Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bringing in Traffic?

My biggest challenge has been bringing in traffic. My ultimate goal is to attract advertisers with my high RSS subscriptions, unique visitors and page views.

How do you bring in traffic? I'd love some advise.

This is a backwards Works-for-Me-Wednesday. Normally it's about sharing a tip, but this week it's about asking a question. Help out these other people with their burning questions.

Getting Focused

Last week for $2, I saw the above speakers in person! In case you don't know them by face, that's Michael Phelps, Gen. Colin Powell, Zig Ziglar, Mayor Giuliani, Phil Town, and several more. I was skeptical too about the price of the tickets. They are cheap so anyone can go the the Get Motivated Business Seminar. It was amazing!

While there my mom and I signed up for a 2 day workshop on becoming an educated investor. Yesterday we finished the workshop and learned an incredible amount. Now I am not as fearful about the economy because I understand the stock market better.

What I learned is that I need to continue to educate myself, have a game plan, goals and be decisive. For sure, I'll be posting about this some more.

After I finish The Essential Buffett: Timeless Principles for the New Economyand Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Daythese are the top priority:

Related Links:
Week 12 HITS (More about the Motivational Seminar)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Week 12 HITS

I'm Motivated but not Focused

Being in San Francisco two weeks ago threw me off schedule. I didnt take my ginkgo. Now I'm paying for it. Last Tuesday night mom reminded me that all day Wednesday we were going to the Get Motivated Business Seminar. How could I forget that? When we first got tickets back in February (12 tickets for $19), it was all I could think about.

The excitement returned! We got to Arco Arena in Sacramento at 7am, since it was general admission. Our seats were really close to the stage, only 23 rows away! I wasnt sure if the seminar was going to have famous speakers in person or if it was via satellite. Good thing I didn't know, otherwise I wouldn't of been able to sleep the night before. Other than the first speaker, they were all on stage: Gen. Colin Powell, Mayor Giuliani, Michael Phelps, Phil Town, Zig Ziglar and several more.

There were so many excellent points that I'm still processing how to use them. Right now, the thought that keeps reverberating in my head is, "what do I want to do?" My knee jerk reply is "Everything!" But by focusing I can accomplish several things very well, instead of half assing a bunch of accomplishments. I even dared to ask myself if I want to make a living as an artist or if I'd rather use my creativity in another way.

A shared characteristic of the speakers, besides being confident, was optimism. These leaders are knowledgeable about how to take care of themselves during these hard times, so they are not overpowered by fear. They are informed, brave, and have a plan.

Many times at the Get Motivated seminar it was emphasized that it's important to have seven streams of income. This hasn't been a priority for me. How much longer am I going to put it off, because there is so much to learn when starting something new? I first heard about having multiple steams of income when I was a Quixtar business owner, at age 18. I told myself I'd figure that out when I was an adult. Now I'm a few months shy of being 25. I'm an adult now, so that excuse is dead.

At the Get Motivated seminar they offered several opportunities to take workshops with a couple of the speakers on investing and real estate. I was sitting there thinking, "Wow. That could be one of my streams of income. I've been interested to learn, but intimidated. They keep saying that now is a great time to invest." Mom signed us up and the first workshop is tomorrow! It's another all day event going for two days in a row. Tomorrow, a buffettologist, Phil Town, from the Wealth Magazine, will be explaining how Warren Buffett buys stocks. I'm super eager to get there and learn how Buffett thinks. Step one for me is to gather lots of info before jumping into the unknown, like the stock market. A lot of times I gather too much data and burn myself out, so with that in mind, I am going to make this work.

Weekly Goals

1. Be More Social

On last week's HITS post, I made myself share this week's goal of being more social. I didnt want to back down after saying it so I reconnected with some friends and made plans for next week. I'm really looking forward to it!

2. Work more intensely on increasing traffic to all of my sites

Without traffic advertisers won't be interested in this site. I want to get their business since their ads will help support me as an artist.

Finding advertisers is still a big mystery, but at least I am now attacking it after 3 months of occasionally trying to figure it out. My first stop was to ProBlogger. I took one of his articles about 10 ways to improve traffic and did all 10 steps. Then I posted about the specific steps, in case you want to do them too.

Blog Makeover
I signed up on ProBlogger for "31 days to build a better blog." Each day for April I'll have an assignment via email and Darren's blog.

By time I had drove home from the Get Motivated Seminar, Zig Zigglar was following me on Twitter. WOW! I am so impressed! He moves fast! Taking his lead and pointers from Darren on ProBlogger, I started following other like minded folks: entrepreneurs, artist, gluten free cooks, bloggers, and motivational speakers. In seven days my following more than doubled. I'm almost to triple digits. The reason for spending time on Twitter is to share with artist's what I'm learning to give them ideas, network, encouragement and to intrigue art collectors and advertisers.

3. Make my sites (blog/FB/Twitter/portfolio site/Etsy) more interactive

Created a Documentary

The first episode for the documentary, Virtual Studio Visit, is called "Why are the Sheep Blue?" I show the steps that it took to make 200 miniature blue sheep.

Riding back on the train from San Francisco two weeks ago, I wrote an outline and shot list for a documentary I've been thinking about on and off. It's called the Virtual Studio Visit! Some of the most rich learning experiences in my art career, has happened in artists' studios. It's the real life application that helped me to move to the next level in my art and thought process. I want to hopefully help other artists by sharing how I make my art, give them pointers on what to avoid and share what's working for me.

In the future, there will be a post on how to create your own documentary. Thankfully one year in college I was a film student before switching to sculpture. I wish I'd taken more technology classes in school, like web design, photoshop and social media marketing. No time like the present to learn that stuff.

Miniature Sheep Contest

I really want this site to be interactive, interesting, informative and fun, so a contest is in order. You can win an adorable tac sheep! Check out this post for the details.
Deadline is Wed. April 15th.

I made you a Documentary!
So that means there are only a couple of photos for this week

  • Documentary film by me about how I made 200 miniature blue sheep. This is the first episode of the Virtual Studio Visit.
  • I took photos for mom, but I can't share them yet because it is a gift for someone, who happens to read my blog. Hang in there! Next week I'll post them.

Biggest Weekly Challenge

"Do two things everyday that you don't enjoy."

It's really easy for me to continue to put things off, if I feel guilty about it instead. I hadn't realized that's what I do, until a few weeks ago. Thinking about the tasks I don't enjoy, like backing up my computer every month, I instead don't do it. I transfer them from one weekly list to the next, occasionally doing the dreaded tasks. They become irritants and I loath doing them even more. Creatives are notorious for leaving visual reminders for an inordinate amount of time, like the shoe with dog poop that's been sitting by my front gate for over a month. It's time to take conscious action to removing irritants and getting over the guilt of putting things off.

This week I attacked a huge task that has been on the list for over a year. That was to read some articles by Darren over on ProBlogger and apply it to my blog. Mom introduced me to his well organized, professional site that has a ridiculous amount of helpful information. It's too helpful! Too informative! In the past I'd read a post and that had several excellent links to visit (which led to more links), on top of implementing what Darren wrote. It was like a snowball. I couldn't set a limit to gathering the information, then move onto the implementing stage.

I braved the site again and told myself that I was to only look at articles about attracting advertisers or web traffic. And I gave myself permission to not be uber-thorough by not looking at Darren's recommended links.

The article I landed on is called, "10 ways to find readers for your blog by leveraging other online presence." Turning it into a game, I read the article and gave myself points for every tip that he shared (I had more then I expected). Then in tandem I did the rest of the pointers while writing a post about what I did in hope to encourage you.

While perusing ProBlogger I discovered that Darren makes a six figure income from his various streams of income. Now he has my attention. He's not just another writer, but a successful person that I can learn lots from. Even though I am still overwhelmed by his site, I am going to widdle away at his post archive.

It's only a couple of days away from April fools day! Add some silliness to your life and plan to a trick. I'd love to hear about what you did. Next Monday, I'll be sharing my April Fools prank with photos of my art installation.

Related Links:

Week 13 HITS
Week 11 HITS
Table of Contents for HITS (Happenings in the Studio)

10 ways to find readers for your blog by leveraging other online presence Activity

Problogger is uber helpful, making it intimidating

While perusing ProBlogger I discovered that Darren makes a six figure income from his various streams of income. Now he has my attention. He's not just another writer, but a successful person that I can learn lots from. Even though I am still overwhelmed by his site because it is too helpful and informative, I am going to widdle away at his post archive.

The article I landed on is called, "10 ways to find readers for your blog by leveraging other online presence." Turning it into a game, I read the article and gave myself points for every tip that he shared that I already do (I had more then I expected). Then in tandem I did the rest of the pointers while writing this post about what I did in hope to encourage you.

1. Twitter Background Image

I had no idea that I could alter the background in Twitter. In no time at all I created a custom image using photoshop. If you are interested, I can make one for your profile for $20.

2. Profile Pages on Social Media

First point for me! I already add my blog link to my social media sites. For some odd reason I forgot to write a bio on Twitter, so following their 140 character limit here's my bio: artist, entrepreneur, life learner, traveler, juggler, yogi, gluten/dairy/egg-free cook, blogger, optimist.

3. Social Media Sites (eg- Facebook)

I use to have an rss feed to Facebook of this blog, until the drama popped up that FB was claiming the rights to any content on their site. I'm waiting for them to revert back to the authors keeping the rights. However I do have an rss feed of my blog on LinkedIn.

ProBlogger recommended to register your blog on networked blogs on facebook. I'd never heard of that section before, but I figured others have, so I registered. To get verified, I need nine kind people to verify that I am the author. Would you please go to this link and verify me? Thank you!

4. Email Signature

Use every opportunity to advertise your blog, such as after your gmail signature. I already have the blog url plus my portfolio site after my siggy. Another point for me. :-)

5. Forum Signatures

I found from experience that leaving your blog url in forums, such as Craigslist, can bring in traffic. I wouldn't know this unless I had a tracking system, like Google Analytics. Don't be pushy and compulsively leave your url all over the forum. Find appropriate places to post it, otherwise people will think poorly of you.

I didn't let myself get intimidated by this informative Problogger article, so I didn't let myself to check out the links the first time through. This week I am going to check this link out!
How to drive 100s of 1000s of readers to your blog

6. Blog Comments

Take the time to build relationships. This encourages loyal readers and it's really fun getting to know other people. Some places to leave comments are on Blogger's blogs of note, carnivals or on blogs of the same niche. This is something I currently do, except I could do more of it.

When leaving comments don't be cut and paste about it and then leave your url. Instead leave a custom comment that encourages or has constructive criticism. There's no need to leave your url, it's attached to your name when you comment.

7. LinkedIn ‘Questions and Answers’

I had no idea that LinkedIn has a Q & A section! It has categories like financial, job seeking, small business, marketing... I could lose hours perusing the Q & As. I definitely need to get more familiar with LinkedIn.

I had to try it out, so I asked if anyone has any connections at Laika in Portland, Oregon. I asked this before in Craigslist in the arts discussion forum and didn't get a response. According to What Color is Your Parachute? having a connection is the best way to get the attention of the person hiring. It's also a great way to scope out the company before deciding to work there.

8. YouTube (and other Video and Photosharing sites)

This one is a check for me. Over the last couple of months I've weekly added photos to picasa. I also made a Flickr account to be cool like the other kids. :-) As we speak, my first documentary on my art is uploading to youtube! Be sure to include your url on all of these kinds of sites.

9. Your Other Blogs

Currently I don't have another blog, but in the future I could see singling out my art from my other interests and create its own blog. For now, I talk up this site on Facebook, Digg, Kirsty, Twitter, my Etsy store, ebay and on ElizabethSymington.com.

Thanks to Google Analytics, it's told me that I get a decent amount of traffic from the url in my blogger profile going over to my portfolio site and visa versa. I also put the link to my etsy store in my header and that has generated hits as well.

10. Guest Posting

This is something that I've thought about doing for a while. I'm hatching ideas and they are on the way. Darren on ProBlogger has several articles that I plan on reading on how to do this.

What are some ways that you bring in traffic?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Buffett joins my 2009 Booklist

The Essential Buffett: Timeless Principles for the New Economy
This book is #14 for the year, for my 2009 book list.

At the Get Motivated seminar that my mom and I attended last week, one of Buffett's students, Phil Town, offered a great deal on his investing workshop here in Sacramento. Phil Town started off investing when he was a river raft guide who made $4,000 a year. I think I am out of excuses for planning for the future. Now's the time. I've already checked out the website, added my profile picture, and started taking the online tutorials!

Learning the history on topics of interest is my way of understanding new concepts. This is why I am reading a book about the way Buffett thinks, because I want to know too. I plan to wiki the stock market and explore Wealth Magazine's Investools website.

I'm all excited about the workshop that is happening all day Monday and Tuesday. There will be a post about the investing workshop some time next week!

Virtual Studio Visit, episode 1 - Blue Sheep

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Searching this Blog

I discovered that the search box on the top left corner is for this blog!!!

That makes things so much easier for both you and for me.

Go ahead and try it out. Search for cactus lights, braille or blue footed boobies...

To find those specific words in the post hit ctrl + F to make the "find box" to appear on the bottom left corner of the screen. For you mac folks, it's apple + F. Type in your keyword in the box and voila!

Happy searching.

Contact Me

I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions.

elizabeth at elizabethsymington dot com

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Best Animated Short Film in 1993

Let's pretend we are at the Oscars in 1993.

The following animated short films are shown:

Paul Berry

Mona Lisa Descending a staircase
Joan Gratz

Rici, Reci, Reci
Micheala Pavlatova

Peter Lloyd
MIA on youtube

Screen Play
Barry Purves

Snow White opens the envelope. The winner is... This time you decide. Cast your vote for your favorite film. The poll is on the top right of this page. (Not all of the films are cute and cuddly. Just so you know.)

GF Shopping Tips

New experiences, tastes and ways of doing things, is what I look forward to. Asian markets are packed full of foods made from rice, which is great for those with food allergies to wheat (like me). Since my allergies are mild and I'm not affected by trace amounts of gluten or shared equipment, the Asian markets are great for me. Lots of the foods I don't know how to prepare, but that makes it even more of an exciting challenge.

Seeing the white radishes at the Korean Market,
instantly made me think of a Miyazaki film. It made me want to buy the radishes, so I did!

This is the Radish Spirit from one of my favorite movies, Spirited Away. The level of creativity in Miyazaki's films, baffles me. One day, I want to be as good of a story teller.

In Sacramento, at the Korean Market there is an aisle of rice noodles! Right now there are fresh pineapple for $1.29 each! I can drink sake because it is also made from rice. There are cans of coconut milk for 79 cents. The rice selection is vast, sold in larger quantities and cheaper too.

I only know one word in Mandarin, which means I can't read the packages in the store. Oh well. I just go onto the next thing that catches my eye.

The only Mandarin that I know is yah dong, which means duck egg. A friend taught me to say it (and wrote it down for me), because I was on a quest for fresh duck eggs in Chinatown in San Francisco. I've asked every grocery and I've called most all of them in the phone book. There is no yah dong in San Fran. Oddly enough, the Korean Market in Sacramento sells them by the dozen! The eggs are twice the size of chicken eggs and higher in protien. Double bonus!

Foods from the Asian Market that intrigue me, that I plan on learning to prepare:
  • acorn starch
  • green bean starch
  • quail eggs in a can or fresh
  • Spring rolls
Have fun exploring new things to eat and having greater variety for those with gluten allergies.

For more Works-for-me-Wednesday tips, check out this huge list.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Week 11 Happenings in the Studio

Old Habits Die Hard

This is my first semester out of college and yet I still took a Spring Break to recuperate. (And I continue to think of time in 15 week chunks. I can’t wait for that to change.) I planned on staying in San Francisco for three nights but it evolved into five. There were just so many things to do, places to revisit and friends to catch up with.

The reason for the trip was to see Ian's brother and cousin who were out from Colorado. The highlights were playing four player of Little Big Plant on the Wii and chasing the Frisbee at Totem Pole Park with the guys. One whole day I got to spend the day with Andy, painting trim and installing blinds and shelves. As always, she spoiled me with vegetarian delights all served on her pottery. New experiences are what I look forward to and hanging out with Luke this week more than filled my quota. He had some friends over to brew and bottle beer. Everyone’s beer was at different stages, so I got to see the various steps of brewing. I got to do some capping and taste testing!

One of the many things I picked up this week:

Zenbe. I set up a free online account for this list making program. It even syncs with your iphone. That will come in handy when I get an iphone. (I also learned that it's iphone and not eyephone. LOL. Good thing my friends keep me in the loop.)

Weekly Goals

Typically I plan out the week on Monday, but I was in San Francisco and setting goals wasn’t on the list. In fact, there was no list! In a retroactive sense here are the “goals” for week 11:

1. Relax. Socialize. Recharge. Get encouragement and ideas by talking with fellow artists.

I know it’s silly to put socialize as a “to-do” but often I don’t make time for it. Last Saturday back in Sacramento was the first social thing I’ve done in Sacramento in almost 3 months that didn’t involve my family or family friends. I’ve been way too focused on my art and marketing, to venture out of the house.

This “socializing goal” is staying on the list, along with take 1 day off a week. Workaholic, I know. I’m going too finally get around to making some calls and hang out with some friends. :-)

Visiting my old home, San Fran, made me finally accept that the kinds of friends that excite me are those that are adventurous, risk takers, creatives, curious, ambitious, focused, and driven. This makes for endless story sharing of random experiences and things being learned. I feel encouraged, energized and fearless. Thank you for this my friends.

2. Asses the progress since starting HITS

The drag about evaluating the progress of one’s efforts is admitting when things aren’t progressing fast enough or not working at all. Over the week, talking with friends who are in the film biz or photography world, they know their worth and have no problem setting a limit on how little they will work for. I know it’s only a matter of changing my mindset, but I want to help anyone who asks. Often, this means working for less than I feel I am worth. Now that I have a degree, I feel like I can and should charge more, but currently I’m lacking in the gumption to set my hourly rate at least $20 hour. It’s even hard to write. Ahhh!

Now that I’m tracking my time and what gets accomplished, I figured out how much I’ve been making. Money is not bad. It’s necessary for me to travel, pay rent, eat, pay off student loans. The assessment showed that the reward and hours of work are grossly disproportionate. I put in way more time than the fun I get out of it. Rewards are lots of things to me: sharing what I’m learning (like through this blog or with studio visits or talking with friends), excitement of creating (not mass producing) in the studio and of course, money. Having a lack of reward is burning me out. I’m losing steam. What would really help would be to raise the traffic to this site, so advertisers would want to be on this blog. Continuing to make the site attractive to advertisers is a goal for this current week.

I work hard now, to establish a business that revolves around freedom. Being able to travel spur of the moment or changing around my days, is what I love. I don’t want to continue working 6 days a week. The plan is to structure a business or work for someone, where I’m working 4 or 5 days a week. The big question is what will the business offer?

Photos of San Francisco, redwoods and French birthday party are here.

Biggest Weekly Challenge

Enjoying the Journey

As a kid I'd always want to be in the older kids group, just like my brother. At Easter egg hunts at Leads Castle, I'd get confused and end up finding the Cadbury eggs in the big kids section. I always want to hurry up and finish, so I can go onto the next grade. I'm done with school, but the mentality is still here. How do I slow down and enjoy the journey?

It's funny (and irritating to my mom) when I pick up advise from other people, when she's been saying it all along. Why is that? I don't intentionally do that. Last Thursday, working for Andy, she shared that you only start out once. So enjoy the time and let others support you. My mom has been invaluable and incredibly supportive of me while I'm trying to figure out what to do next. She's knows I'll take care of her in the future when I am better established. She is absolutely right. But how do I figure out what to do next?

In the last week and a half, I've planned out three scenarios on what to do next. This is nothing new. I'm constantly planning up random and exciting paths. One idea hit me while walking around the rooster park in Old Fair Oaks. There is an airplane hanger that would be ideal for an artist's studio and office. I mentally ran through the steps to get the loan, approaching the current business in the hanger and making them an offer and envisioning how to best set up the furniture in each room.

Then I saw Coraline and my dormant passion of working in stop motion animation was rekindled. I looked up Laika to see if they're hiring, the requirements and then thought about which district I'd live in up in Portland. I decided to not get a car, but bike. And to join the juggling group and find a club to fence at.

Right after that, riding on the train from SF, I remembered my idea of working for Amtrak and traveling around the US. I'd stay over and explore cities and get to see the East coast. I'd just have a backpack of possessions to keep track of. I'd blog about my travels and the interesting and random folks on the train.

All of this dreaming, planning and brainstorming is tiring. My original plan when getting out of school was to pick up odd jobs that are art related and improve my blog to bring in more business. I thought by giving myself time and the freedom to dabble here and there, I'd figure out what to do next. Instead, I'm exhausted and unsure of what to do next.

I've known that a successful business finds a niche and spends their time on exceeding expectations. I don't know which one thing I want to offer as a service. Lots of things interest me. It's just a matter of time, before my eye catches something else I want to learn. I like the freedom of constantly learning new things. I don't want to be tied down to just one service.

This weekly challenge is just that, a challenge of the week. It is currently unsolved. Being a human is an ever evolving and refining process and I'm starting out and figuring out what to do next.

Related Posts:

Mr. Linky

Week 12 HITS
Week 10 HITS
Table of Contents for HITS (Happenings in the Studio)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Week 11A Happenings in the Studio


Every Monday I recap what went on in my life, as an artist.

This is the first time since starting HITS, that the post wasn't done early.

I've been out of the office all week and now I'm playing catch up. But it was totally worth spending the week in San Francisco.

To tide you over until Monday night, I've complied a photo album.

See you tonight.

Click on the photo below to go to the album.


Week 11B HITS (rest of this weeks update)
Week 10 HITS
Table of Contents for HITS (Happenings in the Studio)

Week 11 Happenings in the Studio

Mr. Linky

I first heard about Mr. Linky from Rocks in My Dryer hosted Works-For-Me-Wednesday. (This link shows what it looks like.) The name stuck and my fascination continued. Basically, Mr. Linky is a widget at the end of a post where readers can leave their name and URL, say for a meme.

Today is my first time hosting the Gluten Free Menu Swap and I wanted to do it right. So I signed up for a Mr. Linky account. When getting a widget you can pick from the small list of memes. Or using paypal you can become a member for $5 a year. Then you can create custom widgets and how ever many you want. This sounded like the best route for me, so I now have a silver account (it sounds so much more impressive than saying I spent $5 for the annual membership).

WARNING- Mr. Linky's web site is text heavy. Dont freak out. It's just words. It includes simple step by step instructions on how to use the HTML code. You can figure out what they are saying and follow each little step. I did it, so you can too. Play it smart and back up your template before making any changes. They explain how to do that too. When you visit the site, you'll know what I'm talking about and the lack of images.

Purpose of Mr. Linky?
First and foremost, is to use him as much as possible because his name is fun to say. And it makes me smile.

Second- to save time and look professional when hosting for memes, like Gluten Free Menu Swap.

Thirdly- to make this site more interactive. This week the contest with the blue sheep will be posted, along with Mr. Linky, so you can enter your submission.

Newbie to the 2009 Book List

After giggling all the way through Coraline at the IMAX, I just had to read the book.

So that brings me to book number 13 on the 2009 book list.

Just started it last night.

I hear the book is darker then the movie.

Bring on the creepiness!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Save $ by Traveling by Train

When I was in college (that's so fun to say, since I just graduated) I rode Amtrak from San Francisco to Sacramento, to see my family. It took about 2 hours 1-way and cost less than a tank of gas and it was faster then having mom come pick me up.

Tips on Local Train Rides (in particular in California)

Every state varies with Amtrak regulations, but the San Joaquin line is very flexible. When planning a trip home, I'd go to Amtrak's website and check for the next train. Then I'd take public transit to the main station in San Francisco. By going to the main bus station this saves time not having to ride the bus picking up everyone else up at the other SF stops. If you have time, go to the office and buy your ticket. Not all bus stops have offices, so keep that in mind. If you don't have a ticket, you can still get on the bus. You just need your ID. Enjoy the bus ride over the Bay Bridge to the train station in Emeryville.

In the station I'd buy the round trip ticket from SF to Sacramento. It is cheaper than purchasing 2 one-way tickets. Also, be sure to buy your ticket in the station and not on the train. Otherwise it will be marked up 40% (it might even be higher now). If your bus is late getting to Emeryville and you don't have time to buy your ticket in the station, calmly explain this to the ticket person on the train. They might cut you a deal.

Wait for the train to show up (you can bring your bike or suitcase) and hop aboard. For me, I always fall asleep from the train rocking back and forth. I'm always paranoid that I will sleep right through my stop, so when boarding I set the alarm on my cell phone to go off the stop before.

If I dont fall asleep, I sometimes talk to my neighbors. Several have been commuters who live in Sacramento but work in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lots of them had their laptops out and typing away. It rides along the bay for a good chunk of the trip. So pretty!

Buy discounted BART tickets in the Amtrak snack car. A $10 value blue ticket costs you $8. You can only buy one (because of the punks that ruined it for everyone else who were caught reselling them).

Sometimes I got rides from Sac town to SF. My return ticket was still good for another time, since I can use it anytime over the next 12 months.

Tips for long train trips

  • Buy tickets in advance to guarantee a seat on the train. You can't show up at the station on the day of to go from California to another state.
  • I've always ridden coach, but you can rent a sleeper. The seats recline and often I've had both seats to myself. There's a ton more leg room than on a plane. I've slept on the floor before in a sleeping bag. You can also sleep in the observation car.
  • Check into the discount programs, like for students.
  • FYI- Amtrak doesn't own the tracks. This means Amtrak doesn't have the right away, so you'll have to sit on the tracks to let the other trains pass. Amtrak is notoriously late. Every trip I've taken from Cali to Colorado, the train has been hours late. It is still worth it, because you ride through the beautiful Sierras and the Rockies.
  • Bring food in a cooler (meals in the snack car and dining car ads up really fast), a pillow, a blanket, a book, slippers, water (the train water is really bad!!!), playing cards and wine (alcohol is sold on the train, but it's expensive). Also pack gum (everyone will thank you), headphones (sometimes they play movies and have headphones for sale), ear plugs, camera, extra batteries, charger for laptop, cell phone or Nintendo DS.
  • Strategically pick your seat (and move around until you have the one you like). I like to sit far away from families because kids make noise when I'm trying to sleep or read. I also avoid being near the doors at either end of the car, since cold air gets sucked in from the outside. Sometimes, people break the taboo and talk on their cell phones in the coach area. I always relocate when they appear. You can also just ask these people to please talk in the observation car or by the downstairs bathrooms.
  • Don't be in a rush. Driving is much faster then the train, but it's also more expensive. Enjoy the scenery from the observation car. Be on the look out for wildlife and random lakes and waterfalls. Watch the sunrise and sunset. Eat in the dining car with strangers (you're seated 4 to a table, whether you know each other or not). Bring your musical instrument and gather up strangers to play in the observation car.
  • Traveling by train is stressful if you have a schedule to keep, like catching a plane, since Amtrak is often late. I get ancy when I'm going from California to Colorado, because I want to hurry up and get there to see my friends. It can be a hassle to get cell phone reception to let them know how late you are going to be. I like to take the train when I don't know anyone where I am going, like the 6 week trip I took around the Pacific Northwest last summer. To read about that trip traveling by train, the Oregon Country Fair and staying in hostels, check out my posts on my Liberating Trip from BART.
  • Riding the train is a beautiful, slow transition into a relaxing vacation. You get to watch the change of scenery going from one state to the next. It forces you to slow down, which is something I often need. Unlike driving, you can walk around, stretch, eat and sleep and still be moving toward your destination.

I'd love to hear about your wonderful train trips. Anyone have a story?

For a huge list of other Works-For-me-Wednesday tips, go to we are that family.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Week 10 HITS

Week 10

Sore and Cranky

My personal goal of stepping it up at the gym made me grouchy this week. Rebuilding muscle unfortunately makes me lethargic. Almost everyday I had to spend extra time cooking, stretching, taking hot showers, and using the chi machine.

I am so thankful for keeping a daily time log of what was accomplished and how long it took. I put in 40 hours of work, but still lots of things didnt get done. Thanks to this time log, I can asses that despite me feeling sore, having a sinus infection and dealing with eye strain, a lot was done. This list helps me to stop harassing myself for not getting everything done that I wanted.

On the sunny side, today I am going to San Francisco! My old hometown for my 5 years while in college. I'm going out there to see friends who are visiting from Colorado. Conveniently I'm staying for St. Paddy's, so that means I get to see my fencing buddies at the BBQ. I am so excited to see my friends!!!

A good way to get burned out is to do what I am doing; have an in balance of right and left brain activities, like all computer work and no studio time to create. The reason I've been doing it this way, is so I can get it out of the way. I am so eager to make more cactus lights and to play around with vinyl record light switch covers. This week I have to get in the studio. Going nuts from sitting still and typing.

I had an epiphany. I don't like mass media or believe that their ads are 100% honest. Of course they have a code of conduct and for legal reasons they need to be accurate, but I still dont trust them. After all, ads are about making money. Since I am an artist working from home, it is essential for me to market my art. I need to rinse the icky taste that marketing and advertising leaves in my mouth and continue to create honest, 100% money back guarantee for my art. I look forward to one day hiring someone to take care of marketing, but until then, I need to learn it.

Social marketing is the free route and can be highly effective. It does take an investment of your time to learn how to effectively work the social sites. That's why I am reading Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day by Dave Evans. I love the idea of spending just one hour a day on marketing. That means more time in the studio! Reading this book hasn't been a rush of excitement, but I am enjoying learning about the psychology of marketing. There are also lots of applicable tips for me and my business. On April 15th, over on capitalistchicks.com, I'm going to write a review on this book, in my column, "the missing link" between art and business.

Goals for Week 10

1. Continue to rest eyes, because they are recovering from eye strain.

It was super hard to limit my time on the computer, but I want my eyes to stop stinging. Now the beautiful tree out front is blossoming, which is killing my sinuses and eye balls. Ahh. Spring!

2. Figure out ebay and post at least one item.

This has been on the to-do list for, hmm, a year. I was sick of thinking about it, so I did it. One less irritant on my plate. Now to post more things on ebay. Anyone have any advise using ebay?

3. Daily Tweet on Twitter.

I picked this marketing tip up from an article I read about ways artists can use twitter. It takes less than one minute to upload and about 5 minutes of browsing around the site. I'm hoping it makes readers feel included in the art making process.

4. Continue to Develop Blog.

Added a home button (again, something I've been trying to figure out for a year). Click here for the tutorial on how to make your own home button.

I now have Google Analytics tracking this blog, my portfolio site and my etsy store. This will be encouraging to see that the regular updates do bring in traffic. It will also help me to focus my efforts (my mantra, focus).

Added content to blog.

Tweaked the layout. Included new widgets. Never ending process of refining and streamlining.

Researched on social media marketing and how to make the blog more aesthetic to serving you. Links I plan on revisiting and implementing tips from:

All week I've been thinking about what I learned in a teaching class that I took and how it applies to sharing my life as an artist via the web. In a classroom each lesson needs to be student based. It's important to think about what the students are doing. Are they sitting and listening to the lecture while the teacher shows a video, gives a lecture with images on a screen? To encourage learning, interest and a desire to come back to class, have the students (in my case, readers) do something other than sit and listen.

To encourage you to change it up, I've created a post on what you can do on this site.

I've also devised a contest involving miniature blue sheep.

Of course there will be a prize.

More details coming this week.

5. Add More Art to my Etsy Store.

Check it out! More Braille art. Still more to upload, but it's getting closer.

6. Stay Current on Freelance Work:

  • Continued working as a business consultant for color consultant and trend forecaster Barbara Parker
  • In the works- designing a weekly art class for kids
  • Started to design a logo for a chiropractor/acupuncturist, Dr. Mark Southwell, in Denver, Colorado

Where's the Photos?
Since my eyes are feeling better and not burning as much from the eye strain, I decided it best to not spend extra screen time using the digital camera and then the computer for editing and uploading. With that said, you'll have to use your imagination to picture the things I did all week.

I created a Picasa album that contains one photo. This way it won't look like I forgot to share anything.

I'm going to SF, so there will be pics taken by others with healthy eyes. Hang in there for next week. There's going to be more visuals.

Biggest Weekly Challenge

Danger Will Robinson. I'm becoming too serious.

Over the weekend I got to see Coraline, the new stop motion animation by Laika. Ian treated me to the 3D showing. It was a perfect date. I giggled all the way through the movie! Stunning visuals. Great camera moves. Expressive facial movements. Dark and creepy story. Lovable characters. I didn’t want it to end, so now I am reading the book.

To watch the trailer, click here.

To make Laika even more amazing, the animation production company is in Portland! Ever since going to the city of roses it has become my other love besides art. I am going to live there. I already know where I’ll juggle every week. I’ve decided to join a yoga studio instead of finding another gym. The fencing scene is big there, so I plan on poking people again! It’s just a matter of time before I move there.

All of these exciting plans is reverting me to my old ways: overwhelming myself by planning out too far in advance. That’s why I created Happenings in the Studio as a weekly update. It makes me focus on the here and now. Yoga helps me to be in the present too.

To keep myself moving forward on deciding when to apply to Laika I’ve been doing some investigating. What color is your parachute? recommends to research the company first to see if it’s a good match, instead of trying out the job and quitting after the first month. To start it off, I looked around Laika’s website for insight and inspiration. I checked out the job openings, the requirements and the application process. The freelance sculpting position looks ideal for me!

Then I hoped over to LinkedIn to see if I have any connections in my network. I don’t, but I am working on changing that.

The next step to stop worrying about the future, I asked on Craigslist in the arts discussion forum, if anyone knew of other special effects companies in Portland. Other than Laika, no one has given me any leads. I want to be a part of visual effects company that is in a beautiful area, like Marin County in California. Anyone have some ideas?

Thank you voyeurs of the art making process! (And fellow creatives. I love you too.) I appreciate you for making the time to read this weekly update. I could use your help. Does anyone have any connections to Laika or to a special effects company? I want to make miniatures and other creative tasks that require working with my hands. Being a lover of the process and detail work, this kind of job would be ideal for me.

See you next week!

P.S. If you want to hear my tweet, follow me on Twitter.

Related Articles:

Why Bother Getting Organized...Again

Week 11A HITS
Week 9 HITS

Table of Contents for HITS (Happenings in the Studio)

Coraline Movie Trailer

I want to be apart of a stop motion animation, making miniatures or other kinds of creating with my hands!!!

Besides having a kickball team over the Summer, Laika is in Portland!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

New Article for "Missing Link" Column

Why Bother Getting Organized Again?

"I spend more time getting organized than staying that way. Right-Brains, like artists, actually think differently in terms of organizing than from analytical, Left-Brain dominant people. Since most organizing containers are tailored to Left-Brain’s way of thinking, it is no wonder that Right-Brain's are often messy. So what kinds of organizing systems are a natural fit for us creative people?"

I am a column writer for Capitalistchicks.com.

The column is about the missing link between art and business.

The site is updated every 1st and 15th. "The Missing Link" will have a new article every 15th. That means the review of Organizing for the Creative Person is on the site now!

Capitalist chicks home page, full of inspiring people and their stories.
Or link directly to the organizing article.

My Dog is 17!

Happy Birthday Chip!

I love you.