Hanging Out My Shingle

Hanging Out My Shingle

I have this recurring dream where I show up for work in a Lebowski-esque, ratty ass bathrobe, and equally ratty ass boxer shorts. The job is located in a glass and steel fortress that is mostly inhabited by inflated 3 piece suits. Nobody acknowledges me, nobody cares. I’m there to give a presentation for something, and I get frustrated halfway through it because no one can seem to take me seriously. And then everyone is naked. Then there’s a bagel.

Actually, none of that’s true.big-lebowski-still-hr-6

I made that up.

I’m a storyteller, it’s what I do.

Blahblahblah creative license, blahblahblah creative analogy…

Nope, I can say with a degree of certainty that I have never had the “show up to school naked” dream. Mine were more surreal and terrifying, but I digress.

Still though…

I can also state with a degree of certainty that I have never doodled my name in a notebook to see how it would look like on a book cover or a marquee. I have devoted pages to practicing my signature to where it could almost be mistaken for a doctor’s chicken scratch. But, blowing up my name to where it takes up the entire page? Not so much.

It’s a low self esteem thing, I guess. Maybe I had bigger things on my mind.

It’s not that I don’t like my name, I’m just not used to seeing it…you know…big. I was raised in the quasi-puritanical Northeast where things are rather modest and subdued. “Making your name big like that?” my inner Mainer would huff disapprovingly. “Well, now you’re just showing off.”

Welp too bad, Person in my Head! If I’m to brand myself as a flesh and blood writer, and not some anonymous hack, it’s time for me to put my Big Boy Pants on, suck it up, and face the world as a person…and a brand… who’s branding himself…as a person…SEO…

…I’m still working it out…

As of this post, my presence on WordPress will no longer be regarded as “The Writers Bloc”. That identity will still be present over at Blogger, where it will hopefully live up to its namesake. From here on in, this here site will be affiliated with my name.

As I’ve previously mentioned, this is the first step in my shuffling around of office furniture to make better sense of my surroundings. If all goes well, maybe within the year I’ll be buying domains, and make myself legit. Also, as much as I hate doing it, I gag might get a Facebook page.

That’s in the future.

Right now, the new site is: aapayson.wordpress.com

…still cringe a little looking at it.

Maybe it’s because I never thought I’d be here.

I’ll get used to it. Maybe even take a little pride in it.

If I’m going to do this, it’s time to lose the ratty ass bathrobe, and put on a uniform.

Dude!

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Motivation Monday: Halloween Edition

Maybe it’s the time of the year.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t posted anything in over a week and I needed to stretch out and do something before I lose more followers.

Maybe it’s because I re-opened my t-shirt shop with a couple of new designs, and one of them was a design that I’ve been preparing for a couple of months, but it wasn’t completely finished until I found a technique that woke it up a little bit and I’m probably going to reapply this technique on future designs.

Like it? Buy it here.

Maybe it’s because I could stop saying to myself, “It’s only a matter of time before they reboot this” when I recently heard the news that they are finally remaking The Crow. My only hope is that they will be closer to the source material this time. Nothing against the movie, I had the movie adaptation on video. Watched it so much that the tape broke.

Maybe it’s all these things that prompted me to make today’s post, but since it the season for all things horrifying (Ebola hysteria notwithstanding), I thought this quote was particularly motivational.

“The Crow” was an independent comic produced in the late 80s. It’s a dark series involving darker characters and even darker story line that was inspired by truly unfortunate and even darker, real events. I’ll spare any spoilers for the one or two of you who haven’t read it yet. I will say that the antagonist of the story isn’t the most virtuous of souls. He is, however, one of the most tortured. Vengeance does that to a guy…especially for a guy that just came back from the dead to kill the people that killed him and his fiancé…

Anyway, today’s motivation quote appears at the end of the book, as the hero returns to the afterlife reunited with his beloved. This quote has always stuck with me. First, in a paint-my-fingernails-black-and-listen-to-The-Cure-while-I-lock-myself-in-my-room kind of way. But later, especially in these days of striking out on my own, I’ve reinterpreted it as a way of saying, “it ain’t over, till it’s over”.

Nothing is over until you say it is. Nothing. Not your life, your love, your wisdom, your empathy. Nothing. Yes they may come with bullets and crude weapons, they may come with a “cease and desist”, they may come and liquidate your entire department while promising you that if another position opens up, you’ll be the first in line and then 8 months later, advertise for that position in the want ads and “forget” to CALL YOU AND OFFER IT TO SOMEONE ELSE. ARE YA HAPPY, YA BASTARDS?!!!

….sorry….

While you still draw breath, you still have a chance. Poker players refer to this as “a chip and a chair“; so long as you have those two things, you still have a shot at the jackpot. It ain’t over till it’s over. Don’t give up. You still have a shot and so long as you are still walking and talking, you have a chance. You’re not dead yet.

It’s only death if you accept it…

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Upon Staring at Something a Little Too Long…

Have you ever wrote a word down, perhaps in the middle of a sentence, and you are confident that that’s the word you want to use. It’s correct in it’s spelling and usage, but for some reason…

…it…just…doesn’t…look…right.

Maybe it’s because you’ve been staring at it for so long that the meaning of the word itself has been lost, so much to the point that you forgot why you put it there in the first place, has that ever happened to you?

…anyone?…

Okay, just me. Moving on.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been, among other things, creating new designs and polishing up some old ones, and putting everything on t-shirts. After a few marathon sessions of uploading everything to CafePress, I have a feeling I’m turning into something resembling this…

I have researched my competition, and have decided to cast a wider net; take a chance and apply designs on items other than t-shirts. Take every design that is black and white and apply a little color to it and see where that takes me.

I started with this…

Just a little totem of positivity that I introduced a few posts back. It seems to work for the most part, although for some of the dark shirts, it might not. But I can’t be hindered. I need to take chances and make mistakes, something has to catch on. It’s not that I’m worried, because I’m not. I’m enjoying the process. Honestly, I’m having a good time.

Then, I went out on a limb and tried something new…

“Hope is a good thing… and no good thing ever dies.”

Something happened. Whether it was on purpose or not, I felt the need to steer my ship in the direction of something hopeful. As if I needed some psychic healing and the only way to get it was to send out messages of hope. As if every message I interpret, gets me closer to feeling…I dunno…better? The feeling closer to having air in my lungs rather than feeling like I’m drowning? The feeling like a future isn’t as murky as it once was? Hope? The above is a quote from Stephen King, and it’s translated into Quenya to the best of my ability (somebody, please feel free to correct my grammar). This one feels good. This one feels like I’m onto something.

After I exhausted every possible product to put that design on, I decided to venture further into this. The next project, I feel a little iffy on. This one, I may need a second opinion.

This is a derivation of a quote from Antonio Porchia; an turn of the century Argentinian Poet whose concise; almost haiku-like poetry has influenced many of his contemporaries. Blah blah blah, read the article.

I don’t think I have a real question at this late hour as I finish off this post. I am, however, looking for opinions. I’ve been staring at this for too long, and it’s losing its meaning the longer I look at it. Is this too vague? Should I even bother? I kind of like it, and it means something to me, but that doesn’t always mean it’s a good idea to act on it. Please let me know what you think, and thank you very much.

WWHAD: What Went Right

Take a look at this logo. Go ahead, marvel at it….I SAID MARVEL AT IT!!!! I’m not the best at logging how many hours I spend on a particular Illustrator project. I’m still a novice and it feels like I spend more time pouring over tutorials and searching for fonts and vectors than actually producing anything. I suspect that I spent a good eight hours on this, five of which was research. Don’t judge, I’m just starting.
Alphonse Mucha

This was the logo I wanted for my new business. Well, close to it anyway. I still wanted to texturize the name a little further; give it more of an old-time feel. I wanted to decorate the badge a little further in the center too. Everything is just slightly askew, it needed to get tightened up. I also attempted to put this through Photoshop to give it a look like peeling paint so it would look cool on a t-shirt. What I’m trying to say is that I wanted this to stand out. For the past few years, the style of old-fashioned signage has been coming back into vogue; a retro style that runs that gamut from late 1800s Neo-impressionism to 1950’s Pop Art. In the midst of doing research, I sort of fell in love with the Art Nouveau Period. The way the function followed form

intrigued me; the emphasis on the ornate especially in advertising. In imagining my logo, I pictured an old wooden sign hanging above a bakery entrance. Hardly original, I know, but there’s something comforting about this style. When I see a sign like this swinging gently in the breeze, it makes me want to come in, buy a pastry and a coffee and spend some time inside watching the world go by outside. 

Anyway, eight hours or so later, I put the finishing touches on it and met my deadline to have them printed before the weekend. All the cakes were baked and trimmed, boxes were folded, a makeshift menu was constructed and it was all systems go. Our inaugural run was met with great indifference, feel free to read all about it in the first half here.

~*What Went Right*~
The day was behind us and lessons were learned. Later on that evening, my girlfriend posted a copy of this little poster to her Facebook page. Not a few minutes after it went live than one of her more Redneckish friends chimed in:
“Cake? Oh. For a second there, I thought he was selling alcohol. My bad…”

Hours of work, of constructing a concept, of making something that I thought that would be appealing to the eye, and just like that, someone equates my logo to a bottle of Tennessee Sour Mash. Here I am thinking that I constructed a logo that’s friendly and warm and inviting, now I look at and I need a whiskey on the rocks and for someone to rack ’em up on the next snooker table. I wasn’t insulted because I know the person that said it. I was more self conscious. For about 10 minutes, “What if everyone thought that? What if everyone thought about Jim Beam or Jack Daniels rather than cake? What if I thought about Jim Beam or Jack Daniels when I was designing it? What if I’m a raging alcoholic and didn’t know it?…” And so on as I spun out of control. Okay, yes. “Angel’s Share” is a term that is used in the distillation of alcohol and has absolutely nothing to do with baking. I was completely oblivious to the proper meaning of the phrase. It sounded like a wholesome, home spun term. When I was mass producing cheesecakes for Christmas, there was a bunch of sponge cake crust ends that I couldn’t use in anything except serving it with ice cream. The act of up-cycling something that was going to be nothing I felt was some psychic good deed. Good equals angels….angle’s share?….is this thing on?…maybe I’m just a raging alcoholic….

But then I thought, “Hey wait a minute, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.” (about the business logo, not my drinking habits) The design caught somebody’s eye. Granted that person’s mind went straight to whiskey, but it did catch someone’s eye. It made them stop and pay attention, if only briefly. This point was validated earlier that day when a customer walked over, tried a sample and asked where we were located. As if we were and honest to goodness full fledged bakery with cases filled with treats. We had to tell her that we were just starting and everything was being run out of our kitchen, but for a brief moment, we were bigger than we actually were. And that counts as something. For a brief moment, we may have caught a glimpse of our future. For a brief moment, we were a real business, and in that one glance, there was hope.

And hope is always a good thing.

WWHAD: What Went Wrong

Can’t find who this pic belongs to.

Back in the late Eighties, there was a band called The Smithereens. The band had a few detractors, namely Rolling Stone who snarked that their sound was too influenced by The Beatles and The Byrds. Sure, they peaked at #43 on the 1990 Billboard Album charts, but for some of us, and by most of us, I mean me, they were essentially “the gateway drug”. Were it not for them, I’d still be stuck listening to mindless Cock Rock, or Genesis, or whatever happened to be popular on MTV at the time. Were it not for them, I wouldn’t have taken that leap and gave an ear to bands like REM, Camper Van Beethoven, Sonic Youth or Husker Du. Were it not for them, I wouldn’t have developed an appreciation for the New, for the Alternative, for the notion that television does not dictate my life. Were it not for them, I probably would have been happy being another member of the Wal Mart walking dead.

The Smithereens were a loud, guitar and amplifier driven band out of New Jersey. Perhaps it was their particular style that they didn’t get enough air play given that Madonna and Wham! was still dominating the air waves because those music executives in their glass towers knew what the kids wanted! Yes, they might be considered too loud for Top 40 radio, but beyond that, the music was rich, melodic, honest, straight-forward rock and roll; the perfect antidote to the mindless landscape that was Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go. There was a purity to it that influenced many bands that came after them, as the case with most notable bands like The Velvet Underground, for example. Ironically, one of the one’s who were greatly influenced, was Kurt Cobain.

Blogs that sub-reference alternative bands to make a point STILL suck!

Then 1991 happened. From 1992 to this day, the epitaph that tattooed on every rock musician’s forearm read:

We were almost there. Then Nirvana came and they ruined everything!

This passed weekend, I took that leap again to try the New. Having been recently laid off and assessing my own worth in today’s job market, I decided to devote some of my time to making an effort and go into business for myself. I decided to sell cakes at a winter carnival at my daughter’s preschool. I decided to sell cakes, because it’s what I like to do; I’d like to think that I’m more than a little talented at making them, why not sell it and make more people happy and make a profit at the same time? Right? That’s the name of the game, right? Do what you love and the money will follow? Well, the day finally came and things were progressing as expected; lots of people milling about, nobody really buying anything from anybody. Everything was going well…

…Then the petting zoo came…and they ruined everything….

Suddenly….people….
~*What Went Wrong*~
Well, for starters, I had no comprehension of what I was getting into. When I think bake sale, I think of crowds of people crammed into a church basement, their eyes scanning the tables of baked goods and home made crafts while they make a not too subtle bolt for the door. Sure, there’s a kiss-your-grandmother-on-the-lips awkwardness about it and there’s a faint odor of ointment that doesn’t seem to go away, but there’s a guaranteed traffic flow, and with that more eyeballs checking my stuff out, which means that probability of moving product goes up exponentially. Instead, what I got was a table in the middle of a field. Away from everybody else. With no chairs and no tent. We were this unexplored island in the middle of the Pacific and people passing by were 737’s on their way to vacation destinations.
Scene from The Lonely Cake Table.
“Look Martha, a little table in the middle of nowhere!”
“OOOhhh, how WONDERful, let me get my camera! *click* What do you think they do down there, Gerald?”
“It looks…..it looks like they’re selling cakes.”
“…….Oh…..well….isn’t that nice. Are you done with the Skymall?”
Psychologically speaking (if I knew how to psychologically speak), my odds of selling something would have been greater had there been some sort of continuity.  Instead of putting me where you think the most traffic is, put me where the traffic will be. Think of it in terms of opening a Starbucks on a busy intersection where there’s guaranteed traffic, as opposed to putting one on some deserted stretch of highway.
Secondly, it would have probably been in my best interest to diversify the product. I only offered chocolate cakes. Maybe if Angel Food were offered, or pound cake…or cheesecake it would have been better. Given the situation I faced, the venue that it was and the capital that we could use, I chose to stick with one thing but offer it a few different ways. It was a risk, but it was all I could work with.
Not actual “cake” cake, but more like fancy muffins. Really GOOD fancy muffins.
Thirdly, I needed to take a bigger risk and start giving product away. I had plenty in stock and I wasn’t convincing anyone to buy with pathetic pieces of cake at the end of a toothpick. What I needed to do was to take the hit and give them a whole cake. That way, it’ll be a situation where the customer would be established having been convinced that the quality of the product is up to snuff; a test drive, try before you buy, first taste is free, pal. Pick any scenario you want, but when your back is against the wall, it might be wise to step up the game a little. It might have also been our best interest to not make so much. Two dozen would have been plenty. Eight dozen was a tragedy.
Lastly, and there’s no way around it and it’s nobody’s fault, trying to build up a brand from nothing is hard. People are skeptical to buy from you if they’ve never heard of you. Business cards would have been nice, but it wasn’t in the budget. Flyers were nice, but they got lost. We had to make due with what we had. I could have opened a Facebook/Twitter/G+ account, gotten our name in everyone’s faces, but there was no time and on further speculation, no point. I had no idea how this venture would turn out. If all else failed, it would be a success to get people to notice me.
Which they did, and that leads me to what went right…..

Watch this space…