Nikki's Notebook

My journey as a fiction writer and a place for my projects, writing and otherwise.

Posts Tagged ‘learning

Working on a new site and garden week 5.

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I am working on transitioning this blog to a self-hosted domain and making it part of a larger website. The other day I learned how to export this blog here as an xml file and upload it to the new site. But I’m not quite ready to start posting from the new site. I’m chipping away at it in bits and pieces.

I’ve had a few obstacles. One of them has been learning how WordPress works when you’re using it to make a website. I will get stuck on one thing that I want to do and then get super frustrated when I can’t figure out how to do it right away. In these situations, when I get over the frustration that makes me want to cry and throw things, I have to laugh at myself. How many times, as a tutor of school-age children, have I lamented that they get frustrated when everything doesn’t come easily to them? I try to explain to them that it takes mistakes to learn, that you have to let yourself be bad at something so you can practice and get good, and that they just need to keep trying. All the while, I’ve gotten caught in the same trap. If something doesn’t come easily right away, I let myself get distracted, procrastinate, and go do something else. My biggest weakness? I don’t like asking for help.

Here are last week’s shots of the garden. It’s gotten even greener by now.

Baby lettuce! I need to thin these, and then eat the thinnings 🙂
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Snap peas have started to climb the trellis.

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Zucchini plants getting bigger, and the whole garden getting greener.

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Jalapeños! Sadly, they weren’t spicy. Apparently too much water can do that to them. We had the same problem last year.

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Another overall garden shot from the other side.

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Written by nikkinbird

July 10, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Learning to Use WordPress to Design a New Website

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Untitled Check out this old computer! Chris’s boss was going to recycle it. It’s an Apple SE. He had it apart this morning and showed me the inside of it. The designers all engraved their signatures on one and then had a limited number of the cases made with the engraved signatures reproduced. This was one of them. So it has Steve Jobs’ signature engraved inside it, along with at least a dozen other people. So cool!

I’m currently in the process of building my own website for this blog to move to. I will have my own hosted space with my own domain name. Fun! It will be more than just a blog, but for now I’m just learning the ropes. Things have changed a lot since I made my fist website with Netscape Composer and hosted it on Geocities. That was when I was in seventh or eighth grade. Back then, people did a lot of different things with personal websites. One of them was creating “adoptable pets” for other people to have on their websites. Basically you “adopted” a picture of a pet and put it on your site.

I created my own adoptable dragons. They started out as images of eggs that I sent to the person. When their egg “hatched,” I sent a picture of a baby dragon. Then there was a young dragon, and an adult. All of these I made by drawing the dragon pictures, outlining them heavily in pen, then scanning them, touching them up in an editing program, and filling in the line drawings with different colors. It was fun.

Yes, times were different then. Now, I’m learning a new set of tools, and updating my knowledge of HTML (and CSS). I’m using to build my website. is different from (where this blog is currently hosted) in that you download the software and install it on your own server to use as a back end for your website. It still has themes, but you can edit the themes and customize more.

Last night, I was trying to play around with it and got discouraged. There is a LOT you can do with WordPress, which also means that there is a LOT to learn. I have to keep telling myself what I tell the students I work with: If it’s not hard, then you’re not learning anything. You don’t learn from doing things that already come easily to you. You learn when you are challenged. Yes, some things will come more easily than others, but the harder it is, the more you will learn if you stick with it through the mistakes and the pitfalls.

One of the goals I had for today was to change the colors of my theme. I know that I wanted some kind of warm but earthy color scheme. The trouble is, I always get afraid of getting sick of it. Then, I found myself getting stuck going back and forth trying different colors that didn’t quite work, refreshing the page, trying a new color. It was tedious. Well, thanks to Google, I found this: Color Scheme Designer. You can choose different types of color schemes and drag them around the color wheel to get a preview of how colors will look together. Way easier than my trial-and-error combinations! And pretty. I’m pretty sure someone showed me this once in relation to yarn and knitting.

I can tell I’m going to be slightly obsessed with this for awhile while I learn. But, I’m off to a wedding tonight, so I guess I have to take a break.

Written by nikkinbird

May 6, 2012 at 5:45 pm

My DIY Postgraduate Education

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UntitledLike many people, there are two sides to me when it comes to making big decisions like “What do I do next in my life?” There’s the realist (pessimist?) and the dreamer. In all of my decisions, I’ve been able to see at least a little bit of the dreamer. When I chose to major in English, it was because I secretly wanted to write fiction. Except, I would never have told anybody that.

Instead, when I answered the question “What’s your major?” with “English,” I would often get the response, “Oh, so you want to be a teacher?” I always thought that a bit of a silly question, considering that if I wanted to be a teacher, wouldn’t I be an education major? Usually, what I’d do was shrug, and say I didn’t know, or make some joke about not having a job after I graduated. I managed to end up in education anyhow, thanks to AmeriCorps, but I still have no plans to become a teacher, either by going back to school or through any alternate degree program.

At each crossroads in my life, the dreamer in me struggles with the realist. It’s the same now that I’m approaching the end of this year with AmeriCorps. Going to grad school for English has always been in the back of my mind, and I did have enough professors encourage me to do it! However, the best advice I got was from one of those same professors who thought I’d be grad school material: Don’t go to grad school unless you know exactly why you want to go and what you want to study. He cautioned against grad school as a placeholder, or something to do just because you don’t know what you want to do next in your life. In the past few years, I’ve had vague thoughts of going back, but I’ve always wavered, because deep down I knew that’s all I would be doing: choosing grad school because I didn’t know what else to do.

Instead, I’m going to make my own DIY postgraduate education. Part of it will definitely include a job where I will continue to gain professional skills. The other part is going to be me spending time on writing and learning things related to writing. I still don’t know what form it’s going to take, and it’s going to take time, but I’m already taking the steps, and that’s what counts. It won’t be overnight, and it will be a lot of work, but if it’s work I enjoy, then I have achieved my goal.

What I won’t do is frantically try to latch on to the latest fad for making money on the internet, try to take advantage of people who don’t get it, or rush out sloppy work just so I can start promoting my first 99 cent ebook and expect to be the next Amanda Hocking. I’m going to do good work, hard work, thoughtful work, and quality work. If I’m going to do it, it’s going to be something I can be proud of.

Here is how I’m starting my DIY postgrad education:

Reading books:

I recently purchased Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and The Plot Whisperer when we stopped by Barnes and Noble the other day. It was an impulse buy, and perhaps a creative writing professor would have recommended different books, but it seems like a good start to me. I’ve started reading Self-Editing already, and it’s actually made me feel better about my writing. Not that I think my writing is so good, but because I knew a lot of the things it talks about already from the one creative writing class I took in college. I’m happy to know I’m starting good habits, even though I still have a lot of bad ones, too.


I’m writing every day, so I’m practicing. I like this video with a quote by Ira Glass: Ira Glass on Storytelling, because it comforts me and motivates me to keep going. I’ve always written fiction, but it’s never been on a consistent basis until this year; it was always sporadic and unfinished. So I still consider myself a beginner. I’m going to keep practicing.

Studying others who are doing what I want to do

Mountain and Pacific is my big find for the day. It’s the perfect tonic I need to cut through all of the noise out there about marketing your book, creating content that you can sell, having an author platform, how to be the next kindle millionaire, or whatever. I’ve just read issues 19 and 20 of In Treehouses and I’m enjoying Thom’s philosophy that doing something well, and with depth and thought is better than all the tweeting and arm-waving you could do to sell your product. I do believe that the best way to stand out is to focus on quality and honesty and to let the rest flow naturally from that. Don’t get me wrong, I do think there’s a place for marketing, but the thing being marketed needs to be worth selling first.

Learning new technologies

I’ve downloaded the files to get started on a WordPress based website, and will be poking around with it for awhile. I learn best by just doing the things I want to know how to do, so I just have to jump in and try it. If I can make a nice website, this blog might move there.

So those are a few things I’ve been doing for my DIY education, and there will still be more. I’ll read and learn all I can, and take the best ideas from everything and mold them into something of my own. If you’ve read this far, I hope at least some of it was useful or inspiring to you. Maybe for all this, I won’t succeed, but I’m determined not to fail simply because I never tried.

Gru says, “I don’t care if it has no steering wheel and the hatch is filled with too much stuff. I’m going for a ride in the car!”

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