Preptober; or, the art of procrastinating by blog

Preptober is a pretty awesome time. For one thing, it takes place in October, one of my favorite months since I love Halloween so much.

Preptober is the name given to October for those of us who take part in the yearly madness that is NaNoWriMo (short for National Novel Writing Month – we’re fond of acronyms, can you tell we’re wordsmiths?). It’s a time when, supposedly, we’re hard at work outlining scenes, sketching characters, pinning location pictures, and gathering snacks and rewards for the month ahead.

In practice, everyone’s preptober looks a little different. Since I started doing NaNo in Korea and did the next two there as well, my prepping was fairly limited in scope, as my job was pretty demanding. I thought about my story a lot and wrote some vague notes and scene sketches, but that was about it. I saved most of my planning for when I needed it in my writing.

This year, being back in America and with a much less stressful job, I decided to kick it up a notch.

I printed out calendars, checklists, got some rewards planned (like real ones, not just cheesy ones), and even printed off an announcement of my novel on the NYT bestsellers list, as recommended somewhere. That was fun. It’s hanging on my bulletin board, a little embarrassed, but still pretty neat.

And….it’s actually going okay. I’ve gotten further into planning than I ever have pre-November. I’m able to actually visualize and distinguish my two main characters from each other, a feat in itself, and have a solid grasp on their story arcs.

I have location notes, an overall plotline, some incidental characters, and even some useless background information.

Here’s What I’ve Learned

Preptober is never going to be as productive as you want. You can watch all the videos, print out all the calendars and checklists and schedule away, and life will intervene. In case I forgot, life happens. Oh, right.

No checklist has everything you need, and a lot of them have stuff you don’t need. Cross those off and continue. Don’t get into a check-mark-induced tizzy because you didn’t actually do the thing you didn’t need to do and can’t check it off. Just check it off anyway. Weirdo.

Organizing your bulletin board of prep materials does not actually count as prepping. Right.

Blogging about preptober doesn’t actually count as prepping either. Stop it. Stop it now.

What I Used

I’ll admit, I kind of went nuts, and some of this stuff is redundant, and I certainly didn’t complete everything, but here it is anyway. Use it well, friends.

Huh. When it’s all laid out, I didn’t use much, did I? Well, it’s still about three more things than I used last year.

To all my fellow NaNo-ers, good luck. To everyone dealing with a NaNo-er, good luck to you too.

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There was this awesome year I did this…

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…and I may do it again this year. I haven’t yet though. I mean, that one was just so perfect…

How I’m Learning to Code

I first learned HTML way back when I was in middle or high school, I can’t remember. Mid-2000s, for sure. I’d even done some CSS – I have vague memories of a website I created where I shared…I don’t remember what, but it was purple – so diving back in hasn’t been too difficult.

Text Editor (it’s not your father’s editor…)

In fact, I’d say it was a breeze. New text editors like Brackets (see below) make coding HTML and CSS much, much simpler, due to color-coded text to make things easy to see and drop down menus to show options for each attribute. Like, why wasn’t this just always a thing?

Coding Example

The Course I’m Using

The course I decided to start out with is on Udemy– Build Responsive Real World Websites with HTML5 and CSS3. It’s a mouthful, but it had amazing reviews (as well as being on sale – Udemy has so many sales you can usually get any class you’re after for ten bucks at some point).

The course assumes you have zero experience coding, which was great for me. The instructor even went through how to download Brackets and set it up. The first few lessons went through the basics of HTML and CSS and introduced concepts of web design, from typography to layout to images and colors.

As you learn the code, you get to see it in real time thanks to Brackets’ “Live Preview.” You can see a picture of what you build first in the class below. Not pretty by any means, but it definitely has the look and feel of a standard blog, and you get to do all the coding yourself! It’s pretty awesome.

Coding Practice

The Killer Website Project

After learning the basics, the main bulk of the course has you build a website for a fake company called Omnifood. You can see the finished project first, and then work through the steps to build it from scratch, which is daunting at first, but it’s surprising how quickly the site takes shape.

I went from this…

Omnifoodtest1

…to this…

Omnifoodtest3

Omnifoodtest2Omnifoodtest4

…in just a few hours. It looks so slick, right?

I don’t by any means feel ready to tackle a paid project yet. I still forget what goes under a <div> element and all the attributes I need to consider, but it was a great starting point, and I feel like this course has really set me up for success in other classes.

Other Resources

Alongside the class, I’m also listening to two podcasts that have been really helpful. They’re more inspiring than practical at this point, but they do point me towards websites and other classes that I know I will use in the future.

Learn to Code with Me

CodeNewbie

I’m also trying to connect with other newbie coders and female coders in my area. Meetup has been the best so far. I recently went to a casual code and connect Meetup of the global group Women Who Code (WWC), and met some amazing people. I made some friends who are learning as well and also got to speak to some recruiters about what skills they’re actually looking for. It was a really positive experience, and I highly recommend anyone starting out to find a group as soon as you can.

Guys, I am just so excited about everything right now. The design aspects, the organization aspect, the editing and the actual coding bits…it’s all amazing! I can’t wait to see where this goes!

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Hello, I’m (becoming) a developer: Self-Discovery Series

I’ve started taking coding classes.

But I’m afraid. Is this just the next in a long line of potential career paths that will fizzle and die along with my invested time and money? Or will I keep the momentum I have for it now? Is it worth investing if I don’t know I’ll keep it up?

Honestly, I’m tired of these questions, because they’re the wrong ones.

In the first place, I’m a multipotentialite, so going after a million different interests is what comes naturally to me. I’d be doing myself a disservice to curtail my passion because of a lack of future certainty. (Which, hello, no one has.)

And in the second place, coding is an incredibly useful skill, so even if I only learn a little, I’m far better off than I was. It’s not like the time I got all into herbal medicine and spent money on a beginner’s class and got a certificate of completion which let me do…nothing. I mean, I had fun, but it wouldn’t be near as useful as basic programming skills in the job market.

But job relevance in only part of my interest. Today I put this picture up on my wall.

Image result for ada lovelace

This is Ada Lovelace, considered to be the world’s first computer programmer. She’s a WOMAN. And has amazing fashion. I was hecka inspired when I found out about her.

Yes, I’m hoping to get a really good job with these skills. I’d like to be a front-end developer because it seems to be as creative as it is technical. Or a full stack developer, which just makes me think of pancakes.

Either way, whether in the future I am a programmer or whether this fizzles out in a few months, I’m adding programming to my list of hobbies and interests.

In the language of Ruby:

puts ‘Hello World!’

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Don’t Box Me In: The Other Kind of Introvert

The world is becoming a safer place for introverts, by and large. There are books written about us and for us. There are websites dedicated to showing us love and support. Even the word is far more common; it’s weirder to meet someone who isn’t familiar with the whole introvert/extrovert thing than someone who is.

By and large, it’s incredible.

However, we still need more education. The public has gotten used to dividing the world up; putting people in either the pajama-crazy, cat-loving, noise-hating, book-reading, glasses-wearing introvert box or the socialite, color-wearing, wise-cracking, fun-loving, more-friend-having extrovert box. The problem is…there are lots and lots of boxes. How many people are in the world right this moment? Google told me 7.442 billion. So there’s… let’s see, how many boxes? 7.442 billion. For one thing, everybody is unique. Introversion, extroversion, dog people, cat people, sweater people, weird people (see what I did there?); every distinction just serves to help us find those similarities. But they don’t define us. For introverts, it can be really hard to deal with people’s now rampant ideas about introversion. Yes, society knows that we don’t enjoy parties all that much and love meeting up separately in our homes and every other awesome mug and t-shirt slogan out there, and they may even know we’re not really shy, not all of us. But so many don’t. So many people look at an introvert and still expect certain behaviors. Many introverts don’t fit comfortably inside the introvert box.

Take me, or any INFJ. We love connections, by and large (that phrase again, I must love it). So we don’t hate small talk. Sure, we love the deeper stuff, but we know small talk builds relationships at first. I like engaging with coworkers over stale coffee. I like smiling hugely at the cashier even though I don’t speak her language. I like nodding and gesticulating to people who don’t speak my language. I’m boisterous in public. I used to prance on stage in front of my students. I use huge gestures and look like an idiot and crack jokes and use funny voices. Lots of extrovert things. And yet, I’m an introvert.

A while ago I read this post by my dear blogger friend and fellow INFJ Lani, who mentioned an article on the four kinds of introverts. Huzzah! I thought. This woman gets it.  (I ended up taking the quiz, naturally, and got fairly well balanced on all four kinds, more heavily into social and less so on restrained. Again, I am NOT shy.)

Fortunately, I don’t see this yet, and I hope I never do, but I feel the sticky foreboding of introvert shame. You aren’t introverted enough. You go to parties! You can’t be a real introvert unless you shudder and abhor the very idea. You don’t like cats!? How dare you listen to sad music and read poems. That sort of thing. It’s not here yet, and I pray it never comes. We don’t need that.

That being said, we introverts need to continually put our voices out there. Keep blogging. Keep writing books. Keep being different than everyone else, including the other introverts. Yes, it’s nice to have a community, but let’s not be a cult. Let’s help the world realize that there are just as many kinds of introverts as extroverts and ambiverts and people at all.

Blessed be the weird.*

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*Which is an amazing book, by the way.

Be Yourself: TED Talk Review

 

Have you ever heard the phrase “just be yourself?” I’m positive you have. If not said directly to you, then in a book or on TV, always given as advice on how to overcome shyness or anxiety. How to survive at a party or on a first date. How to make friends the first day of school. How to ace an interview.

But in this talk, Caroline McHugh points out that being yourself is hard work. And nobody is “just” anything. Just implies that it’s so easy, so little, so meager to be yourself, when really it’s the journey of a lifetime to even figure out what that is.

Yourself is hard work. Yourself free of others’ expectations of you, of your own expectations, of how you were raised and the people who surround you, is hard. We need to give a little more grace to the process and a little more honor. Being yourself is the goal in life, and if you can say that you are yourself unabashedly, that’s a cause for celebration.

McHugh also invites us to ask not what our life expectancy is but what do we expect of life. She points out that that is a much more interesting question and one that will help us uncover who we are.

Who we are, in being ourselves, is well represented by an hourglass. At the beginning and the end of our lives, we are the best at being ourselves. Kids run around and play and goof off with very little awareness of themselves or what people think, and we all know the stereotype of the elderly being crotchety and outspoken. What I love is that McHugh says that when you realize you have more summers behind you than in front of you, you become more honest because you just can’t be arsed to care about anybody else’s opinion.

The bit in the middle is more problematic, when we’re squeezed by society’s pressures and have to accommodate and adapt and live up to other people’s expectations.

In the middle of her talk, McHugh dives into her idea of an interiority complex, presented in contrast to the inferiority and superiority complexes. An interiority complex is entirely unrelative to others.  It’s a vantage point and orientation where you have no competition. Contrast that with the idea of superior/inferior mindsets that depend on others to exist (superior – I am better than those around me, inferior – I am worse than those around me).

Remember what Jill Scott said about queendom (paraphrase): “Mine can never compare to hers and hers can never compare to mine. We all come with our own strengths.” This is such an important mindset to have, and one we try to teach ourselves and our students and our kids, but again and again we find it so difficult.

When you think about your identity, you’re not your thoughts, you’re not your feelings (because who’s feeling them), you’re not what you do, there’s something underneath it all that is the real you. Growing up, growing old, growing out; it’s all a way to figure out what that person deep inside is.

McHugh mentions the blue sky, which caught my attention because it’s such a prominent idea in my meditation practice.  The sky doesn’t’ boast or complain about it’s weather, it knows the impermanence of the storms and the sunsets and the permanence of the blue sky.

I think the advice of this talk can best be summed up in these words; don’t live someone else’s opinion of you. Find it for yourself and be honest. Be you.

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