The last few weeks have been very interesting. At the start of March I decided to try something different in my attempt to find a better work/life balance. I am under no illusion that we can always have that perfect balance – you can’t control everything that happens – but I definitely feel life should not be so heavy on the work end of the scale.
So what did I do? I signed up to Tiffany Han’s 30-day Social Media Rehab. No twitter. No facebook. No pinterest. No instagram. No RSS reader. For 30 days. We are currently at Day 22 with a week left to go.
It sounds difficult, and for some people it definitely would be. But the most lovely thing happened. My mind instantly became more peaceful and quiet. It’s not constantly being made aware of what other people are doing, reading, liking, or eating. I’ve been able to focus on what I want to do, or not do, without getting lost in the endless content of the internet.
Another great side effect is the amount of extra time that has opened up, and being able to decide in which positive way I want to use that extra time. Did you know the average person spends 24 hours a month on social media? I would probably double or even triple this figure for myself. Just imagine having all this spare time, how would you use an extra hour or more each day?
How have I chosen to spend the time? I finish client work earlier in the day so that I can have some downtime to read or do something else offline for a few hours before I go to bed. I have extra time to focus on my own projects. I’ve been planning the final details for my upcoming trip to Europe, and my adorable dog is enjoying more time swimming and cuddling.
The rehab isn’t a cure for procrastination, there are many other ways to procrastinate. I’ve been doing a lot more housework than usual, I check emails too often, I still walk to the fridge all the time hoping something delicious magically appeared in the last few minutes. Even so, I have still cut down on this immensely over the last 3 weeks.
Now at the closing end of this experiment, I think I will definitely create some boundaries to my social media usage from now on. There are a lot of positives in using social media of course, by no means have I turned against it. But how many times has it gotten in the way of your focus, become a deterrant to doing the work that matters, or replaced too much real-life connection and activity. If you log off social media, even for a few days, you’d be surprised to notice all the different ways it’s been distracting you, from yourself, and from what really matters to you. Could it be possible that social media is blocking you from creating or living your dream life.
I challenge you to try it! Even for just one day. If it’s something you are interested in and feel you could benefit from the clever advice, helpful tools and supportive environment Tiffany provides in her program, keep an eye out for her next rehab.
Being a designer I feel it’s important to set aside time as often as you can to explore your creative side further and try different techniques that can improve your skills and breathe more individuality and range to your work. It can often help you break through designer’s block, that uncomfortable feeling that your work has been under par or a general lack of motivation.
Over the last couple of months I’ve been experimenting more with ink, in little illustrations as well as lettering. It’s a tricky medium to use, much like watercolours, with a quick application and drying time (I find a waterbrush helps), and can produce varying results and effects. It’s not uncommon for me to paint a word 50 or so times until I have enough options to work with.
In contrast to the spontaneous nature of ink and watercolours, I’ve been itching to do more custom hand-lettering – taking the time to plan out a draft and sketch different type styles to create a complete piece of work. When I learned that the Type by Hand workshop led by Wayne Thompson and Gemma O’Brien was coming to Brisbane I signed up straight away. The workshop was held at Shillington College over the weekend and just as I expected it was fun, engaging and inspiring. Looking through the pieces of work these two amazing designers have created and seeing their talent first hand, I savoured their passion for type.
The workshop began with some theory in type construction followed by a few drawing exercises to improve our understanding of character anatomy. From working in design I had some knowledge in what these principles were, but it was interesting to learn about why they are used in more detail. The final hour was dedicated to working on a typographic piece of our own choosing.
I decided to create a design incorporating the phrase ‘the universe is made of tiny stories’, which is a take on the slogan for The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories trilogy: ‘the universe is not made of atoms; it’s made of tiny stories’. While drafting my design Wayne and Gemma provided great feedback and suggestions, and I had most of my piece sketched out in pencil by the end of the workshop – at which point I discovered my lap had become a nerd* graveyard. And yes, I used pencils. According to my previous post, I am happy to report that I must not be a full grown adult, just yet.
By nightfall I finished off the design in black fine pen after experimenting with different fill styles for the letters of ‘universe’. Not completely happy with the script type for the smaller words ‘the’ and ‘is made of’, I redrew those separately and replaced them while editing in Photoshop. From the beginning I thought this design would work well inversed onto a dark background so I followed through with this idea, combining the textural effect and starry background to come to this final design.
I am happy with the result, I really loved the whole process and attending a fun workshop was refreshing. I definitely want to attend more creative classes especially for B&W darkroom photography. For a moment it felt like I was back at uni again – minus the anxiety, lack of sleep and bad coffee.
*The term nerds has been used by artists for many decades to mean eraser crumbs. It’s kind of adorable.
Question: what object delivers a new opportunity to create and explore, but upon opening quickly leads to an uncertainty that causes you to pause and reflect on the signifance your next action will have on the whole life span of that object and your relationship with it.
Answer: a blank notebook (which will be referred to as moleskine from here on in, as we all know they are most excellent).
What will your very first mark on those perfect but daunting creamy pages be. How do you even begin to make that mark without knowing what’s to become of those pages. I have faced this first blank page on many occasions, a few moments of indecision turns into impulsiveness. Just get something on the page quickly and carry on you think. Perhaps it’s a work of genius – surely on some rare instances it is – but the odds are the first thing you do attempt to write or draw is regrettable. You’ve committed stationery vandalism.
notebook moleskine now carries a scar*. You can’t hide it. Ripping the page out only creates more destruction, scribbling over it simply makes it obvious something went wrong. You are obliged to accept the imperfections of your moleskine, to love it dearly until every last page has been acquainted with your pen.
I am experiencing a similar feeling here in this hitherto unmarked online journal – of wanting to begin with my very best – but most of all I want to be stimulated while creating darling content. I imagine it will be a natural progression which involves exploring ideas of what I share here. Here’s where you come in.
I’d love for you to suggest a theme, topic, or words that inspire you and you’d like me to explore in this journal. Perhaps it’s a quote or favourite affirmation to practice some handwritten type, a theme or pattern to illustrate, or even a question about design or self-employment. I know that something has popped into your head! Please share it with me on twitter or email.
Let’s finish off with some trivia: In the early eighties the traditional little black notebooks closely associated with writers and artists for two centuries became scarce, and in 1986 the small family-owned company in France that manufactured these notebooks went out of business. They were later revived by a publisher in Milan in 1997 and officially branded as Moleskine®. So unless your name was Bruce Chatwin and cleverly sourced as many of the last notebooks you could find, there was a whole decade in which creative folk had to use other notebooks.
*You may be in luck if you use lead pencils and have an eraser on standby, but as an adult let’s assume these tools were a thing of your school days.
Welcome to the new home of The Darling Tree! The first website I made for this business was in 2008 when I first took the leap to self-employment, and can you believe this is the very first redesign I’ve embarked on since then – about two years later than planned but hey, it was worth the wait as I absolutely love it and I hope you do too.
There’s happy and sad news though, want the happy news first? Don’t we always! This journal will be a new little space where I can experiment with design and illustration, and share thoughts on work/life on an occasional basis. Only original images and content will be created and shared here. The sad news is that I will no longer be blogging at August Empress. This is part of a plan to focus on other projects in 2013, I can’t wait to share more about that. It’s been wonderful to connect with all the lovely readers who have visited and loved August Empress, and I hope everyone will enjoy this little journal just as much. There’s a silver lining though! All the content will remain on the blog so if you need a hit of inspiration you can still look through all the archives from the past two years.
One last thought before I go – while I have decided not to include comments here, I would love to connect with you on twitter so jump on over if you’d like to chat!
Have an amazing day,