Pastures New: A Year in Writing
So here it is. The new site. Like the old one – but better, simpler, more mature and more focused.
The re-design represents a new direction and a re-defined purpose. I started this site over two years ago with the aim of offering my design and development services and blogging as much as possible about the web in order to generate as much traffic as possible.
With the re-design, I recognised what was important and what wasn’t. In short, everything other than the blog was standard portfolio site filler crap. So it’s gone. The blog now takes centre stage on the front page as it always should have done really, better catering for the people who actually use the site; webbies. Those interested in seeing my work can still do so; it just takes more of a back seat now.
A New Purpose
In the early days, I used to blog about things that I thought had potential to generate traffic; stunning poster designs, creative street art, showcases of colour in web design, etc. etc.
What’s ironic is that when I moved away from this strategy and started focusing my articles on my own experimentation and creations, my traffic began to improve. The obvious lesson there is don’t try to force good content, because it will usually look exactly that: forced.
The re-design signals the start of a more mature approach altogether. This blog will become more of a visual representation of the various shit that fills my head; a notebook that I can use to jot down any thoughts or opinions that are in some way related to the industry we work in.
You can subsequently expect a greater variety of articles; from short, sharp bursts of opinion right through to the exhaustive and intensely detailed write-ups of various techniques and features from the world of front-end development.
My attempt to streamline the blog will hopefully make the reading experience a much more pleasant one, with less decorative distractions and more focus on the actual content. One new feature that reinforces this shift is Focus Mode, which lessens the distractions further still… go on, have a play with it. I’ll wait.
A Lot Can Happen in a Year
It’s been an entire year (and four days) since my last post on this blog. And an absolute ton of stuff has happened during this time, much of which has contributed to this website’s neglect.
It was about this time last year that Hannah and I concluded we were a bit bored with the monotonous nature of working life in an area we’d both lived in for most of our lives. We fancied a change; an adventure even. So it was decided.
We were moving to New Zealand!
I like to think I’m a man of action. I don’t make plans of this magnitude for fun like many others seem to, knowing full well that their plans won’t materialise. Once the decision was made, that was it. It was happening.
And it did… but more on that later.
Becoming an Author
Literally a few weeks after our initial discussions on moving to the other side of the world, I got an email from someone at John Wiley & Sons, completely out of the blue. I knew the name as they published the first book I ever read on HTML and CSS (it was a Dummies… book).
"I’ve enjoyed your blog – especially the articles that really push the limits of CSS3. I am looking for an author for a new advanced CSS3 book, and I wondered if you might be interested?"
Fuck, yeah! (My actual reply was slightly more polite). I was pretty chuffed to be considered by a global publishing company to be an author of a book on advanced CSS3, but I genuinely did not expect it to actually materialise.
I was asked to put together an outline; basically a list of chapters, complete with headings and sub-headings for each, which proved a definite struggle to begin with. I had the general topics I wanted to discuss but having to drill down into the actual content for each in order to come up with all the headings was tough.
Anyway, I don’t want to drag this part out for too long so I’ll try to summarise. I had big doubts on whether I was capable of the task at hand, but I had a go at forming an outline. They liked it. I improved it further. They liked it even more. I didn’t hear anything between September and late November and I thought that was the end of it.
Eventually, they came back to me and said they loved what I’d done and they wanted to take it further. From there, things moved pretty fast. The first chapter was completed by the end of December and received some amazing and uplifting feedback from my project editor.
I then had the daunting task of completing the 380 page, 16 chapter book throughout the four months that followed. You don’t need to be a mathematician to realise that works out at a chapter a week. Sure, that’s a lot of work, but it’s perfectly achievable.
This is where you remember that at this point, I was also planning to move to the other side of the world for at least a year, with our flights booked for March 7th, right-smack-bam in the middle of the writing process. Whole ‘nuther ball game now.
Managing all the Shit
Planning our move to New Zealand would have made for the busiest few months of my life on its own, and exactly the same can be said for writing a book. And now I was faced with tackling them both in the same few months.
January and February were the toughest. After working my 9-5 at Adtrak, I’d get home and write until 2am pretty much every single week night; weekends were early afternoon ’til 3/4am. I’ve always had the classic traits of a perfectionist, but writing really brought them to the surface. I’d spend upwards of half an hour crafting a single paragraph or sentence even, painstakingly re-reading and re-phrasing, which didn’t sit well with my need to hit the fast approaching deadlines.
In addition to all this, my initial plan was to have a job sorted in Auckland straight away, so I was also applying for jobs thousands of miles away, which meant several late night phone conversations and Skype sessions with potential employers and recruitment agents.
However, I soon realised that doing all this alongside a full time job was too intense and I’d be a fool to jump straight back into this ridiculous routine as soon as I touched down on Kiwi soil. I therefore made the sensible decision to take the first couple of months off in New Zealand in order to finish the book and possibly even enjoy some leisure time!
From here, things fell into place better than I ever could have imagined. I always find a way to land on my feet, but this was too perfect. My partner Hannah, has an Uncle living in a particularly beautiful part of New Zealand who got wind of our plans and offered to put us up for as long as we needed; rent free. This was the perfect setting to finish the book whilst finding our feet in a brand new country. Awesome.
Once I’d finished work, things were slightly more relaxed but I was still playing catch up after an inevitable deadline extension. The night we left the UK for our three night stopover in Hong Kong also happened to be my second deadline, which was for the first eight chapters. There I was, frantically trying to finish my chapter on CSS Animation at over 30,000 feet, for seven of the 10 hours that we occupied the plane.
When we reached our hotel at 9am local time, the chapters were finished but the deadline was not yet met. And with the gut-wrenching news that we wouldn’t have a room to throw our jet-lagged bodies into until 2pm, we headed out in search of WIFI in order to send the chapters and meet the deadline (which still hadn’t passed in the US, where my project editor was based).
The unlikely hero that saved the day? A McDonalds. It was a gloriously air-conditioned oasis in an otherwise hot and humid bustling environment, but most importantly; free WIFI! With that weight off the mind, we subsequently broke the golden rule of overcoming jet-lag and hit the hay in the middle of the afternoon to embark on a marathon sleep session.
From then on, the majority of the second half of the book was written in the paradise that is the Bay of Islands in Northland, New Zealand. That’s more like it.
Landing My First Senior Role
As I approached the book’s closing chapters, it was time to plan for the return to reality. I applied for three jobs back down in Auckland and I soon had three interviews. Decent! I managed to arrange them all into one day so we could head down to Auckland for a night and get everything sorted in a single swoop.
It was a good day. I got two on the spot offers; one of which was at a small, yet fast-growing web agency, just finding their feet and in search of someone to oversee the technical side of things and refine their processes. This really whet the appetite as I always fancied myself in a senior role where I could let my organisational qualities shine through, in addition to what I could offer in terms of design and development.
So I headed back to the Bay of Islands having accepted an excellent offer and a swanky new job title! I’m now three months into the position and there have been many changes and much progression, but that’s another post for another day.
Back to the Here and Now
As I look back over the twelve months between now and my last post on this blog, I realise just how much has happened and how much has changed, despite the fact it only feels like two weeks ago. It’s definitely been pastures new, in more ways than one! I’m now a published author and a Senior Designer & Developer at a blossoming young web company in a great office with stunning views over the Harbour and Pacific Ocean. Not to mention the re-location to the opposite side of the globe where we’ve found our feet extremely quickly.
I’m pleased with the progress.
I’ve got a rough idea of how the next twelve months will pan out, but that’s for me to know (and you to find out if you’re bothered enough to ask!).
Well I didn’t plan or expect this opening article of the new Tangled era to discuss quite so much or end up quite so long. So apologies for waffling… but do come back for more in the coming months.
About Stephen Greig
Stephen Greig is a 25 year old Freelance Web Designer/Front-end guy, currently living in Nottingham, UK. Stephen is also the creator of messivsronaldo.net and author of CSS3 Pushing the Limits, a book on advanced CSS3. You should follow him on Twitter where he talks about the web, sports, music and swears a lot. Stephen's also on Google+ if that's more your bag.