• Esther Harder

Creatives and Technology

Through a variety of twists and turns, I've spent the majority of my professional life as a technology literacy educator, despite my background in English literature. And as I reflect on how that came to be, I think it comes down to my attitude about technology: approach with some caution, but mostly with a lot of positive curiosity.

A wiring box with the cover torn off, revealing coils of cables tagged with masking tape identifiers.
Do not be intimidated; you only need to understand the surface, not the guts of the software. Photo by Ralph Kayden on Unsplash.

Realizing that I am dating myself with this reveal, I saved my homework for my Technology in the Classroom undergrad class on a Zip disk! We have come a LONG way in removable storage (and cloud storage) since!

The applications that are available for creative projects can be overwhelming. But what I learned way back then (and probably typed into notes on that Zip disk) was that technological innovations are meant to be helpful. So as a teacher and a learner, my primary motivation as I log into a new app is to learn how that application can help me/others, put it to use, and not get too bogged down in the details.

This applies to the applications I've used for self-publishing Quarantine Kids; there just hasn't been time for me to learn everything I want to know about each service. I learn enough to get by and trust that I will learn another “enough” at the next step: Technology development iterates; why can't I?

I find that software preferences are very personal. They are based on a number of factors: price, how much assistance a person wants with the interface, what brands/companies someone aligns with, efficiency, outputs, the list goes on. So rather than detail specific software here, I wanted to mention the genres you may want to consider familiarizing yourself with as you get started in a self-publishing project.

Drafting/Writing Software

As a writer, you likely already have your favorite drafting software. And maybe where you draft is a little different from where you plot, edit, and polish. Cool. Go with what works. As apps continue to be developed, you may run into a program that does just the things you need it to do, all under one roof, and that's a great find!

Design Software

Maybe you are doing your own layout; maybe you are paying someone else to. Either way, I have found it helpful to know a little about design software so that I can ask for my pages in their original form, pre-PDF, so that if I need to make some emergency edits, I can.

Having a software that can edit or comment in PDFs also comes in handy!

Once you move into the marketing stages, you may need to create bookmarks or other printables that can also be laid out in design software. There are some great online applications that offer templates and great ease of use for these smaller (but important!) items.

Communication Software

Depending on the size of the team on your project, you may need a real-time communication software that allows groups to chat. Or you may be communicating inside of another shared software, like a collaborative document. No matter where you are communicating, it's important to have clear and consistent lines of communication open, as projects get messy fast when people aren't sure who to reach out to, and/or how/when to reach out with their information.

Photo Editing Software

I usually keep at least a free photo editor around. A lot of design platforms have basic editing tools embedded in their system, so you can crop and adjust color natively, but having a photo editor as a backup can be helpful.

Web Design Software

Another part of marketing your work is having an online presence, so you may consider setting up a website to develop your brand.

Media Creation Software

Are you going to record and post videos? Create voiceovers or audiobooks? Then you may need applications that facilitate the recording of yourself or your screen. Check out what kind of editing features they have and that they are outputting file types that are helpful for your project.

Project Management Software

Whether you are running your self-publishing project alone or with some companions, there are still a LOT of tasks to delegate and keep track of. Having a visual of how work is moving along is very helpful. And Project Management software doesn't lose its stickiness and fall off the wall like a bunch of nested sticky notes!

I am sure there are more categories to add to this list. Let's start with these. Even this list might seem lengthy and intimidating. The main thing to keep in mind is your project can be as trimmed-down as you would like, that each additional software should be a source of increased efficiency, not a source of overwhelming stress. When you hit your ceiling of knowledge but still need more, look to documentation or friends to give you that nudge. People are using software in creative and unexpected ways every day, and are often posting about their successes or learning points.

Following these threads can be a black hole in itself, so I keep the following questions close to the front of my mind:

  • What do I need to know to do my task?

  • Have I learned enough to complete that task?

Once I can answer yes, I push myself to turn away from the message boards, wikis, and other examples, and devote my attention to that item on my list. I know the boards will be waiting for my next keyword search.

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