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“Everything on your table reminds me of Paris!”

THAT is the best compliment I received on Saturday, 10/5 at the annual Fall Crafts in Chelsea Market organized by the EtsyNY Team. I signed up for it quickly, and on a whim just before applications were due and I’m so glad I did!

Saturday was a breathtaking day.  Not only did I have a great day, the weather was beautiful and while there were some wind gusts, my table lay perfectly flat and not a single piece of paper fluttered off my table. THANK GOODNESS!

So why Crafts in Chelsea?

Well it is a market I’m comfortable doing. This was my third time or fourth time as a vendor and it was just as eventful as always, although I didn’t have my annual Ethan Hawke siting.  More importantly, it was a day full of talking, business, and friends. I was able to catch up with a few EtsyNY team members who I haven’t seen in a long while, as well as friends from various walks of my life who stopped by to say hi and lend support. One even picked up lunch for me and I was so grateful. Beyond grateful actually.

When I arrived to set up, I realized I left my stash of business cards in my apartment.  I also realized that I didn’t really remember how I set my table up the last time I did a market last summer.  I mean, I did know the general layout, but I felt like styles were missing and I was unprepared.  The good news is that I thought my table never looked better. Seriously! Below is the proof:

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My first Crafts in Chelsea. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was present.

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Brooklyn Flea Summer 2012. I started to tell my story, albeit with too much.

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My table at Crafts in Chelsea last weekend. Inviting, warm, and not too full.

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A little sparse, but it felt right.

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My Holiday Card basket offering sparkle and shine to the table.

As I put everything together, I kept thinking, I hope this works. Either way though, I anticipated having a good day. See, I’ve never really made a lot of money doing these markets. I’m incredibly selective about the ones I do do because markets require a lot of time, energy, and money. It costs money to stand outside all day. It can be exhausting talking to customers, especially when they don’t bite and buy, and from being outside all day. It also costs time in the sense that you aren’t making anything during the time spent outside.  This is the reality, but I always go into these markets feeling excited and optimistic nonetheless.

The way I see it is even if I don’t make many sales to make the day “worth it,” If I get one custom order weeks down the road, the market payed off ten fold.  See for me a day out at a market is a day of promotion. It’s a great way to get my brand out and for potential customers to meet me, the woman behind the vision and the brand and who they will be working with for several weeks or months. I am my own best business representative!

In the end, Crafts in Chelsea was a huge success! I made some sales, which was awesome, but I received one of the best compliments of my business career to date! (No offense to any of my customers who have praised my work!)

The day started off with two visitors from Echizen, Japan, whom also happen to be individuals I met and worked with while studying Washi in Echizen Washi Village last year (next Tuesday marks a year to the day of my arrival in Echizen.)  They were here for the opening of an photography exhibit of Echizen Washi, currently going on, at the Japanese Consulate in NYC (more details soon!).  I had mentioned the Market and sure enough they stopped by and filled my heart with joy and inspiration.

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Visitors from Japan! Best start to the day!

The rest of the afternoon involved more visits including a friend from my Etsy Intern days, Sam Cusano, Jr, who gave me some advice about my sales pitch and table and offered encouragement. My dearest, and one of my best friends, Amy P., stopped by and brought me lunch and water and an hour of laughter and chatting. Another good friend, Chiara stopped by on her way home and said hello. It was great to catch up with her especially because I haven’t seen her since before I left for Japan last year. Not to mention, Chiara and Amy have stopped by my Crafts in Chelsea tables every time I’ve participated. Yay for encouragement!

In between the Japanese visitors and Sam though, an older woman stopped by my table and started talking to me. She’s the woman who gave me the best compliment I mentioned above, “Everything on your table reminds me of Paris!” She and I then went on to talk about Paris and how much we both love it and have traveled to it and plan to visit in the future. I told her she had given me the greatest compliment to date and of my life there. I also told her I’m so glad she could see that because I took such pains to put together a table that tells the story of a traveler who collects fine paper and is grateful for worldly experiences and encounters.  That she got that immediately, and about my favorite City, well even better!

As the day continued, I spent quite a bit of time talking to potential customers. I gave our almost every business card I had on me, got feedback from visitors, and never let my energy fall too low that I couldn’t keep up talking and spreading S2 love.

Naturally, I wish I had made more sales that day, but again, just getting out there, showing my brand and my products and feeling the love and positive energy from my friends, fellow makers, and NYC community made it all worth while.

Hooray for a successful Crafts in Chelsea. I’m looking forward to the next one!

Whoa, folks, it’s the end of February AND it’s Leap Day!

And you wanna know something? I have barely read ANY business articles all month. Instead I’ve found myself captivated by two books:  Just My Type by Simon Garfield and Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. I am almost done with Madame Bovary, which means I will promptly return to Just My Type, like by tomorrow, but I found myself craving literature and books, not magazines, and most definitely not web articles about business and other people’s businesses.

So where does that leave the monthly article round up?

Well, I do have an article to share.  Actually, I have two!

Michelle, the When I Grow Up Coach, is awesome. I have seen her in-action and watched her heart breaking, but hopeful boob cancer ukelele video to announce her diagnosis of breast cancer. She is one of my favorite people in this crazy big bubble of entrepreneurship and on February 2nd she shared this gem of an article from Jacob Crawley, The Beer Tool Man. His philosophy on “perfect” I need to stick on a wall to remember every day.  http://whenigrowupcoach.com/2012/02/02/perfection-the-unknown-and-taking-the-first-step-along-with-a-great-giveaway/

I came across “The Better Man Project” a few weeks ago thanks to his coming across my blog and well, what he wrote about that particular day that he liked my posting resonated. I’m not one to really follow blogs and I’m quite selective about which I chose to read-there is a lot out there and it’s easy to become swamped and unproductive by reading everything on the internet- but I started following Evan’s blog and I’m glad I did. Last weekend I had a lot of time to reflect and then I read one of Evan’s posts about courage and facing fear head on and well, I think that’s a great way to add and end this month’s article round up. The reality is it takes courage not to follow everyone else. http://thebettermanprojects.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/day-161-courage-ii/

I won’t promise that next month I’ll have more than two articles for you-who knows what classic novel I may find myself reading!- but I do have a new Inc Magazine waiting to be opened and so you may just some articles. We’ll see.

I’m having one of those days. I’m not going to outwardly crazy rant, but I am going to get a few things off my chest right here and now. There’s been A LOT of talk about pricing and value and paying yourself and what your product is worth and at the end of the day, we still have no clue.  We’re still hemming and hawing about it. Well, I’m not anymore.

I run a stationery company that offers a service – A customized stationery service business.

I know that I’m at the mercy of customers, but I also know that I am not. And that’s just it. I’m not at the mercy of customers. I choose my customers and I choose my projects. I know that sounds horrible, especially in the economy that we’re currently in, but I’m being honest here.

S2 Stationery and Design makes customized products for people who want personalized paper products. Yes, sometimes S2 makes items that are ready-made and yes, sometimes she likes making those products, but she doesn’t make it her business to make those products and she doesn’t make it her only and most important source of income.  You want a greeting card or a crazy witty card, go find another stationery company. You want my design, but don’t want to pay the price, please don’t contact me. Please, I ask you!

I think I’m a fair person when it comes to my business. I really am. I have gone to great lengths to help customers meet their budgets and get a beautifully designed invitation, but I can’t keep being accommodating. Nor do I want to. I will accommodate your design choices, colors, desires, but don’t ask me for something and then keep changing your mind to get to something cheaper AND please do not ask me to replicate something that you saw in a mass-produced book!  I know I sound incredibly bitchy here, but just as you want me to respect your wishes and wants, respect my business and what I do.

S2 Stationery and Design focuses on not just layout, typography, printing, and assembly, we focus on EVERYTHING. What that EVERYTHING includes is:

  • Finding QUALITY and Eco- paper, envelope stock, ribbon, and any other accessories to go with the final product;
  • Designing THREE samples for you to choose from;
  • Creating language for your invitations (many times clients don’t know what language to use);
  • Designing and laying out ALL the additional pieces – RSVP cards, envelope printing, accommodation cards, and anything else you think you need a card for;
  • Printing and Cutting;
  • Assembling;
  • Going to the post office to confirm weight and postage for the invitations;
  • Sometimes, at a cost, I address and mail the invitations for you;
  • I also do, at a cost, things like programs, seating cards, menus, thank you notes, hand draw maps of event locations.
  • I do all the running around so you don’t have to. 
  • The last and final and probably most important element to this all is I listen to the customer. I listen to their ideas, I incorporate their ideas, I give proofs and really work with each and every client so that they have what they want, when they want.

Do you know how difficult it can be to juggle getting a last-minute order together while working a full-time job? I’m not complaining, please know that I’m not, but it’s hard. It’s really hard. It causes me to lose sleep and get sick. I am sure some of my weight gain is a result of constantly being on the go so that a customer never has to know that their project may have taken longer or been more difficult than initially thought.

So when a customer thinks to ask me for something cheaper, know that yes, I can do cheapER, but what that really results in is in the hand work involvement. That does not mean that you’re going to get something you can find at Target, Wal-mart, or any other place. I can’t talk about what other stationers offer. I would hope that when you buy from someone off of Etsy or any other customized stationery provider, you’re getting someone who loves paper as equally as I do and is charging you accordingly.  All I can tell you is what I offer and provide. If you don’t want to pay for it then don’t. That’s your choice. I know that there are customers who do and will. They’ve written testimonials for me and they’ve purchased from me.

You know what else, they’ve been very upfront about their budgets and I’ve worked with them on that. I have. Which is why the may get something in a cheaper price bucket, but they still have ended up with a high quality product that they love and that others love as well. It’s also a product that I am proud to have put my name on.

I offer not just a high quality product, but a high quality service. I stand by it and maintain that. I won’t judge you if that’s not what you want, but I do ask that you not waste my time or yours going after something that a. you might not be able to afford  and b. that you don’t really want to afford.

Now that I’ve been clear, I can move forward, hopefully with you, but if not, no worries. We’ll both just keep moving, having learned something from each other. Sometimes that is worth the parting and the frustration.

On that note,  I can be calm and happy again.  Thanks for reading and letting me air that out!

What do they all have in common? Well, I suffer from one, do one and have two.

In case you didn’t know, I’m a letter writer. I write actual letters, long lettered emails, and my personal favorite, the long text messages (a.k.a. the pseudo letter).

The problem is that I never seem to have time to write my notes, letters, jots, anything written these days. I don’t have much time to write in general – even my journal entries are suffering, even though I carry a journal every day.

This afternoon, I sat down to write out a thank you note and a birthday card and realized that not only was my hand cramping, but my handwriting, which I’ve loved since I learned to write cursive, has changed. It’s sloppy. Sometimes I don’t completely spell out the words that I’m writing. The other devastation is that it shakes. You can see how my hand shakes as I write. I don’t want you to think that I have Parkinson’s because I don’t. I just don’t write often enough in length to keep a steady hand.

Why is this such a big deal?  

I’m losing my ability to write!

How can I, as a stationer, lose my ability to write?  

If I’m losing my ability to write, I wonder about children growing up on electronics only. They must not even know how to write! Infuse this with articles I’ve read and direct reports (I have a cousin who is a public school teacher) I’ve heard about cursive writing being removed from school’s curriculum and not only dumbfounded, but concerned.

I remember the days when we’d practice our cursive. I LOVED those days! I remember my paper with the rows and dotted lines helping to steer my cursive in the correct direction. I remember not learning how to hold my pencil properly (I still don’t).  Rather than hold the pen between my thumb, fore and middle fingers, I nestle the pen back into my entire hand (maybe that’s why I have cramps?).  I’m old enough to know that I hold the pen incorrectly and I try to hold it correctly for a bit, but then always end up reverting to the wrong way. A sign of my rebellious streak? I think so!

I also remember loving to write in cursive. Really loving it.

When I was younger, practicing my signature in cursive (and that of my mother’s as well – I was a bit of a forger as a teenager, I admit),  gave me great joy! I always said that I was practicing it for when I became famous, or married someone famous.

It paid off because a few weeks ago while in NY Central Art Supply, I signed my receipt and the guy who helped me said, “Wow, that’s a strong signature!”.  I don’t have to tell you how happy that made me.

My signature is as much a piece and reflection of me as my hair, or the glasses I choose to wear. I think I learned something about signatures from my Dad. His signature is the best I’ve ever seen.  His signature was a brand statement. An original logo. I’m not kidding you! It’s clean, it’s got a graphic to it and it’s completely unrepeatable.  I have never been able to copy my dad’s signature and I doubt that anyone can.  This is why signatures are so important. They mean so much and if children in the future lose their ability to write something as simple as a signature, they lose a bit of themselves.

I know, you’re thinking, I’m crazy, but I’m not. Signatures and handwriting tell a lot about a person (see this article, it’s hardly scientific, but I agree with what it says).  When I took Calligraphy earlier this year, our instructor told us time and time again, “calligraphy and handwriting are two different things, don’t forget that!” She’s right. Calligraphy requires an attention to shape and patience; it is an art. Yet, handwriting is an art too if cultivated correctly. Not only does it say a lot about a person’s personality, but it can be a beautiful thing, or a horribly messy and illegible thing. You know what I’m talking about.  When you read someone’s sloppy handwriting, you don’t want to look at it again, but when you read someone’s handwriting that is controlled, clean and pretty, you have a pleasant experience and look forward to continuing to read the person’s work.

I’ve always had a cursive, but quick handwriting. It’s always lacked control, meaning the words and letters are a bit more open, but has never been sloppy; it has always been presentable and legible. I’ve also always taken the time to use grammar and dot the i’s and cross the t’s so to say. What does this say about me- well, I’m fast paced, have no patience, but still do pay attention to the details. Of course, this is not a scientific analysis of my handwriting, it’s just my thoughts on what my handwriting reflects, but even so, I’ve always had a strong command of my handwriting. Until now.

Lately, I’ve noticed that I tend to wait to write out all of my notes in one go. No bueno. Especially since my hand cramps after a mere five minutes of writing. Once this happens, I end up having to stop every few minutes to flex and rotate my right hand. Anyone watching me at a coffee shop, or where ever, I happen to be sitting and writing, probably thinks I am nuts. It also means that as I write more and more my words lose shape almost completely. I seem to never finish writing a full word, it just sort of trails into a line and then I start the next word. Sigh and cry!

I find that I don’t have that much time and the time that I do have often requires me using a computer. Not only is it a brain kill for focusing, but it’s a hand skill killer. Yep! I mean, it’s great that I can type super fast these days, but it really sucks that I can not write the way I once did.

Add to that, the feeling that I get as if I’ve won a gold medal after I have completed writing all of my cards/notes/letters. If I’m writing a large bunch of notes, like say 11, even better!  I’m serious. My write-a-thons often find me in coffee shops or any place where I can sit for a few minutes, more like a few hours, and write.  I’m not sitting there for hours due to not knowing what to write, it’s more of my hands not having the same level of tolerance that they once did.

My most recent write-a-thon (today’s two cards do not count as a write-a-thon) was actually held in the food court area of Grand Central Station four weekends ago. I had 11 thank you notes to send to friends who had donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for my latest marathon endeavor and I also had a few hours to kill waiting to meet up with friends.  I sat at a corner table in an extremely noisy and crowded environment and let my hand write away. I took breaks every few minutes to shake out my hand and then I’d go back to writing. All 11 cards got written (see pictures below) and I started to think about how I need to write more.

As someone who makes stationery and stresses the importance of writing, I need to walk the talk even more. Yes, I need to continue writing heartfelt notes to friends and family, but I also just need to practice my writing. 

I’ve always found a sense of calm and peace in writing a card to a friend or writing in my journal.  Even something as simple as writing down a date with a friend in my paper calendar book has been a way for me to find calm. Almost to the same degree as running, maybe even more so.

In the past, I would spend my Sunday mornings writing cards out while listening to classical music and sipping on tea. Those were my Virginia days. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss Virginia as much as I miss the people I left in Virginia but what I do find myself missing more and more these days is the slow pace that I practiced while living there. I was not nearly as fast paced as I am now, here in NY, and part of me misses that – actually longs for it. I am not saying that I want to return to Virginia or anything like that, I love NY and I love the life I live in NYC, but I am not afraid to admit that I also wouldn’t mind living somewhere where I can slow down a bit more.

Which is why starting in November (I have a few weeks, here) after my commitments end (marathon and CSA), I will designate an hour a week to writing out my cards/letters/notes. If I can add more, then I gladly will, but definitely an hour. Especially as Christmas gets closer and my cards need writing and mailing. I am notorious for sitting one night in the middle of December with my boxes of cards, glitter pens, regular pens, markers, address book, and stamps writing out cards while sipping hot chocolate and watching “Elf”.

I will also write at least an hour every day.How is this different from spending an hour a week writing?

Well, it’s different because this time I’m practicing writing. I’m acknowledging that I am losing a skill that is vital to me and my work and I’m going to dedicate time to work on it in the same way that someone would practice the flute or do speed workouts for better endurance.  I’m committing to writing anything, even if it’s just a post it note, but a full hours worth of writing a day.  I care about my handwriting. I don’t want to lose it. I don’t want to suffer from cramps while writing and I most definitely don’t want to spend all of my time in front of the computer typing out words (don’t worry, I’ll still blog, though). 

I’m curious to know if anyone else has noticed this and what you’re doing to fix your handwriting and (maybe?) cramping hand problems? Are you working on it? Have you even noticed?  Do tell!

Happy 2nd Birthday S2 Stationery and Design!

Yep! It’s been two years since I started this crazy ride called S2 stationery and design business, or rather Sara’s Stationery Company. It’s been both a fast and slow journey, but one that I believe will pick up even more steam as it enters it’s second official year! Kind of crazy to think about actually!

You may recall that two years ago, all of this started with the death of my Dad, a marathon in Rome, and an extensive trip through Italy, Spain, and France. Between the end of that trip in Europe and yesterday, June 1st, I’ve taken some design classes at NYU, some art classes at various centers in NYC, completed a good three dozen customized invitations and stationery orders and now, I find myself here, with Celebrate Brooklyn! on the horizon, an inquiry about business collateral, a wedding order coming to completion and who knows what else!

I came back from my Italian trip with a plan in mind and while it hasn’t gone 100% to the T, I’ve stayed on course. One are that I need to work on is my true design goal that I have not dedicated as much time to, but I know will come to fruition this year, my second year. A promise to myself and awaiting clients.

In honor of my business anniversary, I am posting a picture of my first ever project done under the name of S2 Stationery and Design.

I distinctively remember when I decided to make these cards. They were a gift to a dear friend of mine who had graduated college that year and was celebrating a birthday. It was also a very calculated, although sincere gift. See this friend of mine is currently a freaking rock star, but when he graduated, I knew he was going to catapult to stardom and be something special and I knew that if anyone was going to help S2 prosper, it would be him. Now, I don’t want you to think I gave him a gift with intentions, because I didn’t. What I did was create something for one of my favorite people in the world, who also happens to be a shining star. As I created and crafted, I kept in mind that if I could get him on my team, then my road to success would be easier than other roads I could travel.

My intuition was correct. Not only did he love the gift, he went home and showed it to his Mom, who became my first official non-friend customer. She and I are now friends and I adore her to pieces, but then, she placed an order for 150 pieces for an event that was something I had no real experience with and I was super nervous.

Two years later, that event shaped how I handle every large scale order I receive, I am also now on my third wedding invitation order. So see, my dearest friend E was my golden ticket a la Willy Wonka. His response, support, and encouragement are still in place and amazing. When I think back to two years ago, I think of the following three things:

  1.  My Dad
  2.  Cinque Terre, Italy, and Montpelier, France
  3.  My friend E (of the above gift)

Which leads me to NOW. With two years in, I’ve got a lot of emotion. A lot. And so to celebrate my business birth, anniversary, and future, I decided to add some music.

I make mixes. Lots of mixes. I love mixes. Actually, I make a mix called “the LOVE mix” each year on Valentine’s day and then I send it to all my girlfriends, single, married, dating, engaged, sad and/or happy. It started four years ago and I’m still chugging along. I’ve also made mixes celebrating my 25th and 30th birthdays with selections made by friends. Which makes it darn right proper that I’m now starting what I call the “Entrepreneur Mix.”

I’ve spent the past couple of days thinking of songs to go on this mix and this is what I’ve come up with. Do not worry if a song you think should be on it is not (do feel free to suggest songs in the comments though!), I have a feeling there will be MANY volumes of the Entrepreneur Mix. As they continue, these mixes will likely reflect moods and patterns for each phase.  This first, celebratory mix is more about the early stages of starting a business – the inspirations, frustrations, and joys. It’s not perfect and it’s really in no real order. I mean for every minute of the day that I spend thinking and focusing on S2, I think about the following:

  • I need more money
  • I need to quit my job
  • I need more experience
  • I need more respect
  • How the hell do I do all of this?
  • I really love paper!
  • I really love making things!
  • I am taking care of shit today!
  • I’m NEVER going to finish
  • I can’t do this!
  • Girl, you are freaking nuts!
  • Why are you doing this again?
  • There is NO way I can do this full time. None.
  • There’s a new idea!
  • I am so freaking cool!
  • I need to talk about myself more
  • I need to talk about S2 more
  • I hope they love this as much as I do
  • Thanks Mom & Dad!
  • Thanks Friends! What would I do without you?!
  • I am going to change the world!
  • Am I doing this right?
  • I really hope I’m not wrong.
  • If this does not cut correctly I am going to scream!
  • Boy, I’m exhausted!
  • I never want to cut another thing again!
  • I need another coffee. Now!

EACH of those thoughts cross my mind at least three times a day. Which helps explain the erratic rhythms of the mix. I really did not sit and put this together in any order aside from pulling songs that I felt belonged. Here is the playlist:

Let the River Run, Carly Simon
Today’s the Day, Aimee Mann
I Need a Dollar, Aloe Blacc
Run, Air
Superwoman, Alicia Keys
Hacer Dinero, Amparanoia
Respect, Aretha Franklin
Takin’ Care of Business, Bachman-Turner Overdrive
All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, Bauhaus
With a Little Help From My Friends, The Beatles
Emergency Exit, Beck
Nice Work If You Can Get It (Rondo Brothers Remix), Billie Holiday
It’s In Our Hands, Bjork
The Go Getter, The Black Keys
Pioneers, Bloc Party
Burn the Maps, Castledoor
The Wind, Cat Stevens
Golden Years, David Bowie
Rhapsody in Blue, The Gershwins
Weapon of Choice, Fatboy Slim
What You Waiting For?, Gwen Stefani
Shine, John Legend & The Roots
Whistle While You Work, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Bigger Than My Body, John Mayer
Firework, Katy Perry
Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare), Kid Cudi featuring Mgmt & Ratatat
Dog Days Are Over, Florence and the Machine
When You’re Traveling At the Speed of Light, These United States

I am quite in love with this mix. I listened to it while writing this posting and all I can say is that it will definitely have me rocking and moving this year. On that note, I must get back to finishing the touches on Celebrate Brooklyn! production and inventory, dance and sing along to my mix AND eat some birthday cake. Yum!

If you’re celebrating a business anniversary or new birth, congrats! You may want to dance a little dance and sing along to some of the songs on this mix. Don’t forget, if you have any suggestions, please let me know in comments–they may just make it to Volume 2!

Today is my third Japanese lesson. As I sat in our conference room rereading my notes for class tonight, I realized I forgot to update you on last week’s lesson.  How terrible! Here goes:

Last week’s lesson was not horrible and yet was not Sara at her best.  I felt like the slowest language learner EVER! I suppose, I really shouldn’t, given that the one student in class is Chinese and therefore has/had a head start on me and the other student in class has taken Japanese before. The other two students who were not in class last week are the same combination-one has learned some Japanese before and the other is half  Japanese. I realized that in a class of five, I am the ONLY person that is either not of Asian heritage or has never taken a lesson in Japanese.  Therefore, I really can not be too hard on myself!

But there’s that part of me that is a perfectionist, has always been a perfectionist, and she’s the one that is telling me that I need to up the ante here. I need to get my head on correctly and my shit together if I’m ever going to tackle this language that is not anything like English, or any of the other languages I sort of know.

What made last week’s class so difficult was that I was exhausted and in pain, but I was determined to go. The weekend leading into Monday saw me out two nights in a row until 3:30 am,  dancing, drinking, laughing and walking about. I saw one friend leave town, another friend come into town for a visit and then had my little brother come for a visit Tuesday. Needless to say, my days were full of enjoyment, busy with good things and exhausting (mostly from a lack of sleep).

I am not complaining about any of this, I’m just giving you an idea of where my mind was when I walked into Japanese class last Monday and realized that I barely studied. Mumbling words and numbers while quickly eating three crunchy tacos does not really count for studying, by the way.  Anyhow, I sat down and our instructor, Dai, immediately started asking us how we were doing, or rather, “genki desuka?” to which I said, “How do you say I feel like shit?”  Yep, fail one of the lesson.

You should know that when asked “genki desuka?” you should respond with, “genki desu.” This essentially means, “How are you doing?” In response you say, “I’m doing fine.”  Now, this was my second lesson (of the five) and there I sat, trying to figure out if I should say fine, even though I didn’t feel fine, or if I should just own up to feeling like crap and give Dai a signal that I was having an off day and might not be the bright, charming student I showed the Monday before.  Clearly, I went with the latter option and he responded by laughing and saying that in the future, I could just say, “ma-ma” which is the equivalent of saying, “so-so.” Lesson learned.

As the class continued, I started to feel worse and ended up in a classic Sara position, saying “F*&%” when I couldn’t remember how to respond to a question.  Let me set the stage for this one because it was so quick and somewhat embarrassing that I could only blush and apologize for my faux pas- I was in pain, exhausted and feeling like an idiot, when Dai said, Sara-san, please say XXX and I said, “okay. Ummmmmmmm. F&*$” and then Dai said, “Sara-san, it’s okay for you to read your notes. You’ll get this. Also in Japanese there is no f, so you can’t say that word.”  Even though Dai seemed to be okay with it and laughed at my blurt, I promised to not curse again and so substituted “crap” for every time I forgot a word or sentence or simply couldn’t get what we were talking about.

So here we are today, Monday, April 25th. Tonight is my third class. I’m excited. A bit on the tired side, but I did take 15 minutes or so, maybe less, to quickly review my notes and do some of my homework.  Tonight, I will go into class more alert than last week (good sign that I’m not feeling ill) and ready to face Dai and the Japanese language with a smile, no illness, or pain, no self anger, no perfectionist mentality, and definitely no embarrassment for not picking things up as quickly as the other students.

With just two weeks of classes under my belt,  I can tell basic time, count to 100, ask for a menu and the bathroom, introduce myself, ask how much an item costs, differentiate between items that are close to me, far from me and far from both me and someone else, and ask someone for their phone number/email, birthday and name.  I have to say even I’m overwhelmed by the sheer amount I’m taking in at this point!

I just keep telling myself that this is expanding my world a bit and reminding myself of the ultimate prize, being able to speak some Japanese when I’m making paper in Japan.  I can see it already. I hope you can, too.

I read the following article/posting on Mashable.com this morning- “10 Fun Doodling Apps to Unleash Your Creativity.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that the internet is changing the way we function, think and work. But I’m still not in the bandwagon of the internet’s greatness.  As a matter of fact, I’m considering deleting my facebook profile on my 30th birthday (December first, this year).  My reasons behind the facebook deletion are thanks to a great article by Zadie Smith, “Generation Why?” in The New York Book Review.

The idea of deleting my facebook account brings up many questions such as my S2 Stationery fan page. I have about 150 members who use the page for updates, etc.  More importantly, the idea of deleting my account brings up more questions about what type of vendor I want to be.  As I work on a marketing and in depth business plan, I get further into what it is that I’m trying to achieve with my business.  While I’m know 100% positively that I don’t want to remove my business’s online presence, I also know 100% positively that I want to engage with customers and individuals on a real basis. I want to send thank you cards to customers and I want to directly respond to emails and any other inquiries that come directly to me. Why? Because that is the point of social media after all. It’s rapidly moving toward engaging with your customers.  Which is what causes me to stop and question.

If we are supposed to engage with customers, then why not engage with them in real time?

I get that the internet is “real time,”  and I don’t want to come across as some anti-technology/change individual because I’m not, but what do you actually receive when someone who gets paid to keep up a twitter or facebook page responds to your comment? Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for it and heck in a recession, any form of a job is preferable to none, but don’t you, the customer, want to talk to someone who means something more? Do you honestly feel close to a large corporation because someone responded to your email, or twitter comment? I don’t. I mean, I do appreciate the step, but when I get letters from Presidents of corporations thanking me, well, I feel better. Especially if it’s hand written.

Which brings me to the following point, the original point…

Apps for doodling do not unleash your creativity much as the article on Mashable would have you believe. I think my two bones to pick with the article are two sentences, or what comes across to me as bold statements. The first being, “Pen and paper may be on a fast track to obsolescence, but the doodle will live on forever.” The second being, “Besides, the worst part of art class was cleaning up the mess afterward. Now, the marvels of the Internet can let you doodle, draw or just play around online. No mess necessary!”

What exactly are my points of contention with these two statements?

The fact that the writer is cheapening the actual art of creating art and a doodle and pen and paper.  Computer graphics and animation while quite advanced, do not offer the same skill, eye coordination, or for that matter creativity that pen, paper, erasers, pencils, pads, paint and piles of rejected pieces of paper with sketches on them.

As a young child and teenager in school, I never thought of myself as a doodler. I did write out my name and draw stars and circles, but if you could have seen some of the advanced sketches my classmates were drawing, you’d have been amazed. Compared to them, my doodles were nothing! But I excelled in other art classes- ceramics for example. Now as a stationery designer, I sketch out rough sketches and sometimes detailed sketches before I start anything on my computer. As a matter of fact, often times I can’t put on my computer what I want without drawing it first. THAT is when the magic happens. When the pencil, pen or sometimes marker, hits the paper. There’s also a sense of accomplishment, at least on my behalf for being able to draw something with my own hands.

So while I do agree that doodle tools help when you’re stuck on the train, or when you don’t want to carry your sketch pad around, they ultimately offer no real prize. They also take no real skill. If you want a skill, then you take up drawing. If you want to waste time, then you’ll find the smart phone Apps suggested in the article useful and entertaining.

And maybe that’s the real kicker…if you want to be entertained. That’s what smart phones offer after all, constant and instant entertainment, the kind that requires no patience or deep thought. I think the author should take that into mind the next time she writes about how real tools are going obsolete.

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