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Last semester for thesis, I was asked to write every day, working towards the final thesis book. I didn’t set up an accountability buddy, so I wrote every once in a while. At the end of the semester, it took me two full weeks of writing and editing to put my book together, and it was exhausting. This semester, our teacher is more specific and asks us to write 500 words per day, in addition to a formal writing assignment every week. I knew it would be difficult to accomplish this without a plan, so after a week of following my writing routine, I want to share it here and then give updates as I continue to write during this semester.
One of the first steps to creating my plan was listening to Sean Wes’ podcast about writing. He lays out a lot of great reasons for writing; it helps you remember, it helps you capture ideas, it helps you to be more articulate, and it helps you to see how far you’ve come. He talks about his personal writing plan which is Early Wake, Daily Write. I’ve modeled my plan off of this idea, but my “early” is not quite as early as his 5am wake up.
I start my day with the Sleep Cycle alarm app. It wakes you up during your lightest sleep by tracking your movements in bed. Sean suggested a similar app, and it has really helped me with waking up early, one of the hardest parts of this plan. I started waking up at 8am this first week, and I plan to work backwards until I’m awake at 7am.
I make my breakfast and coffee and set up in my office area, which is a desk in my studio apartment’s entry way. The desktop is clear of everything except my breakfast and my iPad. I use Evernote as my writing program because it works best for writing on an iPad. It also syncs across all my other devices, so I can access my writing and to do lists from my iPhone and desktop computer at school. I start a new note every morning, and I leave the title blank until I’ve finished writing.
Sometimes I have something specific I’m writing about, like the audience for my thesis. Other times I just allow myself to write stream of conscious to pull out ideas and to develop blog posts. The most important lesson I’ve learned is don’t try to edit yourself as you write; just write, then edit later. It’s easier to edit something once you’ve written it, and this makes it easier to begin writing. I write for 40-60 minutes usually, and end up with anywhere from 500-1000 words. I notice that as I follow my plan, I’m writing more words in the same amount of time each day.
I try not to check my email or social media until after I’ve reached my writing goal for the morning. It’s the reward for completing my goal, and that way I’m not drained from seeing all the emails I need to answer. I’ve also been reading quite a bit about productivity and many articles state that your most important work should be done first before your limited cognitive energy is drained from information overload. As I continue to implement my writing plan, I’ll post more updates in my blog and share any other tips and tricks I discover along the way.
The tutorial I wrote for the Chameleon Bag is published in this month’s Make Magazine, volume 37. The Chameleon Bag is an interactive messenger bag that reacts to RFID-tagged objects with full-color LED animations on its front flap. Now you can make your own bag by following the instructions in the tutorial here.
This year had been full of learning, making, culture, and work. It’s flown by, and I wanted to share a few of the accomplishments that I’m proud of from this crazy year in New York.
I started the second semester of grad school in January after a whirlwind first semester. I developed a better school-life balance and regularly had dinners with Dan, a huge improvement. I discovered my love for designing smart objects, and my project, with Rae Milne, from that class won an honorable in Interaction Design from the Core77 Design Awards. My Chameleon Bag from first semester won runner-up in the DIY category in the same awards. I finished out the semester with a group project for the Wanted Design event during Design Week that was mentioned in the New York Times. That project took a lot of work and coordination, and it was very rewarding to see how successful it was.
Dan and I explored New York during May and June, and I used this time to practice and improve my photography. I got to meet my new niece for the first time and fell in love with her cute, chubby cheeks. I also taught myself to bake sourdough bread from my own starter, and it was some of the best bread I’ve ever made! We spent July in Michigan, and I kayaked for the first time in years.
Back to New York in August, I spent the month working at Etsy’s headquarters in Brooklyn documenting their company culture through photography. I cherish the time I had there and met so many wonderful people. I also got to flex my photography skills with my new camera body, a Canon 5D Miii.
In September I started my third semester, and final year, of grad school. I began my thesis, and even though I’ve felt lost and confused many times during the semester, my topic has remained unchanged and still holds my interest, not an easy feat. I showed projects at Maker Faire, and had one featured in a preview article in Timeout New York magazine and online. In October I made my favorite Halloween costume ever, a full Tardis outfit, utilizing my electronics skills to make a light-up fascinator. All my classmates dressed up for our class on Halloween; our first Halloween together because Sandy took away the holiday last year.
I finished up the year seeing a variety of plays and musicals with beloved actors: Waiting for Godot with Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, and Betrayal with Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz. I also finished the semester strong with some of the best presentations I’ve given, with much preparation and practice. In addition to school work, I completed a freelance writing piece for Make Magazine, which I’ll post more about when it’s published next month.
Overall, in 2013 I grew majorly in many areas: photography, time management, leadership, and baking. I’m really excited to see what’s in store for 2014, especially because of the goals I’ve set for myself and the big move coming in July. We’re not sure where we’re going yet, depends on the jobs available, but there will be more adventures and changes after graduation. For now, I’m thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had from this time in New York City.
Loop is a directional haptic feedback accessory designed by Joseph Weissgold and Kathryn McElroy for our Product, Brand Experience class. It has vibration points spaced evenly around the band that guide the user right or left by vibrating in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction, respectively. Loop works with Google Maps to give turn-by-turn directions, but it also has an open API that allows the user to develop new uses for it.
Loop allows its user to be more focused in the environment and eliminates the need to have a phone out to look at directions. It has many uses from intuitively directing running routes to helping tourists visit all the hot spots while looking up at the sights.
The fully functional first prototype has six vibration points, uses Flora for its brain, and has two demonstration codes, for right and left directions, that are activated by pushing one of the two buttons.
The photography I shot in August for Etsy has made it onto their careers page! See it for yourself here. I love seeing my work in use.
My Chameleon Bag is featured on Core77 today for winning DIY Runner Up in their 2013 Design Awards!
Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting award-winning projects and ideas from this year’s Core77 Design Awards 2013. We will be featuring these projects by category, so stay tuned for your favorite categories of design! For full details on the project, jury commenting and more information about the awards program, go to Core77DesignAwards.com.
During the month of August, I immersed myself in Etsy’s company culture, documenting and photographing it to serve as a guidepost as the company grows and as a reference for new hires, current employees and remote offices.
You may see some of the final photography on my portfolio site here.