Monday, April 30, 2012

Let it Go and love, or Some Thoughts on Being Zen

Let It Go, and love
watercolor, ink, gel pen on paper

One of the things I have never quite managed to figure out is the practice of non attachment. The idea is that we don't hang onto our ideas of the way things should be, what we think we need, our desires.

I know some people have said that this would be bad because it would mean we have no ambition, no desire to change things for the better, it would be settling, but I don't really think that's what it means.

I think, although I'm by no means sure, that the concept of non attachment means we don't fixate on having our specific ideas come true. It's about accepting what is, about living in the present and the world that you are actually living in.

It doesn't mean that you can't work to improve things or WANT things. It's more like standing where you are and saying, "I am here," and having that be good. And being able to move, from where you really are, with all the tools you have at your disposal, to where you are going next, without ideas of what you SHOULD be doing or who you SHOULD be.

How do we stop fixating on what we think we SHOULD be? How do we let go of our ideas of what things SHOULD be like?

I'm still working on it, but I've worked up a few things.

1. Be who you are. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Someone will always have something you don't. Someone will always be better at something. You will always look to see where you are lacking in comparison. So stop it. They are them. You are you. Every life has struggles and every life has joys.

2. Pay attention to the positives. Stop focusing on the negatives in your life. Don't obsess over what you haven't achieved, what you don't have, what is wrong with you or your life. I know it's hard, when you feel like you should be fixing all these things that feel broken, but just think of all that energy you are giving to these negative feelings. Look instead at what you do have. Pay attention to that. Feed the positives in your life and they will grow. Look for the love. You'll find it.

3. Don't idealize things. Your idea of something you want may turn out to be a lot harder and more complicated and uglier than you first imagined. Like for instance, I thought this little post with the little illustration would be a lot easier than it's turning out to be. Hey, what could be easier, right? Let it go. Don't obsess. Focus on the love, right? But no, it led into non attachment, one of the most difficult Buddhist philosophies, which I have, honestly, been trying to figure out for 25 years, which of course, leads me to confusion and struggle. But maybe that also what it's about.

4. Don't over complicate things.  Am I making it more complicated than I need to? It just is what it is, right? Let it go means let it go. Don't fuss over getting it just right, allow it to be what it is. Don't add on what ifs. Don't try to make something that will stun the world with your genius. Don't over think it. Simplicity is often the key.

5. Accept it for what it is. Whatever it is. We're flawed. Period. We fall down. We make mistakes. We don't live up to our expectations. Even if we'd like to change things, where we are is still where we are. We can only be here, we can only change things from where we are, with the tools we have at our disposal.  We can only be who we are.

6. Let it go. Don't hold on to those fears and angers and upsets and pains and disappointments. Allow them, yes. Feel them, yes. Recognize that feeling the sad things does not mean that they will take over. You are strong enough to get through sad feelings, but they are part of life. So feel them, then let it go.
7. Say 'Yes' to life. When you hold on to all those negative things and feelings and shoulds, we close ourselves off to what is really out there. This is the "and love" part of the post, I think. Love is about yes, isn't it? It's about saying, 'yes, I see your beauty,' or 'yes, I see the possibility.' 'Yes, I will give you my time.' or 'Yes, I will risk being vulnerable to you."

I'm going to have to leave it at lucky seven. I am surprised at how much this supposedly quick post got me thinking. The funny thing, is that I had a more involved craft post that I thought would be too hard, but now I think it would have been a lot easier. 

What do you think of the idea of non attachment? How do you practice letting go? How do you love and accept an imperfect world and imperfect people for what they are?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Look for the little beauties, or Teapots

Look for the little beauties, or Teapots
pencil, watercolor, acrylic, ink on scrap paper

This weekend, I am going to focus on looking for the little beauties, the small things that make me happy.

It might be story time with my kids, or a clean kitchen floor, or the lilacs in bloom, or a pleasant interaction.

I'm also going to look for the small steps forward that I make. The new sentences scrawled in the margin of a New York Times. The sketch of teapots done at work in those moments of down time before it gets busy.  The continued use of my creativity log. Organizing my stamping box. A quick project with the kids.

I know that this will be a busy couple of days for me at work, so rather than feel frustrated that I can't get back to my creative goals, I'm going to look for what I can do, the lovely things that are already there. And I'm going to keep taking stock of where I am and where I want to go.

When I can get back to my creative work, on Monday, I'm going to try not to get overwhelmed by everything I want to accomplish. That happens to me a lot on Mondays. I set up my expectations so high, I want to be SOO creative, that when I sit down to work, I just go blank.

So I'm going to take it easy this weekend, but I'm not going to do nothing.

I'm going to take baby steps because even if baby steps feel like they are going nowhere, they go a lot farther than doing nothing because you are too overwhelmed by those big giant steps you think you're supposed to be taking.

So this is a weekend for little beauties and baby steps. And I'm going to enjoy the journey for exactly what it is.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Take Stock and Feed Your Creativity

 Flying Bird Felt Medallion Charm/Book Mark

I spent the other day not being as creative as I wanted.... but I was busy the whole day doing things related to creativity. Yes, I did finish up this book mar charm that I was sending out with a package, but I need to confess that I didn't "make" it. Well, yes I did, but I made it a couple years ago. You see, I have this whole bunch of projects that I've started and never done anything with, never finished, never figured out where I should go with them.

One of the things I did was to find all of those incomplete medallions and felt scraps and put them into my felt scraps and projects box. I don't know why this little collection pleases my crafty self so much. Perhaps it's seeing all those little circles of many colors. Or looking back at projects I've put energy into, like that beetle medallion. 

 I was also sorting through the kids' big toy box when I found some stray piece of costume jewelry that no one ever used and I took it apart and separated the beads. I particularly liked the silver beads and thought they'd make a good bracelet some day. And the black beads will be great if I make any small stuffed animals or dolls... which is always a distinct possibility.

And then, when I was looking for my sewing box so that I could finish up that bird medallion, I decided it was time to transfer my sewing materials from the cookie tin I'd been using to this actual sewing box, which I'd found in a thrift store. I detangled all the thread and dug all the little needles and pins out of the cracks of the box with a magnet.Organizing that also made me feel satisfied. Although I think I'd like to do something to the amber plastic... does any one know some way to upcycle that plain old plastic? The form fits my needs, but the color is not my color. *frownie face*
 I even sorted and collected all these little paperclay doodads that I made and never did anything with. I still don't know what I am going to do with them, but I think having them available to me and being able to look at them and wonder helps.
The Harry Potter Experience: G's Birthday 7th ed.

I also organized my thoughts and ideas for my son's upcoming birthday party. He really wants a Harry Potter party, so aside from searching through Pinterest, I have started to write out notes of things that I think would work well, not be too labor intensive, and are crafty and inexpensive. The more I started listing things down here, the more things I thought of, and then while I was bustling about organizing and sorting my crafty stuff, I got more ideas, since my brain was already in creative mode, and looking at the stuff I had sparked ideas for new projects.

It's surprising how much of creating is connected to organizing, planning, thinking, day dreaming, reading, listening, living, staring out the window, sorting, cleaning, etc.

It's a phase that is part of the creative process. Taking stock, I suppose you might call it. Holding those supplies in your hands. Deciding where everything goes. What you might do with them. What things please you and what things need to be recycled into something else.

And in other ways, too. We take stock of ourselves. Who am I? What do I like? Where do I want to go? What is important to me?

In a way, being creative is about choosing. We choose what we want to spend our time with. We choose whether to use this color combination or that one. We choose the medium. We choose the mood. Taking stock of ourselves and our materials and our thoughts helps us to make the right choices in our creating.

Yay. Organizing is not just fun and satisfying, it also has a purpose in the larger scheme of thing.

Think of ways that you can organize your thoughts, your home and your supplies to inform you creativity. What do you need to take stock of so that you can feed your creativity?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New and Improved Creativity Log, Now with Bravery!

 A New Improved Creativity Log (blank)

I'm really trying to get organized and be productive again. It's quite the process and often doesn't look like it's going anywhere in all the business of every day life... until it does, and you realize you've finished huge projects and pulled your life back together and taken major steps on the journey to your dreams.

I realized something about how far along I am right now in my creative process when I found this post in the random search of my archives. That post was about wanting to be creative, but still being quiet and still...being fallow. Which can feel awful when you really really want to be doing stuff and making stuff, but is often a necessary phase in being creative. But if you keep at it and keep trying and continue to have faith in yourself and your creative process, then you do ultimately start moving.

I am right now in the motion phase of my creative journey. What a relief after standing still for so long. I'm not going as fast or as far as I want to yet, but I am picking up speed.

One of the things I'm doing to keep up my momentum and take stock of what I actually am doing is to go back to keeping a creativity log. I've written about it before, but I've decided to make some improvements.

The planner is a place where I can keep track of what I have done that day. We all know about to do lists and how gratifying it is to cross stuff off, but it is very easy for us to forget everything we are doing that never got onto the list, small things, or unexpected things, or every day things that have a big impact on your day and your creativity. That's why I keep my log. And I break it down into categories because it is so easy for me to lose my balance and focus too much on one area, all my attention might go to my kids, or I might be obsessed with painting or I might completely forget that I have to take care of myself. So I list the important categories/goals at the top of my log, and then the day of the week down the side and then write down what I've done to fit that category for the day. Simple as that. But this time around, I'm changing things around to fit my life and also to deal with some things that I struggle with, to make the log even more effective for the way I do things.

First of all, I put some pages in my handmade planner. I'm kind of loving my planner and making all the notes  and lists and such. But I also love using my stamps in my planner. For some reason, when the papers we look at all day are pretty and have pleasing colors, when they feel good in the hand, I'm more likely to use them, so making my log pretty, not just a drawn in grid, helps me want to use it.
New and Improved Creativity Log Imperfect and In Action

 This one here is my first try at making my new log. I don't know if you can tell, but there are some mistakes with the stamping and the boxes do not all line up as you go down the page. Whoops. Luckily I had a marker the same color as the ink I used so I just drew lines to keep the days straight. But even though I hadn't gotten the format down pat, I started to log my creativity for the week, anyway.

New and Improved Creativity Log (detail) in use, with some entries and notes

 Here is a closeup of the started log. You can see Self, Writing, Art/Craft, and Business (which is anything that has to do with money and jobs and finances). The categories you can't see are Blog, Kids, Home, and there's one more, which I'll talk about later.

One of the things I noticed right away when I started my log (this is only two days of logging, mind you) is that I am seriously avoiding Writing. I am not counting blogging as writing because I know the projects I mean to be working on and I am not doing them because I am afraid. So, when I noticed that I was avoiding writing, I filled my empty log slot with a stamp, saying "DON'T IGNORE ME".  I need to know when I am avoiding something. I need to be faced with the fact that I am avoiding it. I need to stop hiding from it, because I know what my real goals are.

Another thing that I added to my new log is that I am not only keeping track of the tasks I complete, but I am also adding a star to the activities that make me feel good about myself, make me feel productive and make me feel like I can tackle the next step. I want to see which kinds of things lead to the most positive feelings. And I want to value those activities for their emotional and psychological weight.

New and Improved Creativity Log (detail) with the hand carved stamp that has helped improve it.

This brings me to the last new thing that I added to my creativity log. A new category. It isn't strictly about being creative... actually neither is the whole log, it's more about productivity, or perhaps, working on the rest of my life so that I can be creative. The new category is called, "Big Girl Panties," aka "Be Brave." In this row, there is a place that I can mark down what I have done that has been scaring me, intimidating me. What I have been avoiding because it is too important, fits into my neuroses, or is too far out of my comfort zone. All those things about which I have spent my life muttering, "I cant!" This is the category that has been standing in my way, and these are the things that I need to put on my big girl panties and deal with.

This category pleases me. I feel so good when I can accomplish something that has been scaring me, even if it something so simple as emailing someone. I feel competent and capable and brave, and that means I am feeling stronger and more able to tackle everything else. This category also helps me think about the other things that are scaring me, the things I need to tackle next. I've put lists in my weekly planners of scary stuff that I am afraid of but still need to take care of. Like I said before, the more I pay attention to these things that scare me and the less I hide from it, the better it is for my creativity, my productivity and my life.

All in all, I'm really proud of the way this creativity log is turning out. It is about doing it. It is about taking those steps toward what you really want. I suppose it wouldn't even need to be about creativity, if your goals were more along the lines of career or home or business, but for me it's creativity. And something they don't really tell you before you start trying to make art or write novels or compose symphonies is that the hardest part about creating is not really about writing, painting or the act of creating. The hardest part about being creative is confronting your own fears, battling your demons, overcoming your flaws, facing your dreams and digging into the heart of all that you are.

What are the categories that you would put into your own personal creativity log? What are the things that you need to tackle to be as creative as you would like?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ten Ways Pinterest Can Improve Your Creativity

 My Stuffed Doll, inspired by, researched on, and created with help from Pinterest. Because Pinterest is not just for wasting time.

I've read a lot about how people love Pinterest, but it's a total time suck and they never DO anything that they pin on their boards. Or conversely, how people just don't "get" Pinterest, that it just seems to be a kind of cluttery virtual hoarding by squee girls.

Not me. Yes, I probably spend more time than is good for me browsing Pinterest, but I also try an awful lot of things that I see on Pinterest. I also use Pinterest as a resource for when I have my own projects to tackle. So I thought that I'd discuss some of the ways that I have used Pinterest not only to inspire but to actually DO STUFF.

1. Pin stuff you like!
This might seem self evident, but often when I am not sure what I am doing, the very act of pinning stuff will help me figure out what I really love, what I dream of, what I'd like to be doing and where I want to go with  myself.  Often, while I'm pinning, I will begin to notice trends in my interests, like dark colors or stamping or stuffed dolls. Which brings me to the next thing...

2. Make your boards as specific as possible.
It is very easy to just think one Crafts Board or one For The Kids board will do, but if you want to actually do stuff from pinterest rather than just squee over great ideas, it helps to make those boards very specific. So rather than one Crafts Board, I have Crafts and Stuffed Creations, Craft and Crochet, Craft and Stitch (hand sewing), Craft and Be Ye Unafraid of the Machine that Sews (yeah, my machine intimidates me). And that's not even counting the DIY boards I have, where I put tutorials and upcycling and other stuff. The important thing is that I gear my boards to my activities and needs and desires. I like crafts and art, so the majority of my boards are related to this... but they don't have to be. You can have boards focused on holidays, music, travel, fashion, food, kids activities, reading. But the more specific each of those categories is, the easier it is to actually find what you need when you are ready to DO STUFF.

3. Create Action Boards.
These are not mere inspiration boards, but these are boards where you pin things that you are in the process of planning, creating and researching. These boards might be something like a To Do Board, where you pin stuff you want to remember to do. Or project boards, like Kids Birthday Party, or maybe Kitchen ReDo ... basically any involved project can have its own board. Actually, giving a project its own board means that it will stay on your mind, rather than falling into the cracks and getting ignored. Every time you're unwinding on the internet, if you see something that might fit into your project, you can pin it, and that will get you thinking about it. If you are always thinking about a project, you're much more likely to actually do it. Plus, there's such a wide range of ideas on pinterest, that your personal project can become ever more creative and interesting.

4. Create Photo Reference Boards.
This is particularly something that helps me if I am creating something with visual interest, whether it's decorating or painting a picture or sewing the doll above. I'm not the kind of person who just copies what someone else did, but I am unashamedly inspired by what other people have created. For instance, I had some trouble when I was making this doll, because I didn't know what I wanted her face to look like.
This is the face I came up with, but not before I looked at and sketched out a bunch of other faces like this and this and this. In the end, I came up with my own face, but looking at what other people had done gave me a sense of what was possible and what I liked. When I was making my stuffed owl, I used many references of real owls that I had collected on my do it photo reference board, so I could get away from the stuffed owls that were out there and make mine, if not more realistic, then at least more reminiscent of an actual Hedwig.

5. Use the Search Function.
I love the search function. In some ways, it has taken over for general search engines. I like that the images are visual and I can browse for my own visual interest. Sometimes I just search a term on Pinterest and then let chance lead me to inspiration. But it also works because it is a curated collection of things related to your terms. Someone has already chosen these images because they love them or found them useful. The search function was particularly useful to me when I was looking for ways to do this doll's hair. I felt like I'd never done the hair right, so when I searched on pinterest, I was looking for a tutorial for doing hair "right." I found this and knew that this was the  right way to do doll hair... but then I was also running out of time so I kept searching for something less.... intimidating. I didn't want to do something in felt, although it was cute, so I kept searching until I found this tutorial which is what I used and which came out fabulously.

6. Participate in the Community
People have answers. If you are stuck on something, ask a question on a relevant pin, and someone might have an answer. Or, solicit advice from your followers. Ask them if they know the right way to make a doll wig, or if a recipe works out the way it looks, or... well hey, I've been asking for all sorts of advice on my library board. I want to know if books are good or just hype, or if my kids will like them. The answer for this book seems to be yes. Something to be aware of here is the caption that you pin. Very frequently, I won't notice the caption when I pin and my followers will respond to a question I didn't have. So if you want advice or reviews or suggestions, pay attention to your comments and captions. Another community aspect that can encourage your creativity are the group boards. Create a board with friends working on a similar project, or find pinners you love and include them or just join in on the conversation where like minded people are sharing their ideas, like in this parenting board.

7. Keep Pen and Paper Nearby 
Pinterest is a great virtual pin board, but there comes a time when you have to take things into the real world.  To do so, it helps to have scrap paper or a notebook or journal with you while you browse pinterest. You might want to write down a recipe and bring it over to the kitchen. Or you might want to take the good book ideas and bring them with you to the IRL library or bookstore. Keep Lists. Note things down in your calendar. Take the impulse and paint something while you're sitting in front of your computer. If you have tools nearby to write something or draw something down, then it will encourage you to make one of those great ideas IRL.

8. Make a Did It Board
How fun! You tried a recipe from pinterest, or you followed a tutorial, or you crocheted a pattern, or you went to a place on a travel board! Great. Tell us what you did. Put that pin on a board of completed pins and share with us how it worked out. Keep it there as a reference so that you can go back to it again. I've gone back a bunch of times to do this, (it's great.)There is a feeling of accomplishment when you can mark something as done, and it is encouraging to see that other people are out there trying things, not just browsing.

9. Show and Tell
Similar to a Did It board where you pin things that you've attempted from pinterest, you can create a board to show how your own efforts turned out. Make a board of things that you have made, decorated, cooked. Upload your own photos, pin from your blog or flickr account. Honestly I'm still leery of pinning too much of my own stuff, I don't want to be a spammer, but the truth is that people want to be inspired, and when you show them what you have done, they can be inspired to do it themselves. I finally made my own blog board, after a year and a half of pinning. I'm not sure what took me so long, but it's also a nice place for me to see what I've done, how well various projects and blog posts are received, and to share my projects with a wider audience. There is actually a category for "My Life" when you make a board, so hey, why not show your life and what you have created.

10. Review Your Boards
And last but not least, remember that pinterest is not just for grabbing cool images that you see, it is for curating these images, collecting these ideas, saving things for later use. You pinned those images because there was something that grabbed you. Take time to go back over your own pins. See the comments that have been made. Remind yourself why you pinned that gorgeous room or yummy drink. When you first saw it, you thought, "I want to do that!" so periodically go through your pins to remind yourself of what you want to do. Don't forget to look at your specific boards, too. I have boards for various writing ideas. Sometimes, if I want to get back into a particular story, I might peruse this board. See now, you all thought that was just a board for weird stuff, but no, that is actually an inspiration board for my long neglected novel, characters, moods, settings, plot twists etc. So if I want my brain to go back to that project, I go there. Or if I want a new dinner idea, there's nothing like a food board. Shoot, I was browsing that board last night and decided on a whim to make this and it was delicious. Or if you want to do something for a holiday? Hey, this board is rocking for creativity at Christmas. We can pin good ideas all year long, but when it comes time in November to find a new wreath or project, all you have to do is browse your own collection, and you already have somewhere to start.

So THERE! That's it. Ten Ways Pinterest Can Improve Your Creativity. 

But before you run off and get your make on, leave a comment and tell me if there's anything I forgot. What ways does pinterest help YOU to be creative. How do you avoid the time suck issues? How does pinning help feed your productivity? 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Felt Dolly Pin, a small project

 Felt Dolly Pin
felt, thread, fiber fill, metal backing pin.

This was one of those off the cuff projects I did. I had these little scraps and decided to make my daughter a little doll pin that she could take with her. It's pretty simple. Just stitching and stuffing. Although I did stitch the arms and legs together (two pieces, front and back for stability) before I attached them to the body. And I do think I could make a cuter face... but hey. It's last minute. Much like this quick post today.
 Here's the back of the dolly. Witness the pin. I probably should have added another layer of felt to the head to hide the face stitching. Oh well, next time.
The girl still loves it. Look at the big smile. She was so proud of her dolly pin. However, no one even mentioned it when she wore it to school. Oh well. That's okay. She loves it.

I have a longer post in production. One of those "ten ways" kind of posts. I've been thinking about it for a while, but the more I thought about it, the bigger it got and the harder it seemed and the more time I needed to do it. And truthfully, it does take more time than I have this morning.

Not all projects can be off the cuff and done in 20 minutes. Some are more involved and take more commitment and time and thought. But there is a process, and the small steps add up to the big project.

But for today, here's a small project.

Perhaps the big one will be ready for Monday.

Oh, I'm a tease, aren't I?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Little Lucky Matchbox Charm

 Little Lucky Matchbox Charm
matchbox, upholstery scraps, glue, acrylic paint, lucky finding

Ever feel like you need to have a little bit of good luck to hold onto?

This morning I decided to whip myself up a little lucky matchbox charm.

Since carving my little lucky elephant charm, I've been a little obsessed with the little lucky elephant and I've been looking for a way to use it. So I found this old matchbox in a basket and the little thoughts in my head went *ding ding ding*.
I cut out the fabric to size and then glued it on with regular old elmers white glue.  I painted the inside of my box green with acrylic paint, then I used some more paint, this time bronze, to stamp the ellie inside. Acrylic paint isn't the ideal medium for stamping, but I managed. It's a little globby around the edges... I probably should have painted it on to the stamp a little more carefully... but I don't mind the handmade aesthetic.
 Then I stamped some tiny scallops on the rest of the space and wrote down the word luck, in case the universe missed that this was a LUCKY charm.
And trusting my luck, I went to my beads and bobbles box looking for something to put into the box, just to add another dimension of luck, and there, like a miracle, was a tiny golden dubloon type coin. Someone gave it to me, because they knew I liked to craft, along with a whole bag of old costume jewelry. This little coin was attached to some bigger thing with hot glue. So I pried it out of the decades old hot glue and it was so perfect for my needs... see, the universe is already giving me a little luck.

And thus my little lucky elephant charm box is done. It took about 10 minutes and then I rushed to photograph it. The glue is still wet, if you look at the fabric you can see it. This was an in-the-moment kind of inspiration.

 Now that I think about, it's not just about luck. My grandmother collected little lucky elephants, something I recently remembered, and she made sure to tell me that the trunks had to point up so the luck doesn't run out. So in a way, not only is this charm a way to keep luck on my side, but it's also a way to keep my grandma with me.

There's a nice charm for you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My Writer's Space

Bedroom writing space

It's not an office, it's not a writing room, but it is a little space in the bedroom with a little table, a rocking chair, nice light, and a pretty flower.

It turns out I'm not the only one who likes to write in my bedroom. Look at this post from apartmenttherapy, writers' bedrooms. If it was good enough for Emily Dickinson, it's good enough for me.

Or at least we'll try it out and see if it works. It's part of my goal of finishing my book and sending it out, the very easiest, first step I can take towards getting back to revising. I'm also getting together all my files so that I will know where everything I've already done is, and I can figure out exactly what I need to do next. I think there is a first chapter that I need to print out.

Oh, I know this seems like an awfully small first step here... actually, writing down my mind map is the first step. It put on paper some of the things I was mulling over in my head, without ever taking action. So, yes. These are two small fact, add another one-- I took a book out of the library called The First Five Pages, A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, by Noah Lukeman. Ok, that's three small steps. After months of totally ignoring this novel.

I haven't started yet-- wait, add another small step. I just threw together a portable file box, so that I can bring my work with me, wherever I choose to write. (I have to be flexible when I'm watching kids. They're a lot more independent than they used to be, but still.) So four baby steps... and I am actively thinking about writing. Actively taking action on my goals. None of these baby steps seem like much. They are easy to accomplish when you break them down and they are no longer intimidating.

I'm going to keep going with my baby steps and see how far that gets me in my goals. See how long I can keep it up. Actually, I'm kind of proud of myself for getting back to business. And it all started with my fun little arts and crafts projects. Full disclosure here... I already know that in order for me to be productive again after a fallow period, I have to futz around with lists and planners and doodles. So in that case, even the act of making stamps and binding planner books was part of my baby steps towards my eventual goals.

It's good to have those clear goals to aim for, just make sure you are actually taking action on them, no matter how small that action seems.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Creating a Mind Map to Plan Your Goals

Goals/Mind Map (Rowena's Planner)

Yesterday, I had this big plan to blog this huge post, but it was so big and, while I had worked on it, I hadn't worked on it enough. In the end, it overwhelmed me, because I didn't break it down enough and I hadn't clearly thought out what I wanted to do with it.

So I didn't end up posting at all.

Today, I thought I'd take a smaller bite out of the apple and actually post about planning goals. 

It can be really easy to let the goals that you really want to accomplish in life get washed away in the flood of every day tasks and responsibilities, but the truth is that you have a responsibility to yourself and to the world  to reach for those big goals, to put in the energy and follow your passion. Even as a mom, when it seems that your needs often come last, you are actually giving to your family when they see you actively working on your goals. When they see you working hard, not giving up, believing in yourself, following through, doing something that is important to you. This is a good example for children to see, and to imagine for themselves. 

But HOW to do this, in this world of baking chicken and bus stop pickups and homework help and baths and etcetera?

One of the first things I do when I am faced with a large task that seems overwhelming in the face of living, is to get a precise handle on the task ahead of me. What exactly do I need to do? Are there things I need to do before I can even get started? How can I break one task down into its various elements? And once I know what those various elements are, can I break them down into smaller steps? 

I like doing a little brainstorm with this mind map/spider web kind of planner. I put my main goal in the center... here, we have "Published Novel," and then in the next ring of bubbles, I write out the things I need to do in order to get to the main goal. Here I have "Organize Writing Space," "Finish 5th Draft," "Polish Opening," "Get Feedback," and "Get An Agent." These are the main tasks I have been thinking about, some of which I feel need to be done first, and some need to come later. But even so, they can be mighty overwhelming. So I made a second ring of bubbles to indicate the tasks that I need to do to accomplish the first tasks. 

Here's one corner of the mind map. Attached to "Finish 5th Draft," I have "Delete Chap 3," "Re-read," and "Complete 5th Pass."  That goal does seem a little redundant, but in actuality, it's a refinement. If you'll notice, I left some space to write notes about each individual goal. When I do my 5th pass of my novel, I'm actually going to be looking for some certain things to edit/revise. I'm thinking I want to tighten the writing, pay attention to consistency of character, and add some fierceness... but I am not sure what I'm going to be looking for exactly, because when I re-read, I will be able to spot the elements that I want to focus on in this revision. This is a plan in progress. There is room for me to fine tune the tasks and goals. There is room to add details.

However. There comes a time when you have to stop planning to take action and simply just take action. Notice that at the top of the planner, I added a bubble: "WRITE." Because when it comes down to it, I have to make sure that breaking my goals down and planning and making lists and planners and all that stuff doesn't take over, and the goal remains the focus. It's not about planning to publish a novel, it's about publishing a novel.

Now this kind of goal setting could be for any large task you set yourself. It could be organizing your house or finding a new job, or writing a paper. Whatever the goal, the key is to break down the large tasks into smaller, achievable goals that no longer seem as overwhelming. And then get started on the newly simplified tasks.

Then it's time to get going.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Be At Home Where You Are

Be At Home Where You Are 
stamps and ink 

I've been having so much fun carving little stamps, trying to think about imagery that I frequently use and how to translate it into a stamp and then trying to improve my own skills with the stamp carving, because, let's be honest, I'm having fun, but I'm no Geninne.

But I'm okay with making little stamps that aren't perfect or making mistakes or mismanaging the engineering of negative and positive space (like I did in the upside down houses above. I left the door and windows and roof but forgot the walls!) because making mistakes are part of the process. I'm okay with not having perfect control of the medium, because I trust I will learn and I will grow and develop and discover how to do it right and where I am going with it all. I might go nowhere at all with all these stamps, creatively, but I'll always have them, and the skills, and that will feed into wherever I do go in the future. So it's okay to not know where you're going or to just play and try out new things to see what will happen, even if it might not work out.

 I really do believe that nothing we do is wasted. Everything in life is a part of the journey. Everything that happens to us has a purpose, even if it seems terrible or we are unhappy, I feel that we have something to learn from our life, somewhere to go. It's really hard to remember that perspective when you might be in the middle of suffering, but even suffering ends, and sometimes the best you can do is to be able to salvage some  wisdom or experience from the suffering.

Okay, well, this post took a dark turn. And here I was just playing with stamps. But I guess the sentiment still stands. This is the life we are living. This is the journey we are on. These are the lessons we are learning, and we can make the best of it if we accept it as OUR journey, if we are at home where we are on the journey, with our selves, with our own ups and downs.

If it comes out-- great. If it doesn't-- take the lesson and work it out next time. Or find a way to make this mistake work for you. Or let it go. We don't have to  excel at everything we try. It's okay for something to not work out. 

With this in mind, what is stopping you from trying something new? Or taking on that challenge that you are afraid of? If you are okay with where you are, if you are at home in yourself, and if you understand that it's all part of the journey, then you should never be afraid to try something or to possibly fail, because there is no failure, there is just another step on the road.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Believe You Can and Little Lucky Elephant

Believe You Can
hand carved stamps, ink, pitt artist pen, metallic gel pen

There's this thing in my head that says, "I CAN'T!" whenever I come up against something that is scary or large or different or difficult. It's my self destructive, negative, little monster of an insecure shadow self. It's not true, but it's like a stuck record that has been playing in my head since I was 3 years old or so.

To combat the stuck record, I made this page in my journal. 

The inspiration was actually the stamp I made last night. I wanted a little lucky elephant all of my own. I wanted to remember the determination, strength and power of the elephant.

So I made one. It was actually some what easier than the tiny heart stamp I did the day before. Maybe it was the larger size, maybe it was the softer medium (this is an actual stamp carving block) maybe I'm getting better at doing this stamp carving thing. Any way, it was fun and didn't take too long.  It actually took far longer to stamp out the little scallops in the center of the frame. Oh yeah, I did the tiny scallop stamp on a pencil eraser last night, too. That was also easier than the heart. It might just have been a softer eraser. I bet the stiff ones hold up better, though.

Here's a close up of my little lucky elephant as a stamp. Hey, look, if I place it just right, they're hold onto each other's tails with their trunks.

I just had a memory. My grandmother used to collect elephants. She told me to make sure that the trunk was pointed up, because that's what makes it lucky. I don't know if it's true, but it can't hurt.

Here's to good luck for everyone, and here's to remembering to believe that you can, in fact, reach your dreams.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pencil Eraser Stamps, Yes, You Can Do It Yourself!

 Yay for pencil eraser stamps!

I decided to make one more pencil eraser stamp, because it's nice to have a little heart that you can use to embellish all sorts of things. Like a non virtual "like" button. Spreading love all over your real life.

And since I was going to carve one, I thought, hey, why not do a simple tutorial.

Now, this craft is so simple you almost don't need a tutorial, but hey, why not lay it out for those of us who like instructions.

First, get a nice new pencil with an unused eraser. Then draw your shape on the eraser with a sharp pencil. Try to make sure that you get your design in the middle of the eraser and try not to run it into the edges where the eraser starts to curve. This heart is slightly off center, and so in the end, it will not be quite symmetrical. That's ok, it doesn't have to be, but it might be something you want to be aware of if you want symmetry... which can be more difficult than cockeyed. But cockeyed is often charming. So, your choice.

 Then take your Xacto knife (or other very sharp blade) and begin to carve around the drawn design. Start with the straight lines, those are easier, and cut away the top of the eraser.

Do NOT cut all the way down to the bottom of the eraser. You only need to remove about an 1/8th of an inch off of the top and if you cut too much eraser away, you might weaken the stamp and then it will break more easily.

Also, in the same vein, do NOT undercut your design. It is better to cut on a slight outward slant so that the base of the design is slightly wider than the top. This improves stability.

You have to test out the material of the stamp to know the  best way to cut. This eraser was rather stiff, so instead of carving in a gentle curve around the top of the heart, I cut away tiny pieces in straight lines, going around the outside. The last part I cut away, was the V at the very top to make the edge.

At this point, once I have my rough cut, I need to do a test stamp. Out comes the ink pad. The first tests I did I realized my heart was way too rough for my liking. (the two tiny hearts on the top left of the test sheet) so I took out my Xacto knife again. A little piece of advice here, if you've got old eyes like me, get your reading glasses, because this is very fine, delicate work. Again, using tiny little shavings, I slowly cut away the rough edges, trying to even out and smooth the heart until it was to my liking.
Each time I took away a bit of eraser material, I'd do another few tests. Here, you want to make sure that when you cut away material, you get all of it off, because if you leave small shavings barely attached they will make your edges look fuzzy or ragged.

Here are my pencil eraser stamps in use. See? Simple. Just a little close attention and that's all you need. I will say that the heart was actually the most difficult of all these listed shapes. The polka dot was, of course, the easiest, since it's just an eraser left as an eraser. Easiest stamp ever.

Give it a try. You might get slightly addicted to making cute little stamps.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Book Lists and Journal Pages and Happy Stamps

My Booklist Page, in my handmade stamped journal planner
Yay public library! Unfortunately, whenever I go to the library I am always stumped as to what to take out. There are so many choices and my reading time is so limited compared to what it used to be that I hate wasting solo time on books that I hate.

I've started doing research online into good books to read, taking suggestions and reading reviews. But I always forget the books that I want to get. So then I made a library pin board on pinterest, with all the books, booklists, suggestions, reviews, favorites and general library mayhem that I can find. But I can't carry my computer to the library and login to pinterest. I can put a hold on books in the library as I find them of interest, but I'm starting to feel bad about making the librarians do my leg work. I know how to use a library, I don't need them to go dig my book out of the stacks and hold it at the desk... unless it's an interlibrary loan, then all bets are off. 

So I've decided, to save my time, energy, confusion and librarians, that I will make a place for my books int he back of the planner that I'm making. I've got one page for books for me, and one page for books for my kids. 
 My Book List
Notice that I've checked them off if I've taken them out of the library, and if I've read them, I give starred reviews. I'm putting books that I'd like to read again on my booklist, just to keep them in mind. I'm big into fantasy, sci fi, magical realism, paranormal, alternate realities, YA books, mythology, weirdness, fairy tales and speculative fiction in general. I'm hoping that keeping a list like this in my planner/journal will keep me from losing all the books I write down on little scraps of paper or hidden on random pages of my regular journal.

The Kids' Book List
The boy and I went through this book list and chose things he'd like to read. He made some surprising choices like this one. But we're still deep into Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, so I'm waiting to take out his books.

I'm still choosing books for the girl... she hasn't really made it to chapter books yet. She still needs pictures to stay focused. We tried Little House on the Prairie and she's kind of iffy on being able to concentrate on them, so I thought I'd save Little House for a later date so she can truly enjoy them. I need to find some chapter books that are heavy on the pictures, as in, like, on every page. If anyone has any suggestions for books that are good for pre-readers, who enjoy girly things, girl heroes, princesses, animals, ballet, the color pink and are also good enough stories not to make me want to poke my eyes out when I read them every night, I would be much obliged.

Anyway, I'm enjoying finding stuff to do with my growing collection of handmade stamps. Could I just list my books on a plain page? Why sure I could, but the colors and patterns and pictures make me happy. I'm experimenting and trying out different ways to use these stamps and every time I think of another stamp I need, I just get up and carve it. Cool. 

Go Book lists. Go stamping. Go libraries. Go yummy books.

Oh hey, I think I need to make a page where I can write down all the good, lovely things that make me happy. What should I stamp it with? Flowers? Sunshine? Hearts? I'm thinking I need to carve some more lovelies.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Today, We Make Play Dough

 Today, We Make Playdough

This morning, I forgot that I was in charge of making the playdough for Ivy's preschool class. Oops. Easter made me forget.

BUT! In spite of my poor planning and absentmindedness (and mild obsession with stamp making and stamping [I will give an accounting of this at a later date]) I jumped up and whipped together a double batch in about a half hour.

I made it robin's egg blue for the robin's egg that the kids found when they went to the playground. It's also blue for the lovely spring sky.
Here's Ivy, helping me knead the dough, still warm. I was running so late that she didn't get to help me stir this time, but a good kneader is a big help, so... luckily she was ready, willing and able.

In case you'd like to whip together some last minute play dough before school time, I thought I'd share with you my recipe (from the preschool teacher) and also so next time I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to find that little piece of paper with the recipe, I will have a back up. It's a pretty good recipe, smooth and soft and pliable. This is the recipe I used for Ivy's birthday, when I added a tube of glitter to the mix to make it fairy play dough.

Preschool Play Dough (cooked)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup water
1tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon food coloring

  • Combine flour, salt and cream of tartar in a saucepan.
  • Mix liquids and gradually stir them into the dry ingredients.
  • When mixture is smooth, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until ball forms.
  • Remove from heat and knead until smooth.
NOTE: This is a very pliable and long-lasting dough with a more elastic consistency than uncooked dough. Student teachers voted this their favorite play dough recipe.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Rowena's Planner, Handmade, Now With Stamping!

Rowena's Planner
graph paper, thread, inks and stamps

Here I am making a planner. Why don't I just buy one? Because making one helps me focus my head, and I can never find one that fits my needs. This is twelve sheets of graph paper folded in half, pierced along the fold with six holes (I used a small nail or push pin) and then sewn together with a piece of cereal box cardboard for the cover.

It's not pretty, but I have plans for it, and I needed the cover to be slightly stiff without being rigid. I am not done with this project in the slightest.

Once I put my book together I took out my stamps and started stamping. I love my letter stamp... you see it at the top of the picture. I am stamping the days of the week at the top of the planner. Then I decorate with the other stamps that I carve. This one has leaf green raindrops underneath the pink planning area. I figure I can write ideas and projects right over top of the stamping. 

What? Those stamps don't look familiar? They're not. I MADE THEM! And I made them exactly to my needs. I wanted a stamp to be the size and shape for daily planning. So I cut one. Then I wanted it to have lines... so I carved them. I'm making it just the way I want to and I'm allowing myself to be inspired by my whim, imagination and desire. To tell the truth, I'm getting a little heady with it all... such freedom!

 This was the first one I did. I used a date stamp at the top for each day, but I kind of think that's messy. I probably won't on the next pages I do. It's a learning process, learning how to use the stamps, and figuring out what I need to have on my planner page and what works. This whole page is not my favorite... although I do like the the polka dots around the edge. By the way, polka dots? Just a plain pencil eraser. I am giddy with the cute.

I already have more stamps and more pages. This stamp making and using is THAT addictive. I'll have to show you better pictures of what I've become addicted to. I'm also learning how to carve. It's a skill and I am still learning how to work the carving tools and the stamp block. I should probably try to go a little bit bigger, instead of the mini stamps I keep going for. It's easier to do it larger.

Hopefully I'll have time tomorrow to post what I've done, but I have some Easter projects to do and I am always doubtful about my time to accomplish everything. Boy. I need a planner to organize me.

Oh! Hey! ;)

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

What Do You Want To Make Today (Go For It)

What Do You Want To Make Today? (Go For It) 
journal spread 
stamp, ink, pitt artist pen, acrylic paint 

 This week I needed a reminder that it was okay to just go ahead and make stuff, and it didn't need to be so important or I didn't need to get caught up in all I "should" do. I could just make some stuff. If I wanted to.  I needed a reminder to allow myself to do something just because I wanted to.

So the first thing I did was play with my scallop cork stamp and filled a page with green scallops.
 Then I painted in the center, so I'd have a place to make something.  Then I wrote out what was really on my mind. I colored it in with my Pitt artist pens and then outlined it in polka dots.

Just because. I liked polka dots.  Honestly, I still need to practice using the stamps, figuring out what I want to do with them and how to use them. Creativity is a process and trying to build it back up or learn something new or get involved in a new project, well it generally requires us to deal with rough ideas, incomplete concepts, wobbly motivation, and imperfect technique.

Starting is hard. At least for me. Sometimes it takes weeks of scruffy journal drawings before I can get into "the thing" that fires me up.

Building up the creative practice is also difficult. Depending on where you are starting from (I'm starting from the winter doldrums and fallow period) it can be quite tough to get to the place where you are committed to crafting or painting or writing or whatever it is you want to be doing on an every day basis.

Luckily, I've gone through this process often enough that I trust I can get back to the place I want to be creatively. The trust is very important, I think. You have to trust the process so that you can get through all the bumps and bruises of starting. I want my creative habit. I want my indepth projects. I start to feel wobbly if I don't have that focus. So I'm trusting the process. I'm starting off with my here and there projects, trying to figure out where it is all heading this time around.  One thing I know most of all, though. If you want to do something, you have to start it.
So that's why I drew this page. Go For It. Don't forget to take the risk of maybe not doing it perfectly. Take the risk that you might fail, might make mistakes, might not get as far as you want. If you trust that your process will get you somewhere in the end, you can handle the steps backwards and stumbles and not so pleasing sometimes results.

Me, I think I need better ink colors. And maybe I need to practice making backgrounds. And maybe I want to add more layers. But really I probably want to go back to paint. Sometimes I feel like my art is not complete unless it's painted. It's not true, but it's feeling I have. I want to paint. It's intimidating sometimes, it's a commitment, it's messy, it means I have to sit down and take everything out and follow it through to the end, whether or not I have kids yelling a blue streak around me.

But that leads back to the "Go For It" statement. I'll never get where I want to go if I don't go for it. I'll just feel unsatisfied and rather failurish (it's a word because I made it one).

When I think about it, this post about process is not just about the creative process, this is about any in depth  project you want to take on, whether it is that neglected novel or wanting to eat healthier and lose weight, or declutter your house, or start school again or whatever.

Starting is hard and is made of failures which teach us where we want to go and what we want. But commitment to the project and faith in the process keeps us going.

Onward and upward.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...