Friday, April 27, 2012

Blog Makeover! (Or, What It's Like in My Head)

The B Channel, for all intents and purposes, is a continuation of my MySpace blog on a different website.  It’s a blog where I do nothing but talk about myself and the things that I am most interested in - the internet equivalent of textbook narcissism, if you will.  And it is, dare I say it, damn near impossible to sum up what the hell this place is with a thematically appropriate layout.

For many moons (as many moons as this blog has been on this Earth), I have wanted this site to look more…better…than it did.  When I redid ISJ and my personal website last year, more than ever I felt The B Channel didn’t live up to the standards I set for myself in terms of making my online ventures look at least passably professional despite not having any idea what the fuck I’m doing (all of my website layouts are the product of Photoshop fumbling, pure HTML luck, and persistence well past the point of being healthy).

Gentle readers, I feel it has been far too long since I’ve granted you access to the creative workings of Becky Heineke’s brain.  I’m always traipsing along these days, like, “HI THERE, I’m totally reasonably normal,” and doing such a bang-up job of pretending that you might even have started to believe me.

“Oh, look!”  I nonchalantly wrote in the last entry.  “I wrote another book!”

Oh, please.  That cavalier announcement  was preceded by hundreds upon hundreds of hours of work – literally entire weeks of my life – and will be followed by many, many more hours of work before it reaches your hands. 

“New layout!” I could have written for this post.  “I like it and all but whatever, moving on!”

Except today we’re not going to move on.  Today, I’d like to chronicle where we’ve been and how we got here, because for as much as I “share” on this blog, I very rarely share how it is that I take a nothing and, using either words or pictures, make a something out of it.  

You only ever see my finished products; but creative endeavors, in my experience, are 85% frustration and failure.  If what you’re exposed to is merely the 15% I consider “successful” enough to share, then your perception of that 15% is very different than mine.  I see that 15% as the end result of a long and arduous process; to you, it's likely little more than Becky being Becky.

And perhaps you're wondering why anyone would spend their free time on something (i.e., creativity in general) that only has a 15% success rate?   

Sometimes, whilst writing or Photoshopping, I’ll become so singularly focused on what I’m doing that when I finally snap out of it, I don’t know how much time has passed, and I’m all disoriented, and it takes me, like, an hour to return to my normal cognitive state and be able to adequately communicate with other human beings.

I’m willing to put in the 85% because the 15%, when it’s good, is the best goddamn drug there is.

(N.B.  This level of intensity conveniently ties back to my interest in alcohol and in running long[ish] distances, as those two things also lead to altered mental states.  I may be abnormal, but I’m nothing if not self-aware.)

So right now, I'm going to ask you to join me on a little walk for what will UNEQUIVOCALLY be the most self-indulgent and self-centered post I have ever published here (which is definitely saying something).


How I Created the New Blog Theme

This was the first header for this blog:

I never liked it all that much.  Topical?  Yes.  Interesting?  Not really.  Complicated?  Probably the most simplistic (and two-dimensional) blog header I've ever come up with.

Not that there's anything wrong with simplicity (some - if not most - of the best logos/mastheads out there are the simple ones); it's just that very little of what I write is simplistic, and I like a certain level of depth to be conveyed in my headers to subconsciously translate this to readers.  (Yes, I really have put that much thought into it...and you thought I was just flying by the seat of my pants.  Oh, ye of little faith...)

I used the above graphic, though, because at least it was better than my first iteration of it:

I don't even want to talk about how long it took me to figure out how to make those green lines.  And then they looked so stupid.


In 2008, or thereabouts, I created a header for a blog that I never started.  The blog was going to be called "Highfield West," and I think it was going to be about my days living in Ireland:

Though the blog never even got far enough along for a test post, I always liked the header, which I based off of several design elements from the Collector's Edition of the Hairspray soundtrack CD.

I thought maybe I could alter Highfield West to fit The B Channel:

Though artistically compelling (so many shapes!), I didn't feel it quite fit the tone of this blog.

I did like the retro feel of it, however.  ISJ's design is a total rip-off of a movie poster for A Hard Day's Night, and borrows heavily from The Beatles' Second Album.  Thinking perhaps the answer lay in again finding the right Beatles-related promotional material to steal from, I yanked a picture of an "All You Need is Love" 45 from Google and stuck my name on it.  And then I went to town creating the cheesiest 60s-themed title graphic I could come up with (note the smiley sticker; he shows up later):

But that was too much. So I toned it down and posted the simplified version on the blog, even though it still wasn't quite what I was looking for...


While I was writing I'm Stalking Jake! (the book), I took pictures of myself periodically to chronicle the emotions of the writing process.

When the book was finished, I went back through them and realized that far more interesting than my emotional ups and downs was my fascinating (to me) record of what I really look like on a day to day basis, when I'm "at home" and most "myself."  I continued to take snapshots, and now have 170 or so photos taken over three and a half years.

Some of the pictures have already come in handy for illustrative purposes across the internet...but it wasn't until I first learned about Facebook's Timeline, and became intrigued by the idea of having a large "cover photo" at the top of my profile, that I thought I might finally have a bulk use for all these photographs I had on my hard drive.  I sorted through them, picked thirty-six that didn't seem to overlap in any one way, and came up with this:

Unfortunately, that compilation looked completely ridiculous when I uploaded it to Facebook.

But it seemed silly not to use it somewhere, and thus began my efforts to make use of it as a B Channel theme.  It was at this point that I decided to drop the "dumb" from the tagline because it suddenly sounded, to my ears, too harsh.  My intention was self-deprecation, but self-deprecation can be taken too far, and I was entering a phase in my life where I felt it important to support and cheerlead myself as much as possible.  So from here on, it was just "Where my life is always on":
There are about five other versions in various fonts, but those two give you the basic gist.

And the gist is that it didn't work (though a cropped version of the original mosaic is now on my Google+ profile).

I started looking around my apartment, where I have a Weetabix label stuck on one of my cabinet doors in my kitchen.

So (hell, why not?) I did a Weetabix theme:

I actually really liked it.  Just not for this blog.  The colors were too harsh and I doubted enough of you would get the reference to make it worth my while to blind you for it.

After that, I worked on a series of ideas that I never completed.  I would start something, like a British-red-topped-newspaper theme:

Or a Barbie-logo-font-theme:

Or an eighties-inspired geometric theme:

Or a filled-with-unused-negative-space theme:
And stop while I was ahead, because I knew it wasn't going anywhere...


Two nights ago, I was brushing my teeth, and to be quite honest, I was irritated with myself for not having come up with a damned layout already.  It had been months, and I knew all I needed was the right starting point to springboard me toward inspiration, but for some reason, I couldn't find it.

And then, toothbrush still in my mouth, I looked at the door to my bathroom, where this poster hangs:

BAM.  I knew I'd found it.  It had been staring me in the face this entire time.

Yesterday afternoon, I sat down at my desk after I got off work and barely moved for the next four hours.  I sank into a glorified state of intensity, lost myself to the process, and perfected the look just before rushing off to Breakaway for my Thursday run.  (Where I was predictably confused and disoriented for quite a while as my brain switched back to "normal" mode.  I still don't know how it is that no one said anything to me about how spaced out I was acting.  Or maybe even "normal" for me is strange enough that no one noticed I wasn't quite myself.)

There it was:

So close...  Close enough I thought it was done. 

But today, Sasha said she was having some trouble reading because of the color scheme, so I made one final adjustment:

And there you have it.  (I also had to get the background right, and work out the colors for the tabs, and mess with the HTML to get all the spacing the way I wanted it, but such tasks prove to be strangely un-annoying when you've already got the right pieces constructed and all that's left to do is make them fit together.)

So you see?  You click over here and it looks all different.  And most of the time, I just throw it out there and don't say anything about it.  But pretty much every time there's a major change, or a big blog entry that requires specialized graphics, and certainly every time I say, "Hey, I wrote a book!" what you see is very much only the tip of the iceberg, and there's an invisible trail to get to that point along the lines of that which I just shared.

(If I just killed the magic for you, I apologize.  I may or may not have posted this in part because of a recent influx of people into my life who are insinuating that I don't work very hard.  At anything.  And that's just ridiculous.  It takes a lot of goddamn effort to make things look this effortless...)


  1. 1. I admire you for your patience and/or perseverence (is that spelled right? o.0 ), I would have thrown my laptop out the window half way thru it.
    What I take from it?? I have to work on my perseverence, BIG TIME!

    2. And W O W to how many designs you came up with. And soooo different from each other. There really were great ideas :) but I think this one fits best from the ones you shown us.

    3. I learned that those trying to take you down, or doubting what you go thru to do what you do, are mostly either jealous of what you achieve or plain haters anyway. Please don't let that get to your heart.

    4. I'm sorry my comment caused you to give your piece of art another touch :( as I said in my other comment... I would have adjusted - but I'm very grateful for your acknowledgement and that you took the great length to again twitch on your layout. Much love from Hamburg :)


    1. Thank you, Sasha!!

      First, please don't feel bad for saying that about the color! I sincerely appreciated your honest feedback and I'm so glad you said something. You may not have stopped reading because of it, but someone else might much as I get sucked into my own little world, I *need* outside opinions to bring me back down to Earth! :D (And truly, I like this color a lot better than the other one anyway, so it worked out well all the way around.)

      Secondly, I really appreciate your support. I'd never even thought about how all the designs were completely different! (Yet another example of needing an outside opinion to see what's right in front of me. :)) And I'm working on not being so defensive about things, but I think there's a line between being defensive and not fighting back. I'm not sure what it was about this process that made me want to share it, but since I had the urge to, I did it. I know I shouldn't take other people's words so seriously, but that's easier said than done. As always, I'm still a work in progress. :D

      Lastly, thank you for reading this hugely long thing!! And for leaving such a nice comment. :) Hope you're enjoying your weekend!!!!

  2. Wow...great to see how much creative work goes into your designs ( I totally got the weetabix thing before I read the text by the way!). I've been lurking for a while, reading from time to time, but haven't commented for a while...more because of my lack of time recently, than not being inspired by your posts. After you've shared all that hard work felt it was time to comment again, because, if you can put all that effort in to getting something just right (and it is just right) then its about time I started acknowledging when I've enjoyed one of your posts again :)

    1. Clarabel, thank you so, so much!! And wow, good to hear from you! :D As a compulsive lurker on many sites, I never want people to feel pressured to comment, but I would be lying if I said that your comment didn't mean a lot to me. :)

      I'm very glad you're still reading. I was looking for an older post a few days ago to refresh my memory on something and as I started skimming back through things, I realized just how transparent I've been in the past six to eight months or so about not feeling great about the way things were going in life. And it made me realize that I should be extra, EXTRA thankful for everyone who has stuck with me, because I know I'm not always the most fun right now. :)

      I hope all is well with you! And HA, I'm glad you got the Weetabix thing!! I don't know why I love the Weetabix logo (since the cereal itself is a little on the bland side and not my favorite), but I do, and I was laughing out loud some while making that particular header. :D Ah, well. Maybe it'll come in handy in some other way someday. But in the meantime, I'm glad you like the current design, because even after a few days, I'm still kind of in love with it myself. :)