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For a twentysomething from a small town living in a big city, trying to figure out her place in the world, at least I know where I want to go and what I want to do in my life (which is more than I can say for many). My Five Year Plan includes the following goals: become a freelance graphic designer and web developer, buy a house within half an hour’s drive of the ocean, rescue a dog from the shelter. Now… how do I get there?

For some time now, I have been contemplating going back to school. Like most people my age with motivation and drive, I find that I know very little in comparison to what I could and possess less skills than desired. But with the economy in a recession and my student loans from a private undergraduate institution still yet to be paid off entirely, I find the concept of spending money on more education less than appealing. In addition, I work a full time job and commute about an hour each way to work, which means it would be hard to find classes that would both be affordable and convenient.

I have done a little research on taking classes online, but in doing so have found that I might as well just teach myself. The field I want to go into lends itself well to self-teaching with various media, including books, online tutorials, and trial and error process.

In college, I started off using Gimp with no instruction. I mostly learned to use it by playing with it in my own spare time. I graduated to Photoshop after a while, but again had no instruction. I learned how to use some of the program, but had never been properly instructed on how to use the software until someone spent a few hours tutoring me on it yesterday. Following Grace Smith’s blog post on Insanely Useful Photoshop Tips & Tutorials and many discussions with Grace and other designers and developers in the field via Twitter, I started to wonder… what if I could teach myself all the skills I need to become a freelance graphic designer and web developer?

In addition to the links posted on Grace Smith’s blog, there are a whole host of other links that I have now bookmarked in my del.icio.us account. Of course, this list that I have compiled thus far is nowhere near exhaustive and some tutorials and tips are better than others. However, with the wealth of information shared on the internet and with an investment in a few printed materials (books, periodicals), it seems to me to be plausible.

Are you someone who self-taught? Do you wish you had? What are the pros/cons of self-teaching in a field like graphic design and web development?

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003. Word of Tweet

In learning much about social media networking and rapidly growing a fabulous community of friends, colleagues, acquaintences, resources, and other connections via Twitter, I have come across many a marketing strategy. In addition, people often reference the ways they find others to follow using this rapidly growing networking tool.  There are some who follow based on wefollow.com, others who use MrTweet, but I have found the most effective and rewarding way to follow new friends who are engaging, helpful, and great resources: Word of Mouth Tweet.

The best connections I have made on Twitter have come from adding people whose @names I see on friends’ Tweets. If I see someone’s name frequently, it means that they are engaging with others that I frequently interact with. If someone often recommends links or RT (retweets) someone’s links, perhaps that means I should follow him/her, as well. I have all but completely given up on the #followfriday hashtag because there are so many people who Tweet their follows without any rhyme or reason. However, if a connection of mine Tweets that someone should be followed, I will often check out the person’s profile.

That being said, I have a very short and simple process which I follow on deciding whom to add to my follow list on Twitter:

  1. Is this someone I know personally? If not, is a friend or acquaintance of someone I know?
  2. Is this person someone who works in a field that interests me and/or my followers?
  3. Does this person post interesting original content in form of Tweets or links?
  4. Does this person RT interesting content or links?

If I’ve aswered yes to one or more of the questions, I will follow that person. If, for some reason, I feel that their Tweets no longer benefit me in any way, I simply unfollow. No harm done. However, though I have unfollowed many from the MrTweet and wefollow recommendations, I have rarely unfollowed anyone I found through the Word of Tweet method.

What are your thoughts? What methods do you use to decide who to follow? Has that worked out for you?

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Art is why I get up in the morning, but my definition ends there. You know, I don’t think it’s fair that I’m living for something I can’t even define. ~Ani DiFranco, Out of Habit

One of my biggest passions in life is music. I love music and will listen to it all day in various ways – from my own collection, as part of a television show, on the radio in my car, or streaming online from sites like last.fm. I have never been so dedicated to music that I really became fluent in reading it, but that never kept me from playing instruments, such as the recorder, alto sax, piano, and guitar (poorly), nor did it keep me from singing (not so poorly). It was once my greatest ambition to be part of an a capella group, though nothing ever came of it. I’m unsure of whether that was because I didn’t have the ambition or I was just too paralyzed by stage fright.

When I was once asked to start a solo in my high school chorus, I totally choked and lost the chance. I was able to sing there and even had a brief experience with a professional chorus while I was living in Germany. However, though music has never been my true creative outlet; it has often acted as a muse for my aesthetic and visual art.

I often wish that I were musically talented, that I could spend time playing or creating or composing music, but the reality of it is that if I were really that passionate about playing music, I would leave aside everything else in my life and just do it. And, I have recently come to realize that, by comparison, creating aesthetic, visual, digital and kinetic works of art is something I absolutely am that passionate about. While music often provides a backdrop, the main love affair in my life always has been and always will be with creating works of art with my hands. And, while I love using digital software and media to create visually stimulating works, there is just such a lovely sense of accomplishment that comes with creating something beautiful out of raw materials with your own hands.

While I spend my days working for a non-profit organization doing administrative work, my love and reprieve is working on our website and various graphics projects which we use for print and online advertising. It is obvious to me now that my future lies in design and not with administration. While I am just in the very beginning stages of learning, I pick things up quickly, especially when I get excited about them, so I am hoping that this comes as easily to me as learning a foreign language or writing a proposal.

I am inspired and motivated, looking forward to grasping what it is I was put here for. I know that my path has been long and winding, but I still made it to the place I am supposed to be at this moment. I have become more and more certain recently that this is what I want and need to do with my life and I look forward to the journey from where I am to where I want to be.

Through twitter, I have recently a plethora of lovely people who have inspired me to really put aside everything else and concentrate on my dream of becoming a graphic and web designer. With their tutilage and mentorship, as well as my own passion and drive, I am certain that this goal is not unreachable, nor is it unlikely. Hard work and genuine interest are rewarded and, unlike my affinity for quality music, my love of art, I am committed to the journey, long and painful as it may be, because I know that the end result is something I will have physical evidence of. It has always been the artist in me that has pulled through, done anything to survive, attracted friends and lovers.

I always believed it was the artist in me who ensorcelled. I believed it was my esoteric house, the colors, the lights, my costumes, my work. I always stood within the great active-artist shell, timorous and unconscious of my power.  ~Anais Nin, A Journal of Love: the Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin

There is no time like the present to take what I have and make it into something more. Drawing on my own power, I am making a commitment to not only making something from nothing, but making something great, a legacy I will be proud of.

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Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust–
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.

~Birches, Robert Frost

Recently, I have felt a need to write. Not only to write, but to say something, though I’m not exactly sure what. As an aspiring graphic designer and an artist, I find a need for visual and aesthetic stimulation and pleasure in my life, but recently, I have also been longing for those words which flow through me, but don’t really come from me. It has been some time since I have just let myself write and especially not in any kind of public arena.

With a new focus on bringing together social media and networking, art, web design, writing, and all the other related parts of my life (of which there are many), I bring you my blog, or as it will henceforth be known, the Inner Dome of Heaven.

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