Monday, December 22, 2014

Cyber-Self-Coaching-Space


A year and 3 months ago Oran showed me an ad posted by a high-school friend of his who was finishing her studies at the Adler institute to become a life-coach. She was offering her first clients a discount deal for 12 meetings. At the time, I had written the entire text for "One Tiny Pea", recorded my dad's narration and illustrated the first page. Then I got stuck. For several weeks I couldn't get myself to even try and do more for my book. I realised it was terribly hard for me to get anything done outside of some sort of framework. I had some freelance projects with real clients to work on and in between it was much more appealing to sleep late, watch TV, chat online and so on. every few days I would get depressed about all the time I'd wasted and felt less and less capable of managing independent work.
So, when I saw Ortal's coaching add, all my past cynicism on the very idea of life-coaching made way for the hope that I may have found something to help me break this loop of disappointing myself. This was a step in a new direction.
Ortal and I met for the first time one warm august evening on a picnic bench in the park. She brought a little lantern for light and some brownies and began by making it clear that coaching is not about me handing her my metaphorical reins to steer me in the right direction. It was going to be me who decides how we spend our meetings and what we do to help me get where I want to go. What she could offer would be questions and insights that could help me. The first question that completely threw me off guard was: What would you like your life to look like 5 years from now?
Five years!!! I'm the kind of person who can hardly think more than a few weeks ahead! That really blew my mind. But I tried.
I knew I would like to still be living with Oran in our beautiful apartment, but my dream job would be to work for a children's bookapp publisher. It would be amazing to be part of a team consisting of a writer, an animator, a sound expert and me being in charge of the art. Together we would create bookapps that weren't a book forced into app form or an app forced into book form. They would be like having a special kind of puppet show inside your iPad waiting to perform at the touch of a fingertip. My art would never be completely computer generated because I'm more interested in what craft and technology can do for each other. Also, I think it's important that kids feel the connection between high tech and the natural world and don't experience a bookapp as something so unrelated to what they can create with a pen on paper. Besides, it's so much more lovely when an iPad screen lights up a hand-made coloured pencil illustration as opposed to computer generated images.
As I dove into the details of my ideal future I was taken over by wanting to do anything it takes to make this idea of a life come true. The next important order of business was to decide on a rational goal for the next three months. I went for a half finished "One Tiny Pea" bookapp.
For the next 3 months Ortal and I met once a week. Each time we would review the week that had past, what was accomplished, what wasn't and what can be learned. I would set a goal for next week and we would talk about the challenges I might have to face and what I would do to get past them. Sometimes Ortal would share her insights about loops in my head I tended to get stuck in and helped me in developing tools to work my way out of them. I learned a lot about myself from talking about my work process. For example, I tend to give much more weight to failure than success. Once we realised that, I started reminding myself of my achievements whenever I felt useless. I also came up with some rules to help give myself some structure. My favourite was to send Ortal a picture of the beach every morning at 8:30. That meant I had to get up at 8 and walk there. Sometimes I went down to dip my toes in the water. Perfect day starter.


Three months and many thought exercises and creative solutions later, my book was half finished.

In the meantime, my freelance work was dwindling and I thought it was time to go back to a regular pay check. I found a job as a designer for a package design studio. I felt confident that with my new found work habits I could keep my independent work going in my free time. It wasn't actually that easy. In the past year I've tried to spend at least a few hours every week on my book. I've completed all the illustrations, animations and half of the sound effects. I've made progress, but in a year of working full time I did not have enough motivation or free time to get as much done as I did in three months of focusing most of my energies on my project. Also, sitting on my butt for 9 hours every day (at work and on the bus) brought back an old back problem I thought I was rid of. This meant i could hardly spend more time working at home. For months I made no progress at all. I thought of my five-year-vision and realised I was doing nothing to make it come true. Finally, yesterday morning, I quit my job. As soon as my boss finds a replacement for me, I'm going home to finish my book. 
Last time I was working from home I had my life-coach which gave me a sense of framework. This time I've decided to try and use this blog as a Cyber-Self-Coaching-Space. I will write about my process with "One Tiny Pea" or whatever else I'm doing and share thoughts and interests. Would it be interesting for you? If you are interested in bookapps, self employment, design, illustration, storytelling, software tips.... or just weather or not I'm going to make a living out of independent bookapps, stay tuned! :)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Royalties and Vegetables

Two years ago I took a course on digital books. It turned out to be quite a disappointment and I left half way through, but nevertheless, that was where my book was born. 
For one of our first meetings we were asked to pick a story and create a storyboard for it, which was to be the first step in creating a book out of that story. I was very excited about the possibility that I could create an interactive book for tablets with no experience in apps or coding, so I treated the mission of picking a story very seriously. I found this online list of characters, stories and authors for which copyrights have expired. The item "Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Anderson" was just what I was looking for. Fairy Tales were my favourite kind of story as a kid. I could not be happier than when my mind was wrapped up in a world where everything was possible and no harm could come to me. To this day I'm constantly amazed at what magical inventions the human mind is capable of given the possibility of what if...


Hans Christian Anderson is best remembered for his fairy tales, but he was also a writer of plays, travelogues, novels and poems. His story "The princess and the pea" was published for the first time in 1835. It was part of a volume of fairy tales which also included "Thumbalina" "The little mermaid" and "The emperor's new clothes". I've always loved the image of the princess on top of that crazy pile of mattresses and thought the pea was a super clever idea. There's something about a very small thing influencing a very large thing that always captures the imagination. In fact, put any two opposites together and you've got a story: Rich man - Poor Man, City mouse - Country mouse and so on. Royalty and small vegetables are opposites in so many ways it brings a comic element to it all. It's also very interesting that the test of a true princess is her sensitivity, not her amazing riches or long blond hair or even her talent to rule. I like that.
photo by Dismas found on Wikipedia
According to Wikipedia, Andersen had heard the story as a child, and it likely has its source in folk material, but apparently he changed it quite a bit. For example, the heroin of the only known Scandinavian folk tale involving people and peas was an orphan. Of course, a princess is a much better imagination-hooking-match for a pea, just as an orphan and a crown would be.
"The princess and the pea" is a short tale, but it has a series of basic elements which became the cornerstones of my story. I re-named my version "One Tiny Pea" to make it clear that it is a new creation, not entirely faithful to the original in some details and with my own ideas and understandings of the original text.
One issue I tried to deal with in my text was the issue of "the true princess". I tried to imagine what the un-true princesses should be like and this is what I came up with:
"One princess he found was tormenting a rat,
Another believed the world is flat,
A third one was only concerned for her looks,
A fourth had a passionate hatred of books,
And on and on, the entire world round,
The right princess could not be found."

And what is the right princess like? I'm trying to bring a lot of character into the drawings, so that question will only be properly answered when they are finished. Of course, she is the opposite of all that :)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Story Telling

There is nothing I love better than stories. I love them in books, movies and TV series, but most of all I love being read to. I'm quite willing to read to someone else if they will read to me in return, but I'd much rather be the listening party. I once fell in love with a guy mostly because he had the most pleasant voice and he read "Watership Down" to me on our first date. I will never be too old to enjoy stories read out loud, but today I'm just as happy if my boyfriend reads me the newspaper.


My absolute favourite person to listen to is my dad. I especially remember myself as a child rejoicing time and time again as we read "There are rocks in my socks! said the ox to the fox" and "Stand back! said the elephant, I'm going to sneeze!". The way the rhyming sounded like music rolling off his tongue and how we would laugh together at the funny parts and I could see he enjoyed the books just as much as me. Years later, when the Harry Potter books started coming out, there were a few times when my dad read the books to us in the living room. My mom, my younger brother and I spread ourselves out on the sofas and listened. Best kind of family fun I know.
When I decided to create my book app, I asked my dad to be my narrator and he gladly excepted the job. My brother is a musician so he had recording gear. We recorded three takes for each "scene" and as I listened to them all carefully and picked the best ones I tried to imagine the children who were about to enjoy my father's wonderful gift of story telling.


I'm so glad that recording him was one of the first things I did for my book. As soon as I had the entire narration there was no way I wouldn't complete everything else to get my book out there. It was given a soul, and now it's up to me to finish the body and give it life. I'm doing my best to do justice to the wonderful books I was raised on and create something that parents may enjoy together with their children.