I made time to visit a favorite place tonight—Churchmouse Yarns and Teas on Bainbridge Island. It has been 5 or 6 years since I last poked around in one of the loveliest yarn stores on the West Coast. Usually, my business travel has no down time for a stroll in the rain, a ferry ride, and lovely yarn to fondle (and purchase—more on that tomorrow).
I always seek out good food while traveling. Marché's seasonal salad with house-smoked trout, cassoulet with lamb sausage and duck confit, and a dessert (fall fruit, sorbets, and an almond cone) that hit the elimiation diet craving for cookies and ice cream capped an already lovely evening. I did not think about work. I bought yarn for the sweater I'm obsessed to knit. I took pictures. I walked more than 4 miles. I read a trashy novel. In short, I took very good care of myself.
Research shows that writing down your goals (writing a blog post every day in November) and then telling people who can help you achieve them (all the readers who comment so I know I'm not just throwing stuff out there into the ether) makes you more likely to reach them.
At work, we have put this into action for the past year or so. At the beginning of every week, everyone I work with records 2-5 goals and the specific things we will complete to reach our goals. We make this record in a public forum—everyone can see what I'm planning to accomplish and I can see what everyone else is working on. At the end of the week we give ourselves a 1-3 score: no progress, progress but not finished, achieved. It does actually help me as long as I don't get too ambitious; I'm terrible about being realistic about what I'll be able to accomplish any week I'm traveling. If you have never really thought about goals, this Beginner's Guide to Goal Setting is a good place to start.
In my creative work, I have done this for many years by participating in the Productive Spinners group. For the past year or so, I've dutifully updated but made almost no progress. I enjoy seeing the diversity of projects the group members undertake, but I need to do a better job working on all of my projects.
My overarching theme for the rest of the year is to
Be less busy while to making forward progress on my creative projects.
Here is how I plan to get there.
1. Set weekly goals for work and home. Share the work goals at work and the home goals on this here blog. When I'm at work, start every day by focusing on one of my goals for the first hour or two of the day and the first hour or two after lunch. Get the big important stuff done before I start reacting to the incoming emergencies.
2. Reduce my screentime. Limit television to 1 show per weeknight and only the football games I care about on the weekends.
3. Spin or knit during that limited TV time rather than multitasking and reading Ravelry or Facebook at the same time.
This week's personal goals.
1. Write a blog post every day. Take a photo for at least 4 of them.
2. Spin for at least 20 minutes every day—on the merino-silk when I'm home and the Abby Batt while I'm in Seattle late in the week. This week, I'll remember to pack the spindle and one of the socks in progress to keep me entertained while I'm on the road.
3. Take care of myself by practicing yoga or doing back PT exercises daily—ideally first thing in the morning. If I get out of bed and do this the minute I wake up instead of dozing for an hour after the alarm goes off, it will be done before I'm usually in the shower.
4. Unpack 1 studio box or bin every evening I'm home. And this means unpack completely—find a home for the entire contents or get rid of it.
5. Move everything out of the guest room back in to the studio by the end of next weekend. Mom and Dad need a nice place to sleep when they visit for Thanksgiving.
If you want to join me in this exercise to be less busy and achieve more, leave a comment and share your plans on your own blog, or in the comment. We'll make a little community of friends commited to working on the things that matter and supporting each other as we do that.
Sometimes the muse leaves. Sometimes, my knitting and spinning mojo vanishes for months at a time. During those times, the blog goes silent, the demons of doubt lurk in my head, and I wonder why I keep sending money to Typepad.
Writers block (or knitters block or whatever block) happens to all creative people at times. As a writer, I've always felt like I'm in a perpetual state of block with glimpses of inspriation. When that inspriation strikes, I write well. I love the joy when the words flow effortlessly and my inner perfectionist editor is briefly silent. I just wish it happened more often.
The first 10 days of NaBloPoMo has reminded me that I need to write more. I need to practice this craft just like I practice knitting, spinning, and cooking. As Laurie said the other day, this (daily blogging) is getting harder and harder. Will it get easier with more daily practice?
I added the picture to spruce up the blank wall of text. And because it reminds me that inspriation is everywhere if I open my eyes. The first time I saw the Chihuli installation in the lobby of the Bellagio, I had to pull out my pocket camera (my iPhone), take a picture, and share it because the colors and textures stunned me. Looking at the picture again brings back clarity I felt when I framed, snapped, and cropped the picture nearly 4 years ago.
To be honest, I've been stuck creatively for the past few years. Three moves in 30 months would do that to anyone. It hurts because creating and making is central to my sense of self, so I lose part of myself when I'm not actively creating. Work has been challenging. Most of my daily brain has been dedicated to doing my job. There hasn't been enough juice left at the end of the day to knit a simple sock or scarf. Writing, designing, or even planning something challenging has been beyond me. It's been even longer since I've felt truly inspired to write.
I do sometimes write when I'm stuck on an airplane. In rushing from here to there in a metal tube, I relish the unplugged silence that helps me plug in to my own voice. I have a few drafts of essays meant for the blog lurking on my computer, my iPad and in my notebooks that flowed into that silence. By the time I land and life pushes back in, I forget that I had a great idea for a post. I haven't reviewed or considered publishing on any of those, but maybe I should. I do have to write 18 more posts this month.
I don't have a good answer for getting through creative blocks. Open your eyes to inspiration. Get enough sleep. Keep practicing whatever it is that you do. Eventually, something good will shake loose.
This post brought to you by today's NaBloPoMo prompt. I opened my eyes to the inspriation in my inbox this morning. It prompted something good, or at least something better.
Yesterday, I escaped waiting for the cable guy (who failed to show up again) to meet up with friends to visit the Oakland Museum of California. The design of the museum itself is interesting because the galleries flow from indoor to outdoor spaces. That kind of design is still very foreign to my northern sensibilities. In the Fertile Ground: Art and Community in Caliornia exhibition, several works grabbed my attention. Margaret Kilgallen's mural (in the slide show linked) was my favorite.
Of course I was so busy enjoying the museum and the friends, that I didn't take any pictures all day. Gwen organized the trip. I met her online a few years ago, and she became an in person friend after we moved west. The world is small. It turns out the Gwen was my sister-in-law's best friend in elementary school. They lost track of each other after she moved from Wisconsin to Alabama. One of my best days this year was the day I figured out that they may have known each other (same age and lived in the same small town), asked, and then re-introduced them first with texted photos and then via email.
I started blogging as a knitter. Above is limited evidence that I do still knit. My knitting production has been low since we arrived in California. I only started tossing wool and needles for plain socks into my travel bag in the past few months. My hands and brain needed a break, I guess. And I've been stuck about what to do about the project I was most excited about (the sweater).
From left to right, I'm working on:
1. Red Clouds. I started this in September when I wanted to knit, but couldn't face the sweater. I grabbed a skein of lovely Alchemy Haiku off my shelf and cast on an interesting lace pattern. I'm looking forward to wearing this bright color to ward off the grays of winter.
2. Spring Socks. I cast these on back in January and promptly lost track of them. I will probably get back to them after the other socks and scarf are finished.
3. Red Sweater. This has been in progress since February 2013. I finished the body last winter and stalled because I'm going to run short of yarn, and I'm not sure how I feel about wearing this sweater with shorter sleeves. I'm also a bit worried about the fit, so I may end up ripping out the whole thing and starting over with a different pattern. Next up (tomorrow) I'll block the body to see how much it changes after getting wet. If the size is not OK, I'll rip. If it is, I'll knit the buttonhole band and knit the sleeves until I run out of yarn.
4. Flamingo Socks. In July, I needed an easy travel and conference project, so I grabbed this ball of Opal off of my shelf and started knitting. Since my sock drawer is overflowing, I'm making these a little longer and will send them to my sister B once they're finished. These are the socks that jump started my travel and meeting knitting mojo.
Carole’s Ten on Tuesday challenge for today is to share our favorite book series. I'm looking forward to reviewing the blog roll for new things to read even though our new house is full of boxes of read and unread books.
My favorite book series have evolved over time. But during each part of my life, certain series grounded me and helped me become who I am. Here they are loosely in the order I read them for the first time.
1. Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Like many others, this was the first series I read. I re-read it many times. I wanted to be Laura. I grew up during the long run of Little House on the Prarie on TV. One benefit of growing up in Wisconsin was visiting the site of the Little House in the Big Woods with Nonny, my sister, and my cousin during one of our summer visits.
2. Little Women, Little Men, and Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott. Mom read Little Women to us when I was 6 or 7. I had devoured everything by Alcott I could get my hands on by the time I was 10 or 11.
3. Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom also by Loiusa May Alcott. Rose in Bloom is my favorite book of all time. As a college student, I bought an antique book edition that I probably couldn't afford—I still regret not buying the rest of the matching Alcott set I found that day.
4. Harper Hall trilogy by Ann McCaffery. An outcast musician coming of age read when I was not one of the popular kids in middle school.
5. Dragonriders of Pern also by Ann McCaffery. The original trilogy and a few other novels, not so much everything that came after.
6. Magic's Price by Mercedes Lackey. I reread this series so frequently that my paperbacks fell apart; thank goodness for Kindle.
7. Silk Trilogy by Mary Jo Putney. Historical romance with strong female lead characters and grand adventures in Central and South Asia. Putney is still one of my favorite authors, but these three books remain my favorites by her more than 20 years after they were first published.
8. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I admit it. The first two books got me through a miserable stretch at my first job. I've read the later ones as they came out. I lost most of a month of weekends earlier this year re-reading the entire series.
9. Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. I bought The French Chef shortly after getting my first apartment and Mastering soon after. Together, they fed my interest in cooking and helped me master classic recipes and techniques.
10. A Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara Walker. I am a knitter and sometime designer. What else is there to say.
The distinct color patches in August's fiber offering inspired me think creatively about how to spin a multicolored top. A mystery knit along requiring two or three colors of yarn pointed the way. I spent a beautiful evening splitting the braid into the individual colors and then sampled a few tufts on my Matchless. I fondled and pondered three little skeins. I knit those lovely skeins into a big swatch before I could take pictures of them.
Then we found the house, and everything except for getting all the purchase and move ducks in a row got put on hold. The clues for the shawl are all out, but I've avoided looking at any but the first one, and I haven't stalked any other projects either. I want to maintain the big surprise, even if it takes me an extra month or three.
Now that we've moved, I'm back to it. I decided to spin this BFL-tussah silk blend more worsted than woolen (from the end with a short forward draw rather than from the fold with a long draw). I'm still deciding how to blend the green/blue and red/pink spots into two different colored yarns. For the sample, I tried two blending methods: I drafted the two colors together and I spun one ply of each color for barber-poled yarn. Top is blended, bottom is barber pole. Which do you like better for a garter stitch crescent shaped scarf/shawl.
Knit with cashmere. I have cashmere blend yarn for several sweater-sized projects in the studio. This is my year to use it. I will earn a bit of luxury knitting every time I complete a fitness goal. First up is Sabine in Superior.
Run a 5K race in March or April. D and I have started running again. If we survive our cold winter morning runs, stay healthy, and stick to the plan, we will be ready for a 5K by St. Patrick's Day.
Run a 10K race in September. If we keep training through the spring and summer, we will be ready to tackle a longer distance by the end of summer.
Finish 12 sweaters. This is much less of a stretch than you might think. There are at least 10 nearly finished sweaters hiding on my shelves that stalled for some reason. It is time stop procrastinating, solve the problems, and finish them.
Finish 12 pairs of hand knit socks and give most of them away. My sock shelf is overflowing, but socks are still my go to project for travel knitting. Since there is a lot of business travel in my future, there will be a lot of socks.
Spin every day. Even 10 minutes a day with a spindle adds up to quite a bit of yarn after a few weeks. Daily efforts at the wheel lead to more consistent finished yarn. My spinning focus this year is spinning for a purpose rather than just spinning. I have made myself a personal fiber club of 6 bumps of fiber that I will spin for a specific project.
Knit with handspun. If I am spinning with the end project in mind, I need to knit the project when the yarn is finished so I can evaluate my progress and figure out what to do better next time. I also need to make some space in my handspun bin for the other yarns I plan to spin this year.
Learn how to weave. The more I talk to weavers and handle hand woven cloth, the more I want to weave. I am going to start looking for a used loom in May and take a weaving class or two later in the year.
Go back to Hawaii with D. We have not been there since 2009. It is time for a visit.
Post to this here blog at least once a week. I will start with Carole's Ten on Tuesday this month, and see where that leads me.
Today, I found a tiny bit of time to find yarn while traveling for work. I spent a lovely half hour or so poking around in Hill Country Weavers in Austin. I bought one tiny ball of lace weight yarn to knit a Christmas gift for someone, a shop pattern, and a magazine. I hope to go back next time I'm in Austin to poke around a bit more, find more tasty food in the neighborhood, and find the spinning and weaving parts of the shop.