This story kept pulling me along, sometimes dragging me to the next part, sometimes just encouraging me to get there. But it was always hard to find a stopping point. There was such a rhythm, such an ebb and flow to the whole thing, and the slowly unfolding depths kept emerging. It was somehow slow moving and intense all at once. Very worth reading.
I’ve been a storyteller my whole life. And I’ve been good at writing since we started learning to write paragraphs in elementary school. Combining the two was pretty natural. And I discovered a love for story structure and all things writing advice related. Clearly I was a writer.
But maybe not. Or not exclusively. And, what I haven’t admitted until recently, maybe not primarily. I always wanted to make art. I bought all sorts of art supplies and these thin and pricey books about how to draw and paint the ocean and how to draw trees and so on. But I didn’t have a natural talent for any of it. And I thought being an artist meant painting portraits or drawing sketches. That was all, and I wasn’t good at those. I was good at writing. So I was a writer.
But I was a writer who kept taking art classes. And then I found out that I had a talent for oil painting. I was in a workshop for a couple of years, and I improved, and my instructor encouraged me to keep painting. He even let me come to workshop when I didn’t have money for it because he said I should keep painting. But I stopped. Lots of reasons. But I stopped. It didn’t really matter, right? I was a writer who was interested in art, not an artist.
I’ve been holding onto that narrative for 20 years. I’m a writer who does art things. But the writing became more and more of a struggle because I really wanted to pour myself into the art stuff. But I’m a writer, I told myself. I’m a writer! I can’t just go around doing art all the time. I have to give my time to writing.
Sometime back in January? Early February? Sometime recently I had to open my eyes and admit that I want to spend most of my time on making things. I had to acknowledge that just because I’m good at writing and stories doesn’t mean that has to be my primary creative work. I had to admit that in some ways clinging to the writing was the easy path.
Am I stopping writing? No. I’m changing it, though. I think writing is crucial to my psyche. It clears my mind, opens my eyes, lets me see what I’m thinking and make new connections and build new ideas. But this isn’t from stories. It’s from writing practice, a beloved and very important part of my creative life. So I’m going to dedicate the writing part of my creative life to writing practice.
I’m going to stick with ROW80, too. I love the community and the connections I’ve made. It’s an important part of my life, and I want to stay with it. So here are my goals for Round 2:
I’m not sure what to check in about these days. I’m not writing except for an occasional blog post, although I keep meaning to write more. I guess that could be a goal, but right now I’m feeling really good about just doing what calls to me in the moment. Setting goals for my blog posts is something that I’ll need to do at some point, but now doesn’t feel like that point.
I guess I do have some goals. I’m doing a different 30 day challenge every month–this month is about brush lettering. So that’s a goal. And I have exercise goals every month. But what does that have to do with ROW80? I’m exploring being something instead of a writer (in additon to? alongside of?). So maybe I need to at least take a break from ROW80? I don’t like the feel of that, though, because this has been a big part of my online life for years now. I like being part of this. But I do feel like if I’m going to be part of this community still, I should have some sort of writing goals.
So, writing practice? I do still feel like writing, especially the freeform thought flow of writing practice, is for everyone. It enriches and expands creativity, acts as a form of meditation, lets you figure out what you’re thinking. I haven’t been really regular in my writing practice for a long time, though. But that might mean that some writing practice goals could be just the thing. I do want to bring it back into my life more regularly, so maybe that’s my direction.
I realized just before I started to write this (it’s what prompted this whole post) that it’s been a long time since I’ve done writing practice the way I used to when I was really regular and prolific. Just a few minutes ago it occurred to me that I need to find my way into a writing practice that meshes with who I am now.
This round of ROW80 is ending in a couple of weeks, so this is a good time for me to figure out how writing practice fits into the life I have now. I’m thinking about things like a space for my notebook and pen more out in the open where I see them all the time. A ritual to get each session started. This is a good starting place, and the more I’m writing about this the more I feel like this is the right direction.
Goals to wrap up this round: set up a space to keep my notebook and pen to put my writing practice closer to the forefront of my thoughts. And one short writing practice session a week to try out a couple of possible locations to do my practice regularly. Small goals, small steps, feeling like enough. That’s a pretty good place to be.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks at school. End of semester, final exams, last minute makeup work to grade, then the start of a new semester and a whole crop of new students. I’m starting my check-in this way because all of this may actually be why I’m not feeling a lot of focus around my goals even while I’m getting some things done. My perceptions may be skewed at the moment.
These were last week’s goals and what got done:
- Write and publish a blog post for MuseCraft–DONE
- Write at least the bare bones of a second post–STARTED
- Spend at least 15 minutes working on the web page for the new offering I want to put up–NOT DONE
- Do writing practice at least twice–NOT DONE
- Find three recipes to make and freeze next weekend for future meals–NOT DONE (although I did get a giant box of frozen meatballs to use for easy dishes and made a list of dishes to use them in)
- Get my embroidery project stuff reorganized so I can get back to that and eventually finish it.–STARTED
So, things done. Things not done. But I’m feeling like it’s all been in the background of doing all the things I need to do every day. I don’t actually know if this is a problem. It feels a little bit like a problem. I think I want a shining light that I’m aiming for. Instead, I’m just moving along, but I don’t see anything I’m heading toward. Anyhow, these are things to think about. Meanwhile, I’ll keep moving.
For the coming week, some more pointed goals (experimenting here):
- Write another MC blog post
- Share the post more than once
- Share older posts at least twice
- Rearrange my couch working area and put a notebook for blog post notes in easy reach
- Do writing practice about what I want to aim for
- Set up a work pouch for the embroidery project
I like the feel of this list. I’m looking forward to seeing how it feels as I work through it. Hope we all have a great week!
I love details. No, I need details. I need things to be just so. Not everything, but my important things. Notebooks and pens and paper and how I keep things like embroidery floss and my most-used and loved art supplies.
Sometimes my need for the just-so makes me take a long time to get started or do things. And for many years I thought that this was part of my procrastination tendency. I thought it was a way of stalling or not starting at all. And just today–actually just about a minute ago–I realized that’s not what’s happening. At least not all the time.
When I figure out exactly how I need a thing to be so that it works right for me, then I use the thing and do the thing. And for years, especially in recent years with the growing deluge of productivity articles and coaches, I believed that I needed to stop working to find what’s just right and just plow forward. Get things done! Just do it!
I don’t stick with those things, though. Or if I do, I don’t like it. I don’t feel happy with what I’m doing. Things feel off. So it’s important for me to allow for the daydreaming time and the experimenting with different things so I can find my just-so spot. The trick is to find a balance between getting what I need and using this for procrastination.
Right now I’m trying out keeping a single notebook, and I have paused several times because I’m working out just how I need it to be. Until today and my lightbulb moment, I thought I was just avoiding doing work. Today I realized that I’m creating the tools and containers that will let me do the work. Funny thing is, as soon as I noticed this I figured out how to handle one of the issues I was hung up on (taking notes from a book I’m reading while also continuing daily notes) in a way that will let me do both kinds of notes while also feeling workable and comfortable for me.
This past week has been about organizing and putting things in place to be used. There’s also been some writing practice and a bit of blogging. Mostly, though, it’s been about readying those containers and tools. This coming week, this is what I’m planning to do:
- Create at least the template for the image for my new creative dream tarot spread offering
- Write a MuseCraft blog post
- Participate in the Instagram Colour My Everyday challenge I ran across today
- Continue daily decluttering through the end of January
It’s finals week, so there will be lots of grading of late work that kids are finally turning in. There will also be lots of making sure everything is ready to go for the first day of the new semester next week, so I think this short-but-sweet goals list is enough for this week.
I hope your week is sweet whether it’s short or long!
I’ve been thinking about something, or maybe around something, for a couple of years now. About the need to give one thing priority over the others in my list of things I want to do. Not stopping any of them, just making one the thing that gets the most time. But I haven’t been able to get myself to do it, because the thing I want to put at the top of the list isn’t writing, and somehow that makes me feel guilty.
But I’m ready to say it now. I don’t want to stop writing, but I want to put my writing on a lower rung than my teaching and coaching work. Why am I ready to say this now? I’m reading Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff.Â In Chapter 3, “Choose What to Bomb,” he says, “The only way to accomplish a new goal is to feed it your most valuable resource: time.” This followed on the heels of talk about how you really can’t do it all and all sorts of other good advice and good ideas. And I knew that I’ve been fooling myself by pretending that I can get a blog and website up and thriving while keeping my fiction writing my top priority.
So my goals are changing. Not really that much, all the same things are still on there for the most part, but they are changing. This is where I’m leaning right now:
- MuseCraft: write blog posts or copy at least twice a week; share things on social media at least twice a week.
- Writing: continue writing practice several times a week; work on flash fiction when time and interest converge; I want to see how it feels to just write for fun and brain clearing and not think about writing stories, finishing things, any of that.
- Making things: fit in time regularly, at least twice a week, to work on creative projects just for me.
I have other areas I’d like to work on. I’m not sure how they will fit in with my job plus trying to build up the blog and website and coaching business. But I’d like to have a clean and welcoming home. I’d like to go out and do things more; I let my pain and ongoing exhaustion and general ennui keep me at home and alone more than is good for me I think. I want to make clothes for myself.
I need to work on professional development hours for keeping my teaching license up to date, and I need to find a full time position. I want to do more photography. I need to have food more organized and easier so we have decent meals even when I’m tired.
Most of all, I need to find ways to make this all feel more organic. I’ve been feeling like my life is just checking things off my list. I get a lot of things done, but too often it doesn’t feel like it goes together. It’s just separate little check boxes, and I don’t like the way that feels. So a more amorphous goal is figuring out how to get things done without feeling like all I’m doing is moving from task to task. But for now, I am going to focus on getting things done while enjoying things more. As Jon Acuff says in Chapter 4, “Make It Fun If You Want It Done,” “Make sure there’s laughing and smiling involved with that thing you’re going to do.”
I thought I’d do a blog post to check-in since it’s been a while. I thought I’d be taking a break for a week, maybe two, but time has pulled away from me, and even though it’s a month later I find I still need the downtime.
I’m in the midst of trying to find summer work and looking for full-time work for the fall. Writing is haphazard and solely focused on writing practice right now. I am still in Lull mode, resting, trying to do what I need to do. Reminding myself that I will have more writing time after I take care of the employment stuff and get all of that sorted. For now, writing practice and resting will do.
Cleaning has never been my forte. I avoid it. I ignore the need until things are so awful that I have to clean just to find my stuff. I may be changing my mind.
This past week, I participated in a Get Back to Creating challenge led by Jen Louden. Each of us picked a project to focus on for the week. Before we began, I thought I would work on my revisions or perhaps on a short story I have hanging around. Day One came along, and I found myself writing that I was going to work on organizing my studio. That wasn’t even what I meant to say! But I guess it was. The clutter and boxes still unpacked after two years and general chaos have been bringing me down more and more.
I wanted to back out after the first day, change my mind, quit the challenge. But Jen said to work on the same project. And it was for such a short amount of time! I was only doing one little section of the space each day. So I did it again. And again. And at the end of Day Five, Friday, there was a noticeable clear space. And yesterday and today I found myself doing a little bit more. And today, there’s even more noticeable clear space.
So what does this have to do with creativity and writing? Everything. By Thursday I was flooded with new ideas for my novel. On Friday, sitting in a 7th grade band class, I dreamed up an entire embroidery series in my head, and it was vivid and complete enough that I was able to write it down after class, and I’ve started working on the design. Today while I was emptying a box, an entire scene that really belongs in my novel popped into my head.
Does this mean clean space is required for creating? No. My space is far from clean. But it is getting cleaner and more organized. I think having spaces you’re comfortable in while working are important. But I think doing something physical also stirs the mind, especially in this instance where I was surrounded by my creative toys and supplies and touching them and moving them around. I also think that taking the next small step you can see and doing your best not to try to see what might come later lets things unfold and open up whereas trying to force yourself to figure out what’s going to happen further out closes things off. It’s too much pressure. The slow, small steps? No pressure.
I still don’t like cleaning. I haven’t changed my mind about that. But I’ve changed my mind about wanting to do it. I hope I can keep this going and move through my house and my novel creating things just how I want them. But for right now, at least I have one completely clean shelf waiting to be exactly what I want it to be.
Today I finished the read-through and note taking of “Haunt,” just in time for the final 2017 check-in for ROW80.
I’m planning to not do much of anything before the next round. Mostly some reading and playing with character sheets. It’s the end of the year, and I like to spend this time dreaming and writing and making lists, and I plan to do just that.
I am reining myself in and not doing plans or outlining or anything for the next 11 days. I can already tell this is going to be hard. I am really worried about losing my momentum, because that happens to me a lot. But I have a specific plan of what steps are coming next, and I know when I’m going to start them, so this time really is different. I will remind myself of that often and fill my time with other pursuits, and I am going to pick this story back up and do the next steps without months in between!
Meanwhile, while I let the story stew, I’m going to plan my 2018 year-long embroidery project. More about that later, though. More about all the plans after some time to pause.
I love this time of year. I love the planning bug that hits me every time the calendar is about to change. I love the possibilities of a brand new calendar. This time, though, my writing work is coinciding with the change of years, and it feels good. New year, new part of the work to do. I’m not just continuing writing an in-progress story. I’m starting a whole new part of the writing process.
Meanwhile, I’m still working on the “Haunt” read-through, which feels like a wrap-up of the first draft more than an actual part of the revision process for some reason. I’m about 3/4 of the way finished with it. It’s kind of fitting that I’m hitting the end of this part of my plans just in time for the end of this round of ROW80. I just hope I’m going to be ready for something new when the next round starts.
To help with that, here are more plans for the ROW80 break:
- Study revision techniques
- Character building (my three characters are too similar)
- Make a list in one place of next steps
- Pick a date for starting revisions
- Possibly do a loose narrative-style outline of the story as it stands to help find the holes and weak spots
Okay, now I feel a little more ready to tackle whatever’s coming next in this writing life.