It's been a hard week, and I'm having a hard time getting anything done. It doesn't help that we're having record-breaking heat in the Pacific Northwest. 111 degrees today--I guess I'm glad we didn't hit the predicted 115. But tomorrow is still predicted to hit that 115, so I guess we could still break the record we just set.
When you're having a hard time, feeling down, struggling with getting work done, all of that, it's good to have a toolkit to turn to to help you shake things up. One of my favorite tools (I've mentioned this before) is making a list of good things in my world. So here's a list to remind me that things are not all bad or even going to stay this way forever.
I went to the beach this week! With friends! And I was even strong enough to climb down some wooden steps and across some rough rocks and walk on the sand and dip my toes in the water. It was glorious!
We have a portable air conditioner in our bedroom, and a brand-new block to go around the vent for it in the sliding door, so our room is a beautiful, cool haven for us and the cats.
On Wednesday, I'm going to do a Zoom with a few people to make vision boards for the second half of the year (you can join us in our Facebook group where we're getting started on gathering supplies and getting ready for Wednesday--it's free, and I think it will be fun!)
I signed up for a writing class through The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. It's not until August, but I'm really looking forward to it. And meanwhile I have a few self-paced classes through there to get to work on, so that should tide me over.
These lists are like little miracles. I feel better, brighter after writing them. I just need to remember to keep coming back. What about you? What's good right now? Drop me a note (maybe make a list!) in the comments. I'd love to hear about your good stuff.
We humans love lofty goals. It makes sense. When you do something huge, it feels great, and it makes for great stories. We love those big success stories, and we want them for ourselves!
And really, there's nothing wrong with aiming for the huge wins. Why not? We just have to remember to keep our definition of success flexible and wide, give ourselves time to do the work, and stick with things that are in our control.
That last part there? That's the most important. Don't measure your wins with things you have no control over. For example:
Is your goal to be an author? You can't make a big publishing company choose your book. You can make a writing schedule and stick to it, send things out to agents and markets regularly, join a good writing group, keep taking next steps to be a better writer and reach out to those agents and markets with new work.
If you want to lose weight, don't say "I'm going to lose 5 lbs. a week until I reach my goal." That exact number is not actually in your control. Instead, choose getting in a certain amount of exercise each week, making sure to get produce in at each meal, drinking enough water every day. You can control all of that, and it will move you toward your goal.
Want to get a new job? Don't tell yourself you'll get a new job that pays X amount of money by a certain date. Instead, make small goals with steps like refreshing your resume, sending out a certain number of applications each week, taking classes to boost your credentials.
I see a lot of people in my creative circles and in the schools I teach in making goals that are outside of their control. And all this does is set you up for failure, which in turn leads so often to giving up. So if you have goals, yay! It's great to have things we're aiming for and things to focus on. And there's nothing wrong with keeping a wishlist that includes having your novel picked up by a big publisher or getting a new job that pays twice as much as the one you're in. But don't make those wishes your goals. Make your goals things you can control, break them into small steps and take those steps.
So what would you like to do? What steps in your control will move you in the direction you want to go? I'd love to hear your dreams and plans. Drop me a note in the comments!
Yesterday there was a beautiful Zoom meeting with Liz Lamoreux and a bunch of people who have participated in previous session of her HERE classes. I was in my studio. My table was all set up with a bunch of pretty pens including my gorgeous fountain pen I got for Christmas. I had a pretty notebook and some nice, hot coffee. The conversation was wonderful, the poems she read were just right (she always reads us poems). By the end, I couldn't wait for it to be over. Because my gorgeous desk chair, the one I searched everywhere for and put in “notify me” requests at multiple companies and paid a lot of money for five years ago because it was so perfect--my chair hurts my body.
I have been fighting against accepting this for a long time. I've tried different things to make the chair and my body compatible. It's not happening. I am sad and kind of angry at my body, and I don’t really want an ordinary, ugly office chair. But I need a chair that will hold and support me properly. Sometimes we have to do the needed thing even when it’s not the wanted thing.
The new chair is really pretty (I wanted the brown version to go with my slightly vintage feeling studio, but for some reason that one didn't sit the same way as this black one, and my body was uncomfortable in it, and we could not find a way to adjust it to make them match). It's very comfortable, although I think it would be better with lower casters to bring it down a smidge (I am SHORT!). I'm going to give it until next weekend to make sure that overall it's good before I go altering anything.
So. This is self-care. Doing the things to get and stay healthy. Doing things that are good for you like getting the supportive chair and letting go of the dream chair. Making real food instead of eating ice cream for dinner because it's hot. I like to mention this kind of self-care now and then so I remember what it's all about.
Now, I'm going to go spend some time in the new chair working on a few small projects.
I'm starting to feel that summer vibe. It's almost June. Just over three weeks of school left. It's time to make plans!
Summer is one of those times of year for me that makes me want to make plans and do projects and get things done. (I also get this bug at the new year and in September). I have so many ideas whirling around my head! And you know what that means. Time to make a list!
Things I Want To Do This Summer
A summer vision board, maybe on the Solstice to roll me through the end of the year (anyone want to join in?)
Turn that piano we got into an art desk for my studio
Finish setting up my studio
Day trip to the coast (it's been sooooo long!)
Set up my own mini writing retreat in the yard
Go on at least one photo walk (and learn how to use the fancy DSLR camera we were gifted last year)
Try out at least three new-to-me walking trails
I could go on, but I won't. I shouldn't. I tend to think summer is forever and that I can do a million things. And that's just not true. Especially because we only have two room ACs, so when it's super hot I'm either in the living room or the bedroom just trying to stay cool (and trying not to get anxious ahead of time about how I will handle the heat food wise and exercise wise and whatnot). And now apparently we get fire season here, so I know some part of the late summer (please please please not too much, not like last year!) will be all about hunkering down trying to stay cool while having to keep the house sealed up (and the fire season thing makes me so very nervous, and I'm trying not to let myself get too anxious about it months in advance).
I'm trying to remember the excitement of childhood summer and keep the anxieties quiet so I can enjoy the season, make some things, get some things done. Weird that there can be so much excitement while there's also so much worry, isn't it?
Anyhow, what are your summer plans? Any projects in the works? Travel? I'd love to hear what you're planning to be up to!
I was trying to write a different post, but it's not quite working out, so how about a little list of things I like right now in my world? I've had a couple of weird and cranky days, so I think I need this.
We have pretty lights all around our yard now, and they make me smile every time I look out the window and see them all lit up at night.
I have several books loaded onto my Kindle for reading, so I'm spoiled for choice, and I love that feeling. It's very comforting knowing I have lots of good things to read.
I got some new stencils and paint, so this weekend I'm going to have some good play time.
It's been really chilly the last couple of nights, so sleeping has been extra good.
All of my closest people have received their second doses of vaccine, so very soon we will get to be together in person (and we're putting in a patio and fixing up the yard for the occasion!)
What about you? How's your world? What good things are there for you right now?
Here's a little glimpse of the hodgepodge of projects I have going on right now. Is it possible to have too many good ideas? Nah...
First, the big new project that came on suddenly last night. We're doing a piano to desk conversion for my art table in my studio! It really did come together fast. My partner found a photo and showed it to me because he knew I would like it. I said, "I want it!" I didn't even realize at the time that it used to be a piano; I just thought it was a really cool desk. So he checked to see if anyone around had a piano. He found someone who had posted two minutes before about a piano they were giving away because it could no longer be tuned or repaired (apparently people give away a lot of pianos!). This morning he texted the person. They said come get it. He texted his father and brother who both happened to be available (a rarity because they're busy guys), and now a piano is at my house waiting to become a desk!
Next up we suddenly found ourselves in possession of two bases from old treadle sewing machines! One is going to become a patio table with a reclaimed wood top, and the other is going to be the base for a stand-sit desk in my partner's office. And the old machine that came with one of them is going to be garden decor, possibly where it is on my favorite big stone in the front of the house or possible on a few paving stones in our biggest plant bed. That part's to be decided. We also had been talking about using the metal from a park bench to make a patio chair from if we could find one, and then his father said they were getting rid of an old and damaged bench and asked if we wanted it! And of course the answer was yes!
Finally, a friend who knows I love old typewriters (I have a small collection) gifted me this fabulous mid-century Royal that I'm cleaning and tuning up to use in a cool bookbinding project I'm just starting (the paper in the second photo is for that).
Sometimes you tell the Universe you want a thing or two, and the Universe is very generous and sends it all your way. I feel like that's been happening the past week or so, and now I'm pretty sure I have plenty of projects to last me most of the summer. Stay tuned! I'm sure there will be plenty of photos as I go along.
I made this over the weekend from a Wanderlust lesson. I was really resistant to this lesson and kept letting myself get busy and not get to it, but finally I told myself to just do it so I could move on. I wanted to change the instructions, do some other things, do something easier than cutting out the fussy silhouettes... But I made myself follow the rules so I could learn the techniques.
I love this spread! A lot. I will probably do this again. I will probably add some of the things I was going to do in place of the stencil and mask to see what happens. But I wouldn't have that base to start from for experiments if I hadn't first followed the rules and learned the techniques.
So what are my takeaways here?
If you're really resistant to something, you should do it to find out why. For me, I don't do silhouettes and I was uncertain of how to do the paint around the edge of the mask, and I wanted writing in the cat silhouette but don't like my handwriting, so I was avoiding all of it.
Follow the steps. Learn the techniques the way they're laid out (like when you're learning to cook a new food), then you can change things up, experiment, make it your own.
Try out things even if the final product looks like something you don't like. You still might find techniques that you can use to make things you do like.
That's all I have today. It's been a busy week, and I'm tired but want to spend some time reading some blogs before bed (it's such a great way to unwind!). What things might you stretch yourself by doing? I'd love to hear what you're trying out.
Sometimes when I'm trying something new with something I do a lot of (writing!), it becomes a real struggle. My brain doesn't want to take in the new information because it says, "But I already know all sorts of stuff about this topic!" Even though I know the information I'm trying to take in is new or might give me a new perspective, I run up against all the things I already know, and I think I know enough and don't need the new stuff.
The thing is, new stuff is pretty much always good. A new perspective, a new way of approaching something, all of that can lead to creative growth. But you (I!) have to bring yourself to a place where you can let in the new stuff. You have to get back to beginner mind.
When I'm in that place I return to Natalie Goldberg's writings about beginner mind to help me open up to new things and look at new things the way I would have as an absolute beginner. This article shares some of her thoughts on that. I'd like to also add a few ideas of my own.
You can't unlearn what you already know to get to beginner mind. I find that it's not a forgetting of what has come before. It's more a quieting of the voices telling you what you already know. Self-talk helps a lot with this for me. "Yes, but I don't know this thing from this person's perspective." Or, in the case of things like writing exercises and things to do, "Just do it and see what happens even if I already know how to do this a different way. See if the two ways go together." Things like that, acknowledging that I do know things but am trying new things anyhow really helps me get past the resistance and into more of a beginner mindset.
Talking back to the judgemental voice helps me, too. My brain sometimes has a fit about the new thing being different from what I already know and likes to throw out "this is dumb!" or "this is wrong!" messages. I tell myself, "It's just new. Just try it and see what happens." (That "try it and see what happens" is my favorite!)
As I work through new techniques and ideas, I do a comparison to see how they are like what I already know. Then I find where the differences are. My brain likes to analyze things, so doing this opens me up to moving forward with the new stuff.
Finally, sometimes I fall back on a favorite KaizenMuse saying. "So what? I'll do it anyway!" I just add a bunch of attitude and plow forward.
I'll admit, I am mostly writing this to remind myself that trying new things is good and useful. I'm butting up against my "but I already know stuff!" voice a lot as I work on The 90-Day Novel, I need the reminders to keep going anyhow. I hope some of this is useful for you if you're trying something new in an area you're already knowledgeable in, too.
As an aside, I always feel weird ending blog posts. I feel like there should be something that says, "the end," but not just a wrap-up paragraph as if it's an essay. So I'm going to try a sign-off.
Just a little wrap-up after my daily blogging with Effy Wild during April.
I love doing blog challenges! I had forgotten how much fun they are, and I'm so glad I did this and connected with a bunch of other creatives and stretched my blogging muscles.
Daily blogging is way too much for me, at least long term. But I like the push of "blogging must happen today," so I'm trying out a set schedule of blogging on Wednesdays and Sundays. We'll see how that goes.
Back on April 1 at the start of the blog-along I wrote about these cute habit trackers I found. I loved them! They were adorable! I completely forgot to use them after two days. It turns out having them glued into my planner does not remind me to fill them in. I did do some of the things on that list (blogging for the challenge which I did each day in April, story writing which I did very little of, and cleaning something which I also did very little of). I do great with my monthly exercise calendar which has my goals for the month and squares to put cute stickers in every time I exercise. And it also hangs on a board in my bedroom where I see it several times a day, and I'm wondering if that visibility is a much more crucial element than I realized. I'm going to rearrange a few things and make space for hanging up more trackers, and I will try again in June (or maybe a half-month thing starting mid-May).
I'm working through a 90-day novel writing book with a couple of writer friends. We started May 1, and so far it's different from what I imagined and seems pretty useful. More about that in another post, maybe on Sunday.
That's about it in my corner of the world. Looking at what's been working. Making plans for how to use that going forward. How are things in your corner?