks with my tumblr also. And after those four weeks I will evaluate my tumblr activities. Of course I will keep you posted!

What do you call it?

What do you call it?

I have a colleague who works in the department of International Relations. She is a very communicative person, and she is from Scotland. Every time I meet her I take the opportunity to talk English with her in order to get some practise with the language.

Today she used the color printer in the room next to mine. She had to wait for the copies, so I said “hello” and we exchanged a few words. My eyes fell on the object displayed in the photo above, and I asked her “How would you call that in English?” She looked at it and shook her head. “I don’t know,” she said.

You must know then that she has been living for a long time in Germany. She communicates in German for most of the time. “Well, let’s have a look at the dictionary, then”, I said. “Hole puncher” was the result a few minutes later. “Hole puncher? I can’t imagine that it is called hole puncher.” We then went to together. The said object was called paper punch there. She was not very satisfied with that either and declared that she would do some research later on.

And now I ask you, my dear blogging friends from all over the world: what do you call it (How do you call it? – I am not sure here either)? I am looking forward to your answers!