A Look Back at 2014: What I Did, What I Didn’t Do, and What I Learned.
This is a personal blog post about 2014, what happened during those 365 days, what I did and didn’t accomplished on a practical level, and what I learned on an internal level. It’s the first time I am doing this, because it’s the first time in my life that I actually take time to review my year. I’ve been really inspired by Chris Guillebeau’s posts on the same subject, so I thought that I should drop the shyness and do the same, on the off chance it might inspire one of you.
31st December 2013: Last year, for the very first time, I draw a map of 2014 and tried to project what I was expecting to do during those 12 bright new months. The first thing I realized was that: half of the time, I had no clue what was going to happen, so I ended up putting articles (for mentorless.com) and translation (I have a recurring translation job that helps pay the bills), plus the birthdays of my family members to feel like 2014 was a bit planned. There were only five things I knew:
- I was going to launch the 365 project I had done in 2013
- I was going to launch my personal website
- I was going to launch a free eBook
- I was going to publish my first graphic novel
- I was going to write a first draft of a screenplay idea I had been entertaining for more than a year.
These were my goals. A year later, all those goals but one were met (guess which one), and I ended up doing a lot of things I hadn’t planned nor I had any idea I wanted to do, I learned more than I could have expected, and I also failed grandly at doing some stuff.
One year later, I feel that I finally have understood why it’s so important to take the time to look back at what I’ve done and learned, and that I now have the tools to draw a new map for 2015, with much more purpose and focus.
This post is going to focus on 2014, as I have yet to formulate clearly what direction I’d like to try to give to 2015. Without further ado, my year in 2014:
What I Did
This year, I did 10 things. (I’m talking here about things that can be named, with a beginning and an end, and that can be measured and quantified, in a way)
Here is the list in a semi-chronological order:
- #1 In January 2014, I created a cultural list named the Monthly Creative Menu. The idea for the list started after I posted here a list of my favorite stories from 2013 that I took great joy in writing, only to discover that very little people cared about it. Part of it was due to the fact that this time of the year, we are all overwhelmed with this type of lists, and part of it was due to the fact that mentorless.com is not a site about story loving, but rather about story making. Me recognizing that lead me to deciding to create this list that would be tailored for people who are on the constant hunt to discovering new stories and are as obsessed as I am about it. I love sharing a good story when I discover one, so this list has been a blast to do, and I’m glad to say it’s going to celebrate its first year with its coming installment, and it’s going nowhere.
Positive outcome: one a personal level, having this list has forced me to stay curious, to diversify the mediums on which I discover stories and to ‘consume with purpose’. It’s one thing to enjoy a story for yourself, it’s another thing to enjoy a story knowing you are going to share it with a few hundred people afterwards.
Negative outcome: the MCM’s format makes is a mammoth. I realized over time that people are having a hard time to share and talk about it, because the MCM only exists via a newsletter. People often want to communicate about one story I share, and because they can’t, they drop the ball altogether. The two things I want to work on for 2015 is building a way for people to a) share the MCM more easily, and b) comment on the MCM more easily. A good friend and MCM reader has given me a good idea about it, and I’m hoping to make it one of my 2015’s goals. to be continued…
- #2 From February to April, I created my first interactive and first animated video. Genero TV along with Tribeca, launched a contest to create an interactive video for one of three artists (Damon Albarn, Aloe Blacc, Ellie Goulding). I usually don’t participate to contest, but I had never done an interactive video, I really wanted to learn to, and having a deadline was a great way to force myself to do so. Also, Tribeca being a partner for this contest and the prize being particularly high (10k + flying to NYC to have your video screened during the Tribeca Film Festival) was a very good motor during time of creative pain. I spent two weeks in February trying to figure out what I would do. I originally thought I would film a story, but quickly realized that I didn’t have the budget and means to produce something of quality, so I decided to try doing an animation. I had never done an digital animation before, but I had done GIFs for my Tapestry stories and decided to try it out. I co-wrote the story with Gizem, my partner in creative crimes and a writer herself, and then spent 28 days drawing, editing, and creating roughly 23 minutes of content spread over 14 story lines. I didn’t win but I was a Finalist, which was much better than nothing. If you’re curious and would like to try it out, check it here.
Positive Outcome: I learned how to make an interactive video and an animation! Granted it’s not Pixar, but that’s just not my style. I’m super proud of this video, and I loved the interactive format. As soon as another opportunity will arise, I’m jumping on that boat again. There is so much that can be done with this format!
Negative Outcome: I did a very poor job at utilizing my experience doing this video. I documented part of it on Instagram while creating, but retrospectively, I could have done it better. And most importantly: I never wrote a post about it! This is pretty shocking to me, I keep offering people to write guest posts about their experience, and I don’t do it myself. While I was doing it, I was too much into it, I just didn’t have the energy to process what was happening, and afterwards, I felt it might be seen as pretentious to write about this experience when I didn’t win. Now I realize this was a bad choice dictated by my ego, and by doing so, I prevented me from sharing knowledge, and my work from being seen by a bigger number of people. Also, I can’t embed the interactive video on my site, and that’s a wee bit annoying.
- #3 – Between January and July, I created 10 stories on Tapestry. Tapestry was a mobile app that I discovered back in July 2013, and between July 2013 and July 2014, I created 29 stories, most of them with my main character Ronda Bazooka, mixing still images and gifs. And then in July 2014, they closed. I wrote about Tapestry closing and the feeling on losing your creations on Medium. You can experience a selection of my stories here.
Positive Outcome: Tapestry unlocked my creativity like no other mediums. It was so easy to produce a story that could reach out followers directly on their mobile (especially when you compare that to film), it let me experiment with a lot of different ways to tell a story within specific constraints, and I had a blast doing so. The other positive outcome is that instead of letting me feeling like an orphan and at lost -like I thought it would when I learned that the app was closing, I just learned to redirect my creative energy towards other projects. XXL win.
Negative Outcome: Clearly the biggest negative outcome is that the app closed, so the stories you see now are not really the story presented at their bests. It made me realized that everything we put online can disappear without notice, so we better back-it up big time.
- #4 – In March, I launched my Personal Website with the help of Christine Sejean after months of making it during our free time (especially Christine to be honest).
Positive Outcome: I had a site.
Negative Outcome: I picked the worse theme possible (I tend to do that) and this year was so packed with changes, the site became obsolete about 7 minutes after I created it. Because of the theme and the way it is built, it is just extremely complicated to make any change. So I’ve decided to change my site completely. (Hellooooo 2015 goal!) Let’s just hope I’ll pick a better theme this time.
PS: Somebody needs to write an informed guide on how to pick a theme, because there is so much more than the visual to take into account. Throwing an idea out there!
- #5 – In May, I co-taught with Gizem an Introduction to Filmmaking at Kos Highschool in Istanbul, to four classes of teenagers over two days.
Positive Outcome: This was the first time I was teaching, I was teaching to teenagers, I was teaching in English, I was teaching about filmmaking and I was co-doing it all. So a lot of first times were checked on this one. It was an amazing experience, it was awesome to put to good use everything I have learned and wished I have had access to when I was a teenager, and it was a great learning curve to do it all with someone else. Also: it was a paid job, which felt great. I definitely look forward to more opportunities like this one. It was very hard and painful to work on a 1h30 presentation with someone else, and even though Gizem and I have been co-writing several projects together, we almost killed each other-briefly. But then, we found a way to make it work, and that breakthrough lead to us creating one of our biggest project (more on that soon).
Negative Outcome: None. Beside that I erased the power point by accident, but this is just how awesome I can be sometimes.
- #6 – In May, I also released my first (and free) eBook: HDTWI. I had the idea for HDTWI back in December 2012, and I started to work on it right away. But because I always juggle with several projects at the same time, I tend to move very slowly. I thought it would take me 3 months, it took me 16 months. A lesson in humility and patience. I have to thank Christine Sejean, again, for designing the ebook and teaching me the fundamentals of InDesign so I could work on the document from far. She rules.
Positive Outcome: thanks to Cinephilia and Beyond and No Film School, the book spread very quickly and thousands of people have downloaded it since. Because of this unexpected success, I have learned more, and grown more than in the first three years I had been doing mentorless.com. In the last six months, I have completely changed the way I think about the site, I use it, search for content and communicate with my readers. It might look the same on the outside, but it is definitely bigger on the inside.
Negative Outcome: I don’t know what I expected when I released the book, but usually when I drop stuff online, nothing much happens, so I just wasn’t prepared for this quick ‘success’. And this is my fault. Or it’s nobody’s fault, but I definitely learned the hard way about not being prepared. I spent a lot of money, and started to freak out. I handled it so poorly that I almost closed the site after the eBook went big, because I couldn’t sustain the financial costs that were attached to it. Then someone pointed out that closing a site because you have thousands of subscribers was the most absurd reason ever. And I cooled down. This is not a real negative outcome, frankly I’m grateful it happened, I needed to learn all those stuff, but during the few months it took me to understand and accept that, I went through a tough time with cold sweat thinking about my expenses.
#7 – In June, I decided to co-create a Portable Shop with Gizem. We had both been creating and selling some things (me, a yoga poster, her, a all-natural deo) and we felt we should join forces. June was when we had the thread of an idea and we’ve been hard at work since then. The idea slowly mutated into it being a creative platform under which we would share all our creations, on any mediums: postcards, posters, stickers, animations, films, books, graphic novels etc. And so, in December we launched our Etsy Shop, and we now have a website: Gizlie.com, an Instagram, a Facebook Page and all that jazz.
Positive Outcome: I finally found a way to put everything I do under one big name, and it feels so damn good. A million of things have happened since we talked about having a portable shop and this things has just taken us to places we would have never imagined possible, just six months ago. The waiting list of projects we have is ridiculous, and that’s so exciting, I feel my heart is going to explode. I also did a couple of dirty animations just for fun, and hope to explore that much more this year.
Negative Outcome: I just need to find a way to balance that very real project with being a nomad. Once again, the ‘negative’ is really not so negative. Just an opportunity to learn.
- #8 – In July, I self-published my first Graphic Novel on Amazon. I wrote the first draft of Sometimes Infinity Only Last 147 Pages back in June 2013 and then spent the next six months editing and making its final version. The graphic novel was ready in January 2014, and it took me six more months to decide what to do with it. After a weak attempt to have it published the traditional way, I decided to self-publish it on Amazon.
Positive Outcome: I’ve always dreamed of writing a graphic novel, and writing this particular story was necessary for me to get rid of all my creative blocks… and it worked wonderfully I have to say. I also met a lot of interesting people thanks to that, and I believe the reason why I thought I would able to create 23 minutes of content for an animation was because I had already been working so much on my graphic novel. This is just the first step in a long road of creating stories on ‘paper’ and I’m so glad I started this journey.
Negative Outcome: Because I read so much on Kindle, and my graphic novel is in black and white, Amazon seemed like the perfect place to publish it. Retrospectively, I now know that this was a poor choice on my end. This could be a whole post in itself, but all I can say is: my graphic novel will soon be available on GizLie as a .pdf, and later as a printed book, and that makes so much more sense.
- #9 – Between September and November, I co-created several postcards, stickers, and an invitation to Fight Your Fear. Since our decision to create GizLie, I’ve been on a creative roll, and during the two months Gizem and I were on the same soil and had enough time to produce ideas we’ve been developing, we just went full blast, starting with the ones that were easy to make.
Positive Outcome: I think I finally found a way to start making money while canalizing, feeding and exploring my creative needs. And now that GizLie has become a creative platform to host all our endeavors, the sky has truly become the limit. Fingers crossed this theory will become real.
Negative Outcome: mmm. none?
- #10 – In October, I became a Certified Yoga Teacher. Wait, what?! Yes, you read that well. I took my very first Yoga Class on the 12th of October 2010 in Los Angeles, and four years later, I’ve become a certified Yoga Teacher in Istanbul, following Chris Chavez teaching. Believe me, this was never part of the plan when I decided to become a filmmaker in 2007, but Yoga is basically the best thing that has happened to my creativity, my body and my mind. I have never mentioned that here before, but this is quite the accomplishment for me, and if it makes you curious enough to try Yoga out, then go for it! No negative outcome here, just a mountain of positive outcomes, but since this is not really the place to develop about it, I’ll keep it short and will keep that for my future-awesome-personal-website! (right? right!)
And this is what I did in 2014.
It’s been a very good year for me, especially on the creative side of things, even though you might have noticed there is one thing missing:
Yes, I totally failed at writing my script. I took a lot of notes, but I am a big sucker at long form writing. I can write a short film in an instant if I have the idea. I can even write TV-length screenplay without too much difficulty, I can write short forms because I am a creation junky and short forms are perfect for that. But feature length…
This year I learned to become more patient, thanks to the eBook and the Graphic Novel, that took both over a year to go from A to Z, and I’m hoping I will be able to use this knowledge to sit my butt and write a full draft. I get very easily distracted with side projects that only need one intense push, and I need to turn off the critic in my head and accept the first draft will suck. (I’ve already written a full length script, I just find it painful.)
Let’s see if 2015 is going to be the year where I finally write this particular story! This is not the only thing I failed doing, but this is the only thing I see as a ‘failure’. The other projects usually got canceled because it made sense, but this one didn’t happened because I have been procrastinating and being lazy, so this is on me 1000%.
What I Learned:
This post has become ridiculously long, like every time I decide to do a personal blog post, so I am not going to expand on each point here, but will just give the list of things I’ve learned (in no particular order):
- I learned the difference between being active and being proactive
- I learned the importance of asking
- I learned that I was not a filmmaker, but a story fabricator (as you can see from my list. Filmmaking is a giant passion of mine, hence mentorless.com, but story fabricating is my opium)
- I learned how to connect the dots already present within myself
- I learned to stop being attached to the results and focus on doing instead
- I learned to collaborate
- I learned to work efficiently while traveling
This is without a doubt the richest year I’ve had in my life so far. I have never been more aware, and I’ve never been more mindful, and this is probably why all I end up with 7 life lessons in 365 days. I have been collected the fruits from the hard work I have done inside and out for the last 6 years, and it feels really good.
So this is it for today. If you’ve taken the time to read up until here, I want to thank you for following me on this crazy ride, and for being here, on mentorless.com.
I would love for you to take a moment and share below what you did in 2014 (can be one thing, can be 10 things!), what you’ve learned, and maybe one of your goal for 2015!