Fortunately there are open source alternatives to the rather expensive Adobe programs: There is Inkscape which is a good alternative to Adobe Illustrator, Gimp which is the open source alternative to Photoshop, and Scribus which does a lot of things which have done be done in InDesign.
I haven’t done anything in Gimp yet, but I have been using Inkscape, and just now I am putting together my first illustrated story with Scribus. When I drew the first cat cartoons I only had a vague story in mind. However with each cat cartoon I drew and coloured the story became clearer and clearer. Unfortunatly the first illustration I had was one which had to be inserted at the end of the story. It seemed that I worked from end to front.
It seemed that it was time to put them together in the right order, and the tool for that is Scribus. You can easily insert pages, you can insert images, move them around, change their size, write paragraphs around them.
I must admit, that all that hasn’t been a planned process. I’ve watched a lot of videos about graphic novels in the meantime, and all of them tell you to write down the story first, then do the thumbnails and then do the drawing and colouring. I very much did the opposite: I began with a detailed drawing and illustration of something which now is the final scene. I had only a vague idea of the story. I had no thumbnails. I’ve got a mixture of hand-lettering and lettering done in photoshop. I’ve got a mixture of colouring with pencils and markers and digital colouring. I got a written story, and inserted in it, illustrations with captions. Seen from a professional view I severely failed.
BUT: I had and I am still having a lot of fun. A long time ago I had fun telling little stories. Then a time came when I had fun drawing, painting and colouring. Now, it seems that I’ve found a way to combine the two things I like to do – storytelling and painting/drawing/colouring. There’s always time to learn and get better – once you know where you want to go. Now I know.
Those of you who have been following my blog posts for some time know that two years ago I had set my focus on squidoo and that I managed to write about more than 60 Squidoo articles (to avoid the rather strange sounding word “lenses”). I wrote about classical music, about artists like Michelangelo and Goya. I presented my Zazzle products in several articles and then – I got a kind of Squidoo burnout. The pressure of having to produce one article after another had been just to great, and me and Squidoo went different ways.
After some time I managed to write the one or the other article, but my love and my passion was somewhere else – on the fields of painting, drawing, graphic design and Zazzle. Some days ago, however, things changed. I am on facebook, and a member of several groups which focus on promoting their Zazzle products and supporting each other. Suddenly there was a new group called Squid-Doers – people who wrote articles in order to promote their products. This group is full of supportive, motivating and kind people, and voila – my attitude towards Squidoo – and writing – has changed! I have just thrown a look on some of my “old” articles, and I had to grin and say to myself: “You’ve done a good job there. You could have done better with this or that article, but in general, you’ve done a good job.” And something inside me is prodding me to do it again… I don’t know where to take the time to do it, but ahhh, I’d like be squidoo-ing again…
For anybody who wants to have a look at my articles: Here’s a list of my articles.
I have been blogging for more than one year now, and I have joined Squidoo at the end of May 2009. I have been also a member of flickr for a much longer time – in fact uploading my photos to flickr was my first activity regarding the use of social media.
Blogging and uploading my pictures have been taking a lot of free time (it took me weeks to process and upload my photos from my travel through the Baltic countries), so the question was and still is: can I afford to begin with such a time-consuming activity as writing Squidoo lenses? (I wrote a a guest post on Squidoo over at Joyful Jubilant Learning so if you want to know the basics of Squidoo, just hop over and read the guest post!)
My answer to date is: Yes, but only under one condition: The three activities – uploading photos to Flickr, blogging, writing lenses – should not be seen as separate activities, independent from each other, but as activites connected with each other.
Let me give an example:
The screenshot you can see at the beginning of the post is a screenshot of one of my lenses, Berlin, the Green City. It would not have been possible to write it without my pictures on Flickr. That’s rather obvious, isn’t it? And how does blogging come in? Well, if you follow my blog regularly you will have noticed that there are quite a few blog posts on the green side of Berlin. I took those blog posts as a foundation for my Squidoo lens. I had to do some rewriting, though, because squidoo lenses are much more focused on giving useful information to their readers than my blog posts are.
So working on one social media could be useful for the other two, not only in relation to content but also in relation to sending visitors from flickr to the blog, from the blog to the lens, from the lens to the blog…
What is Squidoo?
“Squidoo is the popular publishing platform and community that makes it easy for you to create “lenses” online. Lenses are pages, kind of like flyers or signposts or overview articles, that gather everything you know about your topic of interest–and snap it all into focus.”
This description I found on a squidoo lense. Squidoo is free, you can built as many lenses (pages) as you like and you can earn money with it.
Publishing my first lense
Having a blog at wordpress.com I haven’t got the possibility to have adverts on it and be part of an affiliates program. And I would not like to do it, even if it would be possible for me. It would not match with the blog’s character.
But why not try out something different? I’ve got some knowledge about Berlin and some nice photos – why shouldn’t I make a lens out of it?
I joined Squidoo, played around with the tools and modules given there, took two spoonfuls of those courage pills (very useful they are, aren’t they?) and published my first lense.
And what did I learn?
Having done that I noticed that there are two important differences between blog posts and squidoo lenses:
- You have to do some careful planning before writing a lense.
When I began with my blog, I had a very general idea what I would be writing about. I wanted to present my photos and I wanted to have some writing going with it – something about the photos or a little story. Now, almost one year later, my blog has developed into something going beyond presenting photos. It is not so much the result of a planning process but the result of constant development.
I wrote my first lense in a similar way. I had a very general idea of how my views of Berlin – both as photos and writings – could be useful to foreigners visiting this wonderful city. So I chose a quite general URL. While working on the lense I noticed that every squidoo lense should focus on one special aspect, which in my case could be the tourist side of Berlin, or the green parts of Berlin, or the waterways of Berlin, or… Note to oneself: next time draw a mindmap, get a picture of the general theme and of the subthemes and then – work on the lense!
- Try to be useful!
Other blogs are focused on “How-to” subjects – how to manage your time, how to work efficiently, how to avoid writing mistakes. My blog is not a “how-to” blog. I am sharing my experiences, views, even moods and feelings. Of course I am pleased if it is “useful” for somebody else, but that is not my primary goal.
Squidoo lenses should be useful – so you have to have that usefulness in mind while writing a lense. As I see it that’s a kind of writing which is quite different to the one I am used to.
- Learning is fun!
The past days I enjoyed a feeling of pure fascination – I have reanimated my knowledge of HTML and CSS, tried it out, made mistakes, looked for help, corrected the mistakes. And I am already planning (Yes, I am planning this time) the next lenses.
And here it is, if you like to have a look:
She could not believe it.
She had come to the meeting, thinking that it would be easy. Most of her colleagues who would have to decide today, knew her. They knew, what kind of work she had been doing all over the years. She had been responsible for the monthly publication, which had been published regularly, every month, without delay, due to her committment.
And now? Nobody mentioned that. Nobody even mentioned her. Other people were nominated for the office, people with no experience.
She felt like running away, hiding in some secrete corner. “They don’t want you!” She could not think of something else. “They don’t want you!”
She slowly got up from her chair. Suddenly, the discussion stopped. People turned their heads towards her. She had their attention now. “What do you think you are doing?” When these words left her mouth she realized that she was not going to run away. She was going to fight. “I want you to talk about me. I have been doing this job for four years now, and I think that I did it well.” Ah, she felt much better now, though she noticed that her voice was trembling. They looked at her, some of them with a kind of guilty look on their faces. “But you know, I can pretty well do without that additional load of work. I can pretty well do without you!”
She could not believe that she had said this. Now she had got their full attention. Some of them definitely looked like pupils having just been reprehended by their teacher.
She moved towards the door. Then she turned round: “I’m fed up with this discussion! If you don’t want me to do the job, I’ll just go and let you manage on your own!” “Come on, get back to your chair – we didn’t say we didn’t want you.” “Calm down, you know we need you!”
When she thought about the whole thing in the evening she knew that she had learnt one important thing: If you want something, you have to speak up. Don’t expect other people speaking for you!
This is a contribution to the “What you learn from Adversity” Group Writing Project over at Middlezonemusings.com.
The first thing I learned was that it was a proper decision to blog in English – which is not my native language. I did this after a period of blogging in two languages. I remember very well how I discussed this possibility with Joanna Young who gave me the advice to just try it out. I tried it out and, after a few blog posts, decided to change from Blogger to WordPress and to write in English. That was my first writing lesson: Writing is tightly tied to culture, and just translating a German blogpost into the English version simply won’t do it. I had to write in a completely different way.
The second thing I learned was that my English was accepted. I posted a lot of photos, and the writing that went with them was quite short. So the number of mistakes was limited by the number of words written. Still I was afraid of not being able to deliver. ‘The people coming to my blog encouraged me to continue with my blog posts, telling me not to bother about my language capacities.
The third thing I learned was that presenting my photos was a part of my blogging. I published a poem (in a sudden attack of audacity) and two very, very short stories. Again I got encouraging feedback and support. I published some pastel drawing which I had done a few years ago. Again I was afraid – would my “products” be good enough for the public? And again I got reactions which made me blush.
And that’s the last and most important thing I learned: To try out new things, to overcome my fear. The steps I had to do myself, but I needed and still need my various blogging friends in order to evaluate my steps, to get an orientation for the paths I will take. So: A big Thank you to Joanna Young, Robert Hruzek , Brad Shorr, Karen Swim, Rosa Say and Janice Cartier!
This is a contribution to Joanna Young’s group writing project: Writing Lessons