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Archive for the ‘Habits’ Category

The fine folks at NaNoWriMo are forever suggesting fun and interesting tools for writers, and I think that the Hero’s Journal is my favorite, perhaps because I have been doing more journaling lately. (I have to say that I am not a big fan of journal as a verb, although in this case it is a gerund, so the verb gets to work as a noun. I am not sure if that usage is better or worse.) The phrase “the exhaustion of toxic productivity” resonated with me.

I will note that if you have serious issues with either Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, these journals might not be for you. If you enjoy epic fantasy, quests, and magic, then these journals look like a fun writing exercise to help you build your writing confidence, cultivating a daily practice, or working through a writing slump — to name just a few options. It is designed for anyone — from kids to adults — who has a goal, and the goal doesn’t even have to be writing related. The journals turn that goal into an adventure.

The physical journals are a bit pricey, but there is a PDF version which you can use on a computer or print to paper. Even better, you can try before you buy with a generous 71-page free sample of each journal. Just enter your e-mail address.

If you like extras, there are side quest decks to enhance your experience, and according to the Instagram feed there have and will be other goodies like stickers and pins. There is a newsletter, too, which I would image also provides announcements about such things, but the Instagram feed has news as well as pretty pictures. The FAQ page has more details and tips for using the journals.

I have downloaded both samples and look forward to trying them, although I will probably wait until after Camp NaNoWriMo is finished. Watch this space for a report on my findings.

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When I searched the web for a graphic of 200, I found this cute and appropriate illustration. I checked out the website, too, and I have to say that I am definitely a fan of the idea of teaching math as a life skill rather than just a course.

Why did I need a graphic of the number 200, you ask? Well, I was preparing to bemoan my inability to manufacture time and wanted to reread my post about increments in a day to remind myself what I had already bemoaned. When I pulled up the list of posts, the number at the top was 201.

I have written two hundred posts to this blog! Very sporadically and over many years, but 200 all the same.

After numerous false starts (most likely due to unrealistic expectations), I am finally having fun. I haven’t quite found a groove yet, and the site needs a thorough facelift, but those things will happen in due time. The persistence will continue to pay off.

In the meantime, thank you to everyone who has read and followed so far!!

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Since discovering Ryder Carroll’s bullet journal maxim of “the compound effect of incremental change,” I have been applying it pretty much everywhere I can.  There are all of these things that I want to do from mundane to interesting, from simple to complex, and I am trying to apply the incremental change approach to all of them.

While the effort is starting to pay off, sometimes if feels similar to the advice about eating the elephant one bite at a time.  But what happens when you get so sick of eating elephant that you can’t possibly stand to eat another bite because if you do, all of the bites you have already eaten might come right back up on you?

At what point do you run out of increments in your day? What happens when you end up not having much in the way of flexibility because you are busy checking off all of the items on your daily list? There also might be occasions where you have to break the projects or activities down into such small increments that you can’t get through them all before it is time to start all over again.  Cleaning the house fits squarely into this category for me.

The question has become more pressing now that I have returned to working full time. So far I have been able to keep up such daily disciplines as Morning Pages, going for a walk, and a certain amount of knitting. There are also professional development plans I need to keep moving forward, and those are proving to be more difficult to break down into increments.

I am holding steady for the moment, but how many increments are there in a day?

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Ten years ago Neil Gaiman gave a brilliant commencement speech which became knows as the “Make good art” speech. It’s on YouTube. It is thoughtful and funny and wise and not just for artists. Go watch it.

But he was talking to graduating art students who are presumably already good at making art. They just need to go forth into the world and keep doing what they already do and get better.

What about those who are just starting out and who are not at the point of making good or even consistent art?

Last night I watched livestream of the countdown to the end of the Brandon Sanderson Kickstarter.  For a good part of the two hour live stream, the artist Steve Argyle was the special guest.  He is the artist for one of the books included in the Kickstarter, and he spent a fair amount of time talking about process, and much of what he said doesn’t apply only to drawing and painting.

Someone asked for advice about learning to draw when you can’t even draw a straight line.  I was not surprised when his recommendation was to just draw.  Accept that it will be frustrating, but just start drawing.  Do a little bit each day.  If you try to do some big marathon session, you will only be discouraged and quit.  He also recommended drawing the same subject – person, object, pet, landscape, whatever – over and over and over.  If you do, you will keep discovering new things about that subject, which I thought sounded really cool (as well as making a lot of sense).

Someone asked about reference, and he mentioned that insects were some of his reference for armor drawings.  He wanted something more organic.

Then he talked about about figuring out how to draw something in the first place — how to even get started transforming the idea in your head into lines and shapes on the page.  He referenced the artist Iain McCaig as the source of this approach.  McCaig has some YouTube videos but also interviews and classes.  His particular art isn’t quite my thing, but his enthusiasm definitely appeals to me.  He reminds me a little bit of knitting designer Stephen West as far as making challenging undertakings fun and accessible to anyone and everyone who is willing to take the chance and put in the effort.

Argyle recommended breaking down what you want to draw into components.  Write all of those down.  Then look around the room (or wherever you are) and pick out random objects.  Write those down.  Take elements of those objects and apply them to the thing that you want to draw.

For example, say you want to draw a dragon.  What does your dragon need?  Horns?  Wings?  A breath power (which I am assuming means fire but I am sure could mean other things)? Tail? Scales? Four legs?

Great.  So you look around the room at random things – a fish sculpture, a can of energy drink, a lamp, a coffee mug.  Then you take elements from each thing and use those to make a part of the dragon.

The fish sculpture is curved and smooth but kind of scaly and iridescent, so you use those elements for the horns.  The horns don’t look like fish, but they are iridescent, smooth, and curved, with a bit of scaled texture.  Maybe the scales are only at the base of the horns where they meet the head of the dragon.

Then the textured looking graphic design on the can looks like shark skin, and the font looks kind of torn, so maybe the wings are a little worse for wear and have more of a thick, heavy skin than any scales.

And so on.

I think there are lessons in there for writing stories.

It was all fascinating. I would have happily listened to Steve Argyle for two hours.

Click this link to visit his web site.

Be inspired. Start drawing. Even if you can’t draw a straight line. ESPECIALLY if you can’t draw a straight line.

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And yet it’s already Tuesday. It’s almost April, even.

I wouldn’t say that going back to work full time on short notice is like going from 0 to 60, especially since there is training, and I don’t have to be a subject matter expert right out of the gate, but it is definitely a big shift. Maybe more like going from 20 to 60.

I have been working on other projects and trying to cultivate good habits, which I knew would be a challenge to maintain, but I am already struggling. And I have plans for Camp NaNoWriMo in April which I am pretty determined to execute.

I know that people don’t do everything perfectly every day in terms of balancing work and exercise and personal projects and home life, but it is feeling like a serious challenge to even get close. Of course, it has only been two days, and I knew that the first week would be rough. It’s kind of nice to have a reason to get up and dressed and out the door first thing in the morning, and while I am tired, I am not feeling worn out or stressed. More like curious. How am I going to work, keep up my good practices, and continue my career development path? Where am I going to find the right hours in the right place in the right order?

I will admit that I am not at all sure, but for the first time in a long time, if not ever, I am fairly certain that it is indeed possible. Perhaps it is this “piece at a time”\”compound effect of incremental change” approach I have been taking to things that I want to do. Maybe that approach is what will make the pieces fit together.

The only way to find out is to try it.

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~waves~ Hello and welcome to new readers and followers! I am so glad that you are here. I may have to write a real About Me page sooner rather than later.

Here I am posting for the fourth day in a row and feeling pretty good about the process. What I have been struggling with a bit lately is my paper journal. I still love it. I am still writing in it every day. Often, however, rather than writing in it as thoughts and tasks come up throughout the day, I find that I often don’t start my entry until it is almost too late. Part of it is that I want to get going on things I am supposed to be doing, and I keep telling myself that I will have more time later. I never have more time later. Nobody has more time later. As the day goes on, you have less time, not more. Therefore I end up with a quick list and a rushed entry, or else I really get going and am up scribbling until the wee hours.

I have written in a journal off and on since I first read Harriet the Spy in probably second grade. While I have no problem with regular spiral-bound notebooks — in fact, I love them for taking notes in meetings — somewhere along the line I became a collector of journals and fancier notebooks. When I decided to start writing in a journal again daily, I collected and counted all of the empty notebooks and journals. There are many. Enough to last for years. So when I saw a recommended YouTube video with 100 uses for a blank journal or notebook, I clicked.

Some of the ideas were definitely not for me. Others were similar enough to each other to essentially be the same idea. A couple I might try if I don’t want to just incorporate them into my regular journal. The one that produced an Aha! moment was Morning Pages, which was briefly described by the video’s narrator as being the practice of filling three pages with stream-of-consciousness writing first thing in the morning.

The idea of Morning Pages comes from Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. I thought that there might be more to it, so I watched a video on Cameron’s website.

It turns out that there isn’t really anything more two it. Just start your day with three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing. I thought, “That’s what I need!” Every morning, I need to just open a journal and scribble out whatever clutter is in my head — clear the decks, as it were. It sounded motivating and refreshing.

Just to be sure, I read an article from the New York Times: “Julia Cameron Wants You to Do Your Morning Pages”. (Hopefully that link doesn’t hit a paywall.) NPR did a story to coincide with the publication of Seeking Wisdom, but it includes Morning Pages, too.

I am not sure if the pages I filled this morning quite count since I went through a few other morning rituals and then learned more about Morning Pages before trying it, but I think I might be hooked already. Morning Pages will be a great use for the journals which don’t really lend themselves to bullet journal spreads. I even pulled out and unwrapped a gorgeous leather bound journal which I had been saving for some special occasion or project (i.e. when I became a “real” or “serious” writer). It has sat on a shelf for at least a decade. It’s time has come. It will be a delight to write in it, so what better motivation to make sure I do Morning Pages?

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Author’s Note

Sometimes you have to keep starting over — adopt, adapt, improve.

I have been thinking about this blog quite a bit, but the thinking hasn’t turned into writing. I would have ideas for posts and start composing them in my head. I might even start scribbling in my journal. But nothing actually made it into a post and onto the site.

Then I started following a blog where the author posts almost daily (and it might truly be daily), and it is not uncommon that those posts don’t say much more than “It’s just not going to happen today, but I promise I am still here.” The daily posts aren’t the reason I started following. There is plenty of interesting material to read, but the consistency speaks to me. It dovetails nicely with my mantras of “the cumulative effect of incremental change” and “Stop dithering. Start doing.”

It might make me too self conscious to post every single day, but the corollary is to not worry so much about the quality that I second guess myself into not writing at all. The quality will come with practice, and not writing is not practicing.

I have ideas for other projects, and writing about them will help them develop and get finished, so at the moment I am thinking that it will be a winning situation on multiple fronts.

Right now, however, it is late, and I have a few more daily tasks to attend to before turning in for the night.

I’ll be back tomorrow.

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“Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you begin, and let the Lord be all in all to you.” — Charles H. Spurgeon All of Grace.

The start of a new year isn’t a particularly big deal in my world. I don’t feel the need to review the previous twelve months or make big plans for the next twelve. I certainly don’t go out an celebrate this specific change of day on the calendar. The first of January has always felt like an arbitrary choice, as opposed to, say, using the winter solstice. My father wishes me happy new year on my birthday, which also makes sense.

I am a big believer that you can make plans or changes (resolutions if you prefer) any day of the year — when the time is right or the motivation is there. As mentioned in a previous post, on September 15th, I started going for a walk every day. On November 18th, I started a bullet journal, and I have written in it every day since.

On January 1st, I make a list of reminders rather than resolutions. Sometimes the items on the list are specific and sometimes not. Some are things I already do. Others are things I want to start or do more often. This year’s list so far is: read, write, cook, knit, spin, weave, move, learn, share.

Last year had some big changes, and this year needs to have other, related big changes, so I spent today keeping up my new habits, reawakening some older habits, and working toward a future goal. I am beginning as I mean to go on, so the next step will be to go on as I began.

Happy new year!

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