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"Something Nice for Me to Think About"

Things haven't exactly been fun for me as of late. Most of it consists of bouts of feeling numb, or feeling too much, or feeling too little, mainly regarding Anna and me, of course. I mean, what do you do, when your doubts and uncertainties are nearly washed out completely in a sea of people accustomed to failure in love? Ignore everyone, I suppose...

I was fortunate enough to be approached by several different people interested in working with me on their web sites and various projects they had to get out of the way. I guess all that talk about how you can always rely on your skills and talents when others aren't there for you holds up. Strive to improve yourself, and make yourself marketable, and delightful surprises like this will happen to you when you need them most.

So what I get to do is work with some new folks who have basically given me free rein to do what I want to on their web sites or extra projects. I like that. The projects are interesting and give room for creativity. What really can suck about web design is when you're handed a project where everything must be done a certain way, even if it looks terrible. Creativity is less efficient, and therefore not approved of. You're basically doing grunt work, manipulating graphics and layout the way someone else wants it, just because they don't know how to do it themselves. Having to work with other people can really suck at times, too. Not because I'm a bad team player or anything...just because I'm a staunch believer in the sole author being the only one able to create a truly unified work.

But now I get to work on stuff at my own pace, incorporating most of my own ideas (they still have the final say, of course), and getting to see what cool and eye-popping things I can actually do when given the chance. This is what makes web design fun.

And I guess I never really appreciated any of it before. Web design IS a cool job to have. Not only am I just a college student, but I get to earn money and gain experience on my own schedule, without ever meeting the people I work with. When I get cool projects, it's even better, because I enjoy it. The reason I got into this in the first place was because it was such a trip spending hours every day tweaking my own site to make it feel and look better. The computer industry is full of young people like me who are almost completely self-taught -- we all started out because we were curious and willing to learn, because we had a blast doing it. As an old high school friend would always say to us, "You gotta have the love."

The realization I came to was how much responsibility is placed on me when I design a web site. I was on the phone with one of the people who contacted me, and she told me she was showing my site to her co-workers, saying that this was done by the guy who would be designing their new corporate site. They were all saying how exciting it was, and how they really dug the whole attitude of it, and how much they were looking forward to seeing what I could do for their site.

Isn't that cool?

These people were genuinely excited to see what I could do for them. It's not the usual business transaction, when faceless money is exchanged for faceless products or whatever. It's more personal. It's being given control to produce the look and feel of a company's online presence. As cliche as that might sound, it's true. These people see me as someone who can make their site attention-grabbing and fun.

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I believe all humans have a yearning inside of them to be creative. Seen young girls' hearts flit with fancy after seeing "Shakespeare in Love"? Heard people talk about how they wish they could have painted that Monet, or written that _Hunt for Red October_? I get a few e-mails from time to time complimenting me on my bravery for putting my writings and such online, and others tell me they wish they could design web sites too.

It's not like anything or anyone is stopping you from expressing yourself creatively. People get so inspired at times that they can't think about anything except wishing to write or draw or whatever. And yet, they don't follow through on it. It just stops right there. The creative process never progresses further than their own dreams. They're afraid to make something bad.

The only thing that makes me different from most people is that I actually decide to follow through on my inspirations. I do not do it well, of course -- my poetry online is piss poor, my essays are structurally weak and poorly researched, my web design is fairly linear and simple -- but I at least do it. You think I'm a good writer? Fuck that -- the only "training" I had was writing simple analysis papers in high school. Good web design? No...I took an art class in high school, where we spent all period thinking of ways to smuggle large quantities of clay out of the class room. I'm self-taught, like most web designers out there. That is to say, unrefined, undisciplined, unread in art/DTP/design history.

People are intimidated to start learning something for fear of humiliation or embarrassment. You think artists and poets and writers haven't had their works ridiculed or laughed at many a time? Art, after all, in the hands of many, is all subjective. It can't restrict you from doing what your heart wants to. I get more e-mails telling me what a loser I am than e-mails complimenting me for what I do. But I don't care. It's only done good for me. Who cares what they think? Classify under "critics". And you know how I feel about them... Pussies.

So dammit, just do it. Just sit down and write something, or paint something. Stop telling people that you wish you could do it...you can. What server doesn't have a pirated version of Photoshop these days? God knows there are trillions of registration keys for Photoshop out there. There are hundreds of books and sites dedicated to beginner writing, art, poetry, &c. Just fucking do it already.

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What a cool job this is. You get to inspire people! Not to mention it's profitable right now. But the best part of it, I just now noticed, is seeing how much these people trust you, and how much you affect them. They get a site that they're proud of and which can generate traffic on its own aesthetic merit, not just the business's services or products (see, businesses should become patrons to real artists, and the exposure those artists attract will get people to come to their site or establishment). And what do I get? Well Hell, I get paid quite well on my own time, often working late at night when it's nice and quiet. I can do other things during the day (which, right now, is classes). I get to play around with nifty web design and graphics tools, and muck around on the 'Net looking for info I need. I get the satisfaction of seeing a happy client, and I get more work experience.

The only hard part about it, I suppose, is having to sort through pamphlets and flyers and promos and Photoshop/Illustrator logos and artwork and business materials, and then integrate it all into a cohesive web site. Organization and simplicity is difficult. But hey, you learn a lot doing it.

Up until recently, I didn't really think about how much fun this was. I know that what I create is not really that creative or innovative, but it still seems to make people happy and infused with creativity. I like that. It's just nice to be entrusted with so much responsibility, to be viewed as a benevolent influence. It's nice to do something fun for a living, and to know that what you're doing is intrinsically good.

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