The Thrill of New Things

No, I’m not talking about shopping although that’s excellent, too. In the past two weeks I have learned more new skills than I have in the past two years. They’re simple skills, but that doesn’t matter, they’re NEW. And suddenly, I am a New Skill Junkie. I’m bright, I’m happier, and god knows, I’m more productive just because I have all these new things I can do.

It’s also shown me how much free instruction there is on the internet. I’ve been using Google forever to answer questions, but I never watched many instructional videos–very short attention span–until suddenly I needed fast instruction in Keynote animation. And you know how it is when you Google, one thing leads to another. Google: the potato chip bag of the internet.

And it’s not just research that leads to another thing. I had the rough Keynote presentations done for my first three lectures, so I was feeling pretty cocky. Then I started writing the script for the first one–thirty-two slides–and realized that I’d missed some good details, so I went back and added some more slides. But then I realized that some of the graphics I’d added could be really good illustrations of those concepts so I added some more slides. Then I did an outline and realized that I could focus those concepts better, so I rearranged and edited slides. Then I rewrote the script and added some more slides. Then I did the notebook and realized that I could add a couple more slides for clarity. Then I did the workbook . . . . One hundred and eighty-one slides. In half an hour. Most of that is from animation, but still, it’s a whole new world of teaching: words on the screen, spoken words, pictures . . . fingers crossed it’s not just a mess.

I’d forgotten how great it is just to learn new things–Pages is infinitely superior to Word, by the way–to make new things. One of the problems with writing novels is that they take so damn long. The thrill of finishing something in two weeks is addictive. I don’t know how much anybody else is going to learn from these lectures, but I’m learning a lot. I’d tell you what I’ve learned in detail, but I must go add slides to the next lecture.

62 thoughts on “The Thrill of New Things

  1. I’m trying to love Pages, but for one thing, I think my laptop is smaller than I should have bought, I find it hard to see. On the other hand, I made an amazing Christmas newsletter using one of the templates, that’s a really cool feature.

  2. “The thrill of finishing something in two weeks is addictive.”

    Be careful, this is how my husband ended up writing comic books.

      1. (-: Yeah, but you already speak Writing and Graphic Design . . . if French and Spanish are all in the Romance family and let you understand Italian pretty well, then I think the analogy will extend that you can speak Graphic Novel with just a little more effort (-:. And when you mess up and have “first language interference” in a real language, you’ve made a mistake, but when you do it in ART, you’ve made a new, fresh thing!

        1. I know. I’m still tempted. I have a dozen books on graphic novel writing downstairs. But right now, it’s Lavender and Writewell.

      2. Hell, I could see you easily being a one-woman graphic novelist – no need for an artist or inker or letterer when Crusie’s on the job!

        Learning new things is the best πŸ˜‰

  3. If you can do it, then so can I: there are various things that I didn’t touch yet with that virtual ten-foot pole but I will. Such as Gimp. Everybody sings its praises but when I start it, I don’t know where to begin and I close it right away. Now I’m decided to learn how to use it. You are my role model ever since I started writing my first novel.

      1. Gimp is a graphics manipulation program like Photoshop but free. Tutorials are on the web. πŸ™‚

          1. is it possible you set Gimp as the default for opening some kind of file that you encounter when you’re futzing with Photoshop?
            I live with a Linux nerd but we keep our computers strictly segregated, so I don’t have experience with this, but it seems like you might either be using something that defaults to the free version or have accidentally chosen Gimp off a dropdown or something.

        1. Only thing with Gimp that keeps tripping me up is the need to add extra modules to replicate all the built-in stuff that comes with Photoshlorp. That said, I can’t afford PS for my PC and my Mac has a dubious video card, so if anybody’s a Gimp specialist, I’d love advice!

          1. It’s entirely possible. I am a complete newbie at Photoshop, and I’m basically learning the skills I need to do one kind of project instead of learning the program as a whole. I could be doing anything in there.

  4. I keep saying I’m going to try Scrivener but then I get near it and get overwhelmed at the idea of learning HOW to use Scrivener so I shut down and say, “Eh, I’ll just use Word.”

    Maybe I’ll go watch a tutorial. Can’t wait to get these lessons!

    1. I tried Scrivener, too, but it seemed so confusing. Didn’t seem to go with how I write. But now I have to write another manual, so maybe it will help with that. I just write so linearly ….

      1. I’m with you, Skye. I bough Scrivener and made it through about 3/4s of the tutorial. It’s cool, and will probably work for me in some ways, but frankly, it was easier to just make notes and a spreadsheet in Word than it was to master a new task while I was mid-writing/editing. I still intend to go back and look at the rest of it… Any day now.

        1. Personally, I think the best thing to do with Scrivener is just jump in. Use what looks like it’ll work for you best. Then when you’re comfortable with that try something else. It’s a big buffet and if you try everything the first time you walk in the door you stand a good chance of being overwhelmed and leaving with a tummy ache.

          1. I also write linear, but I’m forever getting several chapters down the line and thinking, “What did I name that law firm again?” Or “Who was the lady running the day care?” Then I’m searching through a hundred pages. So for that sort of thing, I think I’d like it.

          2. Terri, I’m slogging through my WIP putting all the characters and places into Excel — my hope is that I’ll have a chronological list (I put in the page number in a new cell), and an alphabetical one. Next book, I’m definitely going to plan to do 20 minutes of “bookkeeping” at the end of each day and put them in the Excel spreadsheets *while* I’m writing.

            A lot of these fancy programs are already on our computers . . . I keep thinking I could do Pinterest without the site, but then again, I do love the cross-fertilization and sharing that goes on there. However, if they get freaky, it’s nice to know that I now know how lovely it is to save pictures to folders.

          3. That’s exactly what I had to do. Even with Heidi and Jenny holding my hand and getting examples of how to use things, I got stuck in mastering the program instead of just using it. I got over that, and it’s my single favorite software program EVAR.

    2. The class offered on Scrivener by Gwen Hernandez is about a zillion kinds of awesome. AND, for those not wanting to take a class, she is set to release a Scrivener for Dummies this Fall.

      I’ve learned a lot and am just starting to put some things into practice. It is wonderful for keeping everything together.

      I also really like MacJournal for when I just want to free write and brainstorm on ideas but within a program that keeps it all neatly organized for me.

  5. I think it’s wonderful for the brain to accept the challenge and learn new things. I’ve recently started to learn Italian. I tried years ago and gave up and told myself that languages just weren’t my thing. Now I must apply myself to learning more of the technological things…I’m way behind on computer stuff.

  6. I’m smiling! That sounds like so much fun. I wonder if graphic/photos slides etc could replace a collage for story boarding…or am I way behind.
    Robena, I’m way behind as well, but I did play Barbies and Cinderella and the Prince who met Cindy in a farmyard while she tended pigs, sheep, and a zebra and they all went dancing…all day yesterday.

    1. It definitely can – that’s what I’ve been doing for years. That said, I spent an hour cruising Michael’s a few days ago (the California version of Hobby Lobby). I made the mistake of walking down the scrapbooking aisle… Martha Stewart makes money selling the neato frackin’ everywhere! I spent a good ten minutes muttering “What Would Jenny Do?”while staring at the groovy stickers and papers and paints and stamps and clippy snippy doogies before I was able to pull myself away and stumble toward the knitting supplies.

      If I allowed myself to go in there with the sole intent of doing a book collage, OMFG. As it was, I barely escaped after paying $100+ ransom (a few of the Martha Stewart shinies may have leapt into my basket under their own power). Creating a book collage from scratch could easily run me $500-700. I gotta sell something first – I’d need my advance just to afford my process πŸ˜‰ Too bad I’m not writing anything with a Yeti in it. There’s plenty of extra fur drifting around here as the dogs blow their coats.

      So how do you do a super-wicked-bitchin’-awesome physical collage without selling a kidney?

      1. LOL … great post Inkgrrl. My collage is in my head….gets very busy in there most times.
        I sometimes wonder if looking at a collage would make things worse…too cluttered. πŸ™‚

      2. Jenny would get the Michaels coupons in the mail and shop the clearance aisle. We also have a Michaels. Right across the street from Hobby Lobby and about a quarter mile from Steak N Shake. It’s the southern Ohio version of the Devil’s Triangle.

      3. I love Joann’s coupons. And they so work. I spend way too much money in that store, rationalizing to myself that I’m not spending money, I’m saving 40%! And I know all about those goodies that jump off the shelves into a basket. That’s one wicked marketing strategy is all I can say.

  7. I tried to like Pages because, hey, not Microsoft. But it just didn’t have the features that I was accustomed to in Word. So I continue to use Word. But that was a few years ago when I first got my Mac and wanted to try things out. Maybe Pages has grown up and gotten way better since then. Wonder if they still let you try it for free for a bit?

  8. Glad you’re having fun and learning new things, Jenny! Also glad we’re all going to benefit from them πŸ™‚

    I’m selfish that way.

    What is Pages? Is it strictly a Mac thing? I’ve never heard of it. (I too am way behind.)

      1. I’d say it’s even more like PageMaker, if you’ve ever used that app. It’s very easy to lay out pages with text and graphics.

  9. (-: Like with a 1000 likes! I’ve been learning new tech lately to present classes on International Culture, and I know what you mean. They’ve made things so user-friendly . . . it’s still a challenge, but the kind of challenge that makes you proud of yourself, not the kind that makes you want to curl up in a ball (most times, anyway — gave up on trying to superimpose a caption over a pic for now, but maybe I’ll tackle that later). Right now, I’m making a calendar using the lovely pics from Graphics Fairy (kids have a birthday lesson next month). Not strictly necessary, but SO fulfilling, and I think the kids will like it, too.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  10. I love learning stuff. It’s one reason that I like teaching….and why I’ve been TO school for so long (and so many things).

    It’s also something that makes it hard for me to understand my (high school) students sometimes. How can they not think this new thing, this idea, this skill is COOL?!?

      1. I was always wired differently. Even IN high school.

        But, oh, yes. I know their preoccupations. (They think that since they don’t listen to me, I can’t hear them. It’s like playing hide-and-seek with 2 year olds.)

        It’s fun.

  11. Have never had a Mac or an ipad, though have an iphone and love it and would fight to death to keep it. Have always sort of hated MS Word, but those that know about these things tell me to stick with what you learned on. I guess I’m wondering, in the spirit of this post, if I were to switch from a pc to a mac and use page (correct?) instead of word, how hard a transition would it likely be? I am sore tempted. My sister brought her brand new Macbook Pro (which is absolutely beautiful) with her on her last visit and she is switching over from pc use but is taking lessons at the mac store because she wants to learn everything it can do with images, especially photos. I would likely use mine less for that and more for creating documents, some illustrated. MS Word has always seemed clunky, non-intuitive, and badly interfaced. And the support or “help”–don’t get me started.

    So. Thoughts? Anyone out there who has switched after years of pc use? Are there downsides to macs? Please help!

    1. I like Pages because it appears to be simpler–I don’t use a tenth of what Word can do because I don’t need to–and it does some things that I don’t think Word does. I like the way I can place images in a text, for example. But mostly it’s just familiar because like all Apple apps, it uses the same commands, Inspector bar, etc. I’m still doing a lot my fiction writing in Word because that’s what I learned on, but all of the notebooks and workbooks for Writewell I’ve done in Pages because it would let me do more things intuitively. It really doesn’t matter because Pages exports to and from Word, so I’m not losing anything if I use the program that’s easier.

      Downsides to Macs: More expensive. And somebody just wrote a virus for Macs so we’re no longer virus-free. On the other hand, there’s only one so far, so compared to PCs . . .

      1. I’ve been an Apple user since the early 80’s, when you had to purchase everything from an “Apple Valued Retailer”. LOVE my Mac-converted hubby years ago. Pages? Not so much. I guess I should give it another chance. My issue is having to save something as a word document so I can share it with pc users.

  12. Thank you! This is helpful. And as you say, if it weren’t for the price, I’d just buy one and try it. But yikes. I could buy 3 or 4 of the HP laptop I got last year for what my sister paid for her Macbook Pro. Which was pretty bells&whistlesey, but still… How comparable is the way we use the iphones (I use mine like a mini computer and have a lot of apps) and the way you use the apple computers? Impossible question to answer, I’m sure, but I’m trying to talk myself into something, I guess. Any thoughts on the ipad as a gateway drug?

    1. I’ve been using Macs since 1985, so I’m not really the person to ask. I did try teaching a class on Windows computers once and gave up because it was too damn hard.
      So the iPhone is more comparable to the iPad. The MacPro is just a very slick little machine that does everything I need it to do without fuss or crashing. It doesn’t have a touch screen, just a touch pad. Depending on what you need a computer for, the iPad might do it. I know Gaffney uses hers for almost everything. And the iPad is freaking amazing.
      I love my MacBook. Plus when the display went wonky after something like three years, they replaced it with an entirely new screen and updated the whole thing for free even though it was clear I’d dropped it several times (dents on the edge). (Oh, yeah, get AppleCare. Expensive and worth every penny.)

      1. I think the difference between the Mac and the PC is a left brain right brain thing. I’ve worked on both extensively and you do have to switch your thinking when you go back and forth. As an artsy person Jenny, you were going to clash with the PC. You have to get your analytical on to change sides. πŸ™‚

        1. That would explain it. The Mac is a very emotional machine. The box it comes in makes you swoon. And then when you take it out of the box and plug it in, it does everything but hug you.

          1. I have never thrown out a Mac product box. I think I’ve lost my iPad Classic, but I will keep the box forever. They are just too well made.

          2. Sold. This emotional machine thing totally does it for me. At very least am going to start saving for an ipad. If only for so I can hoard the box…

    2. You might look at the MacBook air. It’s pretty incredible and not nearly as expensive as a MacBook Pro.

      And, I know it’s knee-jerk, but, I bristle at those who try to differentiate Mac and pc users by how technical they are. I’m tech-savvy (worked as a software developer and IT specialist on both systems for years) and there’s nothing I can’t do on my Mac.

      I think you get used to whatever machine you’re on, though, so if you’re happy with your current system the grass is green enough right there where you are :D.

  13. I think the continual learning is the geeky version of ‘oh, shiny’ sometimes. I do that a LOT. I’ll find something on the internet or Pinterest or [gasp] wikipedia and keep reading for hours. I think it helps keep our brains young. Michelangelo was once asked what his secret to life was and he answered, “I’m always learning”. He was in his 80s at the time.

  14. I love learning new things, too. And of course it energizes you! Everyone says that physical exercise is great for stress, right? Well, learning is just exercising another kind of muscle, so it makes sense that it can give you a kind of high.

    Of course, I always enjoyed school, too. I’m still kind of geeky about history and science stuff.

  15. I wish I could get excited about computer n shhhtuff. But working on this blog I started has just forcibly reminded everyone how technology and I don’t play well together. My camera is now eating batteries for fun and the computer at times just hops from one spot to another or eats what I’m doing or just ignores me. When I mutter unkind things at the computer, my son starts twitching and says things to his dad like, “I don’t know if we should be letting her do this.”. Dad does a laugh/snort and then they both just stare at me. I know, I’m whining. But I wish I could scoot around the computer like normal people.

    1. You will. There’s a fast learning curve if you’re on a Mac. If you’re on a PC, I don’t know. The only time I ever tried to work on one I gave up, but that was probably fifteen years ago. Computers change.

      1. As a PC user, I can say the secrets to scooting around on a PC are these: Research. Practice. Back everything up. And also talk to other people about what you are doing — try to find people who *don’t* snort, LOL!

        I can’t remember how to do things if I don’t do them in awhile, but all that is out on the internet — a refresher course brings things back quickly. (BTW, my operating system is in Japanese, so I’m constantly trying to use English instructions with a Japanese OS, and it . . . is a learning experience (-:.)

  16. I’m teaching a night class that starts in two weeks. It’s one night a week for FOUR DAMN HOURS. Sigh. I MUST made major adjustments to my teaching style so that this horrible set-up becomes an actual learning environment for my students. (I do a bit much of the “sage on the stage” for a four-hour time slot.) I need to master (or pretend to) a few techie things to make those adjustments.

    So, I’m going to take your enthusiasm and run with it. I do like to learn new things. I do. I really, really do. πŸ™‚

    1. One of the reasons I’m interested in all things Apple is that several of the teaching assistants where I work have started using ipads in the classroom because they are versatile, can be drawn on, etc., and can be easily hooked up to a projector for Prezi or PowerPoint-style presentations.

      But generally, for the four-hour class (I’ve taken a four hour class but never taught one–yikes!) I’d say if you can get them to bring their laptops with them, or can provide them with access to a computer lab of some kind, that it would be a good idea to get them DOING something with at least part of the class time. One of the good things about longer classes is that you have time to model something, have them practice it, either individually or in groups, and still have time for them to share what they’ve mastered as in “do” it or present it or whatever. I’ve found that this is a process students will generally buy into.

      And good luck with it!!

    2. In a situation like this, group work can be your friend. It breaks up the teacher-centric classroom, gets them physically moving at least a little, provides variation, and allows them to each speak themselves. Then getting back into class as a whole provides them with things to say. In our ideal world, anyway.

  17. “Google: the potato chip bag of the internet” <–What a perfect metaphor πŸ˜‰ No wonder you are a best-selling author!

  18. Did you say that the first lecture is going to be free access? Cos I’m writing a module on health research and we’re being encouraged to consider new ways to reaching students. This is particularly important as they’re all over the country and we need to cut down on travel time. However I learned the traditional way (apart from access to e-journals and databases) and I’d like to see a whizzbang internet presentation to get me started (very much a late adopter on technology, me).

  19. PS: Just been reading the ‘upcoming’ section of your website and think that Haunting Alice and Stealing Nadine sound like real ‘whizzbangpop!’ stories.

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