Storing Social Media Posts for Later

When I’m racing around online and want to keep something to read or re-read later, I often save it to Instapaper. But that’s historically been a less-than-enjoyable process when needing to grab a post/tweet. And saving anything off Instagram? Forget it…or resort to hoping you can save it to Pinterest. (I don’t know about anyone else, but the copy and post option works about half the time for me.)

But over the last few weeks, we’ve gained the ability to save posts for later within the app itself without leaving the app. Yes, we have to remember we saved something and go deal with it, but I’ve made it part of my habits and it’s proven a good way to grab something to read or use later (often landing in Instapaper once I decide it’s useful).

So…saving something for later on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram…by platform.

Facebook

You’ve seen people admitting their leaving a comment solely so they can find the post later. (Those commenting, “Following”, may want the notifications, but if not…pay attention.) In the upper right hand corner of every Facebook post are three little dots. When you click on those dots, a menu drops down, offering you several contextual choices, including “Save [media]”. When you select this option, Facebook stores the link/video/etc along with the source post to a folder in your sidebar labeled “Saved”. When you’re done, you can close the item in the Saved folder and it will remove itself from the folder.

No more “Following”. Got it. Cool.

Twitter

After years of being very frustrating on this point, Twitter has finally given us a bookmark feature…on the app. The website doesn’t connect at all with this feature, but I’m hopeful it will catch up. Using this feature has been a little counterintuitive for me. In the row of buttons under the tweet, click on the Share button. (On my phone, it looks like <. On yours, it may look like an inbox.) A menu appears with an option to share to Bookmarks, which you then access by going to Bookmarks in the app menu. When you’re done with the bookmark, you click on the Share button on the post and select the option to remove the bookmark.

Instagram

This one is also somewhat recent, but each post on Instagram has buttons under the picture. One of them looks like a little banner. Click on it, and you can either be done or you can add the picture to a collection (because you can curate private collections on Instagram). To access these images, go to your profile and click on the little banner below your bio. Every image you’ve saved will be sitting there in the grid format Instagram is famous for. To unsave the image, you can just click on the little banner again. What’s really nice about saving posts on Instagram is that you can access them from the website (when it’s working), unlike Twitter.

There you go. Saving posts on three major social networks. Feel free to come back to this post eight months from now and point and laugh. (I do that sometimes to my older posts that are now nothing but an archive of deprecated tech.)

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Surviving Downtime When You’re Hopeful or Determined

I feel like I’ve been party to conversations around the struggles of chasing creative work a lot lately. This isn’t an entirely uncommon conversation when a group of people at various points in their creative journey hang out. And the people starting the conversation are at different stages in their career. Some are experienced, but not where they want to be (sometimes not getting anywhere). Others are new to the field, trying to figure out how to break in or at the very least determine what steps they can start taking to get into the game. At some point, all of us who do creative work find ourselves in this waiting space.

Something I’ve noticed in these conversations, and just in watching fellow creative types in general, is that people facing downtime tend to react in one of two ways: They either work on their craft and find ways to get themselves and their work out into the community (where they may or may not get noticed as much as they’d like), or they sit quietly and wonder why no one notices them and the work they’ve done. The thing is, it’s what you do when you have that down time that shapes how your career moves forward.

Those who spend their downtime working on their craft have it a bit easier. They’re taking action, they’re doing the legwork, and they’re finding (or making) opportunities. They’re doing a lot of things right. They may still be gathering rejection notes or making connections that don’t work out the way they hoped, but they’re getting their name and their work in front of people, which puts a possible light at the end of the downtime tunnel.

Some downtime advice for the experienced or the driven who aren’t as successful as they’d like to be (according to their own definition of success):

  • Take a class. This might be nothing more than putting together your own set of resources if your funds are tight, but do it. Work on a skill that’s been frustrating you. Maybe learn a new technique to increase your versatility, or pick up a complementary skill and see what doors that opens for you. You really never know what’s going to click until you try. (Classes are also a great way to meet others in your field and make connections.)
  • Create your own projects. Regardless of your medium, you can probably develop and create your own projects. If you’re a visual artist, set up a profile on one of the creative repositories and create for that profile. If you’re a writer, same thing. If you’re an actor or a video producer, same thing. It’s much easier to prove your skills when you can point to something and say, “Look at this thing I made with my own skills.” Developing your own projects while searching for other work also shows  just how dedicated you are to your craft.
  • Start working on the next project. While you’re auditioning, interviewing, submitting, pitching, always keep a personal project in development. It helps you stay in practice, keeps you focused on what you’re ultimately trying to accomplish, and creates a body of work that demonstrates your passion and your skills. You might even create something that you can sell (or sell access to).
  • Experiment and innovate. If you’ve been marketing your completed projects for some time without success (or with minimal success), find new, creative uses for your product or find ways to extend it with those new complementary skills you’ve been developing.
  • Meet people in your field and related fields. We live in a pretty exciting time where we can, with nothing more than a connected piece of technology and a basic understanding of how to search for things, find and connect with other people pretty easily. Power up your favorite search engine and search for your skill set. Go to your favorite social media platform and search for your skill set. There are very few creative industries that don’t have places where their practitioners can gather, and many of these groups are often newbie-friendly. Just remember your manners. If you’re introverted (like me), start small. Find one or two people to connect with and grow from there.

If you really enjoy what you’re doing, there are ways to find your path. But it’s up to you to take charge and shape that path.

Nest time, we’ll talk about those who are claim to be thirsty but are more inclined to sit and wait for rain.

Using Challenges to Build a Project

One of the things I enjoy about watching hitRECord projects develop is how they handle that development. A project will be broken down into a series of challenges, arranged by skill sets. Creators then contribute to each challenge, often building off others’ contributions, exploring different visions , interpretations, and points of view. Each challenge builds on the ones that come before, until either a solid project comes out of the collaboration or the project is tabled for one reason or another.

I think there’s something very useful in that for the solo creator or for any creative team, really. Larger projects are a monster to begin with, especially when they require a number of components or skills. So, hitRECord’s method of breaking a project up into bite-sized challenges is a great way to make the monster-sized project feel more manageable and maybe even a bit more able to be accomplished.

How can you incorporate challenges into your creative process?

  1. Start by identifying what work needs to be done on your project. What assets or components need to be created? Do you need to learn any new skills to complete a part of the project?
  2. Group like assets, components, and skills into a single mini-project. Each of these groups will be one of your challenges.
  3. This is the hard part. Figure out the best order for you to tackle your challenges. Some mini-projects will need to happen before others. Use that to help find a good order. (And be open to the fact that shuffling is sometimes necessary, especially if you find a skill gap in your knowledge that affects more than one project or component.)
  4. Tackle your first mini-project. When it’s finished (or at least ready to move on from), tackle the next. Keep going until you’ve finished all of your challenges and have a completed project.
  5. Show off your hard work!

Remember as you’re developing your challenges that these should be fun, but should also push you to become better at a skill or a technique, or deepen your understanding of your craft. And also remember to keep an eye on the larger project to make sure your mini-challenges are staying on track. If you find yourself getting off-track in a mini-project, but what you’re doing is too cool to stop and get back on track, then make a note of it and make it an independent project.

Your turn: Go out and create (and complete) a challenge-based project.

Side Quest: Discovering a Hole in Your Knowledge

One of the challenges with building your own learning path is that you go in not knowing what you need to know. If you’ve taken the time to research and gather good resources, then you have a good chance of building a learning project that won’t deal you too many surprises. But as many resources aren’t created with the beginner in mind, or are created by someone who can’t remember what it was like just starting out, it’s not foolproof.

And these little surprises can manifest in a really fun way. You’ll be working on a project, confident in the knowledge you’ve gained from your gathered resources, and then you’ll come across something you haven’t thought about, haven’t read about, haven’t seen. And then you’re stuck. You may even consider quitting because things just got hard.

Don’t quit. You’re not stuck. You just have to find resources to learn how to do that one thing so you can move forward. It can feel frustrating to have to back up to the research phase, but if you reframe it as a side quest, it can make things easier. Then, you aren’t necessarily backing up. Instead, you stepping out of the main quest, the project, to unlock a new skill.

In a way, being able to take that side step is nice. On the one hand, you have this automatic frame for the side quest project because it’s part of the original project. It’s always nice to have to not make every decision from scratch when you feel like you’ve been dealt a curve ball. On the other hand, developing and creating this side quest project can create a piece of bonus material for your fans, related to the original project, but a creation all its own that can help flesh out or support the original story.

Either way, you win. Yes, you’ve had to pause the original project for this little learning project, but you can then move forward on the original project with a new skill, new content, and possibly a bit of bonus content. That’s pretty cool, and a much less scary way to look at the holes hidden in your growing knowledge of a skill.

So, always try to be as diligent as you can when you’re creating a learning project, but be open to those moments when you find gaps and make the most of those gaps. You might be truly surprised by what you learn and what you create.

Building a Project Piece by Piece

Confession time: I hate writing novels.

You wouldn’t know it to look at my NaNoWriMo involvement, but I hate writing novels. I never feel like I have that much to say, no matter how thoroughly I outline and prepare beforehand. I had this problem in school, too. The teacher would assign a ten-page paper; I would write an eight-page paper that concisely covered all of the assigned topics with the proper structure. By the time I got to high school, my teachers had given up on me ever writing long papers. My college professors were less forgiving on the first paper, but more often than not let me slide on later papers. Writing my Masters thesis was like pulling teeth, and eventually my computer gave up all hope and destroyed the original file and every single backup I’d dutifully made.

So…maybe novel (and any other long-form) writing hates me, too. Heh.

Fortunately, I can write short stories and novellas all day. And that’s a good thing. There are many writers who, like me, aspire to longer fiction but prefer the confines of shorter fiction, and a fair number have them have found a workaround. You look at the works of masterful science fiction and fantasy author Roger Zelazny, and you’ll find as many (if not more) short story collections than you will novellas. (He wasn’t a fan of the novel length, either.) Some of Zelazny’s collections are just that: a collection of short stories related by topic, theme, or time period in which they were written. Others are a collection of serial short stories, linking together to tell one novel-length story.

Short story anthologies by new writers are considered a hard sell at the moment by traditional publishing, but a collection of serial shorts stories can come off enough like a novel to get a foot in the door (if your writing and editing are well-practiced and implemented). But that’s not to say you can’t create anthologies and go the self-publishing route. Either way, it’s a way for the short story writer who’d like to release a novel-length book to reach that goal.

But it’s not just writers who can benefit from this approach. Video producers are learning they can produce a webseries, and then string the series or season together into one viewing experience roughly the length of a movie. Webcomics are taking their regularly released strips, pages, or panels, and pulling them together into volumes.

If you’re a creative who dreams of one day creating a large project in your field, consider creating it in pieces and then blending the pieces together into that single large project.

The Hindrance of “Aspiring”

There’s been a lot of chatter recently about the need for new practitioners of any craft to stop calling themselves “aspiring”. In a world that only a few years ago actively tried to beat down pro-am and DIY types in various athletic and artistic fields, this change is amazing and welcome.

So, let’s start by talking about getting started in a new craft. Because everyone has to start somewhere. Maybe you saw someone else doing something and thought, How cool would it be if I could do that? Or maybe it’s on your bucket list, something you wanted to do as a child but couldn’t for whatever reason. The inspiration is there. For some people, that’s where it stops. They get inspired. Maybe they do a little research. Maybe they start telling people they want to do something. For others, that inspiration is the spark that that pushes them into looking into how to get started, how to take first steps, finding learning resources and materials. And they take that momentum and start becoming more and more involved. I’m writing this for that second group, because you’re the ones who encounter this.

Something happens when you’re developing a skill on your own or in a small community of practice. You start building momentum in your work, and you call yourself a practitioner. And then it happens. Maybe someone says you can’t call yourself a whatever because you aren’t getting paid for it, or because no one knows who you are. Maybe you get a compliment from someone who is a professional or a big deal in the field, and it kind of freaks you out as you start trying to process the thought: Maybe I really am doing all right at this. And so to soften the blow or make it less scary or because you got bullied into it, you start calling yourself “aspiring”.

Here’s the thing, though. The reason you got that attention to begin with is because you did something. You started learning about that skill you wanted to have, and you used it to make a first project. You have tangible proof that you have started on a path to learn and use that skill. You’re no longer “aspiring” because you’re doing. Aspiring practitioners don’t do. They…well, aspire. And if you start calling yourself “aspiring” when you’ve really moved beyond that, you risk sliding backwards into “aspiring” territory.

What I’m really saying here…what anyone campaigning for newer practitioners to drop the word “aspiring” from their self-definition is really saying…is that once you’ve done, once you’ve taken that first tangible, time consuming step on your journey, you’re not aspiring. You’re a new practitioner. Own that. Hold your head up high, and drop the word aspiring from your vocabulary.

Transferring Skills

I recently wrote about my struggles with creating user personas in my work or in a class (where it was a required activity), and my realization that I had a skill – creating characters for stories and games – that could be transferred over to the activity of creating a user persona. It hasn’t fully solved my problem, but it’s given me a familiar starting point to work from, and that’s created more progress for me than I had previously had.

I go through this with some regularity. I want to try something, but I become obsessed with finding the right learning resources to get me going…only to find that I already had another skill that was similar enough to give me that launchpad.

Dead Bunny Guides was my first effort at producing a video, and a video series, and it ultimately came down to a combination of skills developed over years of teaching, writing, and performing. And from producing those videos, I learned how to manage files for media projects, which has been incredibly helpful in my voiceover work.

I’ve started shooting small videos for practice and for hitRECord collaborations. I’ve been terrified of trying to shoot video, only to find that a lot of my knowledge from photography and stagecraft help me avoid some of more common newbie mistakes and helped me learn the nuances and differences necessary to survive starting out in video production.

My point here is: We all have a collection of skills we bring with us every time we are faced with (or decide to try out) a new skill, even when it seems that skill has no relation whatsoever. But if we take a minute and honestly survey what we know, we might just find that we have the right skills to tackle the new challenge with a little less fear. It’s just a matter of knowing what we know, recognizing that skills can often be applied to a wide range of activities, and then giving ourselves the chance to explore those related skills.