March was kind of a bust in terms of planned creativity. I was thinking of doing audio recordings and I even sketched out a plan but I wasn’t very inspired. But it wasn’t a complete bust. I went to the thrift store and found 4 skeins of yarn. I had one left over blue one, so I decided to make a small blanket.
I also made 2 videos. And I started working on a little embroidery.
For April, I am taking a watercolor painting class. It’s a little different because I am not working on it at home, only in class once a week. And as usual, the first class was hard. The water color class is a little different from embroidery and crochet in that I am not making a functional item to use. I really enjoyed making things that were items that were also functional. The paintings 🎨 are just art for arts sake.
As I reach the end of the 6 months I think I’ve learned to be more accepting of the difficulty that comes in the beginning of a new skill. I have also enjoyed making a variety of things and have thought about my creativity differently. This was a good experience overall through these six months of cold weather and uncertainty about the future.
I was late in finishing because I ran out of yarn and was waiting for a delivery. But now-it’s done. This month, I’ve found myself thinking up ideas for embroidery projects while doing the crochet work. I have a few ideas for projects that I think would be fun to make.
This month is audio storytelling. I’m a bit behind because of the delay in finishing the blanket. I have some ideas sketched out, but I think I need to start with research. A few months ago, I thought I would make a multi episode series on a topic but I have realized over the last few months finishing is consistently a challenge. So I think I will do research and work on a particular story arc or story I want to tell. And from there I will begin with episode 1. It might be the only episode.
One thing that has been interesting is the moving from one creative project to the next, while still thinking about the last one. Or the one before. Hopefully I will come back to these other ideas. The experience has definitely generated creative thinking.
I am almost to the end of crochet month and the other day I was thinking about the art of crafts. A lot of times when you say you want to make art, perhaps what likely comes to mind is painting, drawing, sculpting, or something like that. You don’t often see an art school that focuses solely on crafts like weaving, sewing, or knitting. Sewing is for fashion design schools. But I feel like most art schools focus on visual arts. But I find that I really enjoy these crafts that create some kind of useful household product. Items you can wear or use around the kitchen but also enjoy how they look. Maybe I am wrong about this. Maybe there is a big movement in becoming master knitters and I just don’t know about it. I know through the pandemic, we really started to enjoy shows like Blown Away and The Great Pottery Throw Down along with British Bake-off. All of these shows highlight crafts that a single person does that can be functional and very creative. Beautifully decorated cakes that the family can enjoy. Lovely coffee mugs or dishes that have color and design. And for me, so far I’ve enjoyed embroidery and crochet for those reasons.
Obviously, I am no great craftsperson. I am just a beginner in both of those. Right now I am working on a blanket. It’s small and intended for a baby or toddler. But I am still practicing trying to get the crochet work even. I like how repetitive it is. I like how I can work on repetitive loops of yarn and listen to music or watch a show or have a conversation. It’s kind of soothing that it doesn’t need intense concentration.
And honestly after the intensity of the last several years- the pandemic, the political issues, everything-its taken a mental toll over time. A lot of times mindless television or scrolling can be what I turn to in order to relax. But it’s not nearly as satisfying as semi-mindlessly creating a blanket that I can actually give someone in the end. So far I’ve made a kind of sad scarf that I don’t think anyone will want, a hot pot pad to give to a friend, and now this blanket. I am not sure who I can give it to, but so far I like the work. I used to love writing and would think of things to write all of the time. I don’t know what it is about the last few years. I find myself less able to string together a coherent narrative. Less able to organize a piece of writing. So I find it very soothing that creatively I can sit and do some small activity over and over until it turns into a lovely functional gift.
Every month, this creative project, in some ways, makes me a beginner again. This month, being a beginner at crochet made me frustrated. I’ll be honest, I have not picked up any creative project that is completely new or foreign to me. I did embroidery, which I hadn’t really tried before. But I did learn basic stitches from my aunt when I was young and I did cross stitch occasionally over the years. Video-last month- was not a big success, but I also have been doing videos for my youtube project for over a year. NANOWRIMO is writing and I have been writing off and on for myself for decades. This month, crochet is a project I grew up adjacent to. My mother crocheted. My neighbors crocheted. Didn’t everyone have the crocheted blankets in 70s brown, yellow, and orange laying around the house? I know all of my neighbors did. They also seemed to have the ones that were throws that were patches of crochet webbed together and not one complete blanket. Instead, it was hundreds off circles connected leaving gaps where cold air would come in. Despite all of that crocheting around me, I never had a crocheted hat or scarf or set of mittens in the winter.
I tried to learn to crochet once. When I was 16 and pregnant. But after a few attempts I was frustrated and really though sitting still for hours to finish it was too boring. At the beginning of this month when I started, I was frustrated. I watched multiple videos trying to find the best one to help me figure out how to hold the crochet hook and how to make it work. I started and restarted at least 5 times. And finally I started to get the hang of the basic stitch. And I’ve made a scarf so far. It’s kind of small, like a scarf for a 9 year old. But I finished it.
Being a beginner again is hard. And to do it repeatedly month after month is definitely a different experience. I’ve been wondering what 6 months of starting over translates into over time. Will I be more flexible? More confident? Or will I just get tired of it? Perhaps I find myself more sure of what I like and don’t like. One thing I find that I do like, is that I do like alternating storytelling projects with hands on crafts. For example, I did NANOWRIMO followed by embroidery. And with crafts, I like having a useful finished product. For example, I like having an embroidered dish towel that you can actually use. I really want to do pottery but it’s a challenge to find a pottery class that is for one month or even single lessons. They are usually 8 week courses.
The end of January is here and my video work is meh, not much. I really was having a hard time being inspired and focused on video content. I think winter blues and worrying about things got in my way.
One thing I did learn is how to easily make vertical (mobile) videos in Canva. I made a video every day on my phone documenting my Vegan January. These short videos are all about ten seconds or less, multiple clips, edited, and set to music. Sometimes I added typeface. This skill will be good when we head to Europe for our 7-country trip. I’ll be able to quickly put together clips and share a little bit about our travels each day. I’ve got it in my mind that I will try to post a video each day. Editing a longer 10-minute video every day seems daunting so I think the short-form video will help me keep that goal.
Sometimes I think about how other people would be much more results-driven and crank out work in this monthly creative project. But I find that I only seem to get so much done. I still have work and chores around the house etc. It does make me wonder how people have full-time creative jobs. I went on a little trip to California with my writing club ( we meet online) and we spent the first 24 hours talking and talking. And then we sat down and did some creative work. I did a little writing for a story idea I’ve had for a while. So far it’s not amazing, but I am trying to figure it out. But in general, I am still trying to go with the flow a little bit for creativity.
The February project is going to be crochet. I’ve ordered some supplies and I am starting with a lesson to make coasters. From there I hope to move on to something like a blanket or a scarf. The coasters are to learn the basics before moving onto something bigger.
I completed month 2 of my 6 months of art. What I learned from month 2 is that life can easily get in the way of finishing. In fact, with the holidays, I actually did not finish my second project. As you can see in the image, it does appear finished, but I meant to finish the coffee pot with red.
I really do like the little cinnamon rolls. I also do think the red would balance it out. Perhaps I will come back to it. But not finishing is a reoccurring theme for me.
January is the month of video. I already do work on videos every month on YouTube. Sometimes I post every week, sometimes every other week. So for this month, I was trying to think of what my project would be. What specific skills do I want to learn? What specific project do I want to work on? Before the month started I found myself unsure of what to work on. I considered a daily Vlog. I considered a specific video to work on or a specific style. And to be honest, I am not 100% sure. I did start recording today, but I still need to come up with some ideas. We will see what happens!
Embroidery is something women in my family did. My mom used to embroider various little projects like table runners. My aunt taught me how to do a basic backstitch and attempt letter. I have done cross-stitch projects occasionally, but generally, I found them a little unsatisfying. I usually chose them because I thought they were easier, but just making Xs gets boring. Because of my (limited) experience, for the month of December, I decided to work on embroidery as my creative work. I finished the basic project from the last post about midway through the month. That was a good way to practice some basic stitches I might need like the satin stitch, lazy daisy stitch, french knot etc. From there I wanted to be sure that the next piece was a creative endeavor and not just a predetermined image chosen from JoAnn’s Fabrics. I decided I would embroider something that I drew, which, to be honest, is not a skill I have. I don’t draw. So instead I traced. I traced an image from a cookbook that I like onto a flour sack towel and I chose the colors (although I did not stray much from the original).
What I find is that making time every weekday for a project is the hardest part. Discipline. I start out thinking I have all the time in the world and that I can finish an ambitious amount of work. But then I don’t. And this lesson applies far beyond this month’s project. I have a little more than a week to finish my flour sack towel. But I am really enjoying making these little cinnamon rolls.
Last night, when I went to bed my phone said it was 19 degrees outside. Nineteen. Winter has arrived in the Pacific Northwest and I need to get into a habit of taking Vit D. Gray skies and lots of time indoors are here.
For November, I did nanowrimo and although I did write 25k +/- words, I didn’t finish my project. Towards the end, I started to wonder if this project was really one I wanted to put out into the world. Typically, that kind of doubt is centered on whether I want people to read what I wrote because they might think it’s terrible? Or did I just overshare-now everyone will know what I think?? But this time, I really found myself glad that wrote it and organized it for my sake but perhaps that was enough.
I wrote about walking and the time we spent walking the Camino de Santiago this year. It was and continues to be a strange, adventurous year. Perhaps all of that work of writing was more of a good exercise in reflection so I could move on to the next things.
This month, I am looking forward to switching creative modes and I am working on embroidery. Not just as a task or skill that ends in a product, but also as a creative endeavor. I am starting the month by practicing stitches with this simple embroidery project.
After I finish this, I am planning to create something of my own design. We will see how it goes. Anyone else getting creative this winter?
I haven’t written here for a while. I’ve been working on 12 thousand other creative projects, and I realize that it might be the reason none of them have gone very far. I really haven’t been able to focus on one thing consistently. But I have learned a lot from them. The biggest thing is that I am no longer willing to put off a creative life. This summer while we walked the Camino, I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to a nursing or edu job right now. We changed our entire lives by selling our house, building out the van, and planning some exciting adventures. And a bunch of it was really challenging. But while I was walking day after day, I really just knew I couldn’t go back to the way it had been.
But I have no idea what I am doing.
We’ve been back in Washington for the winter and here I am trying to figure it out. But 45 days later in this apartment, I am no closer. Some days I am like, fine I’ll just get a job as a nurse. And other days, I am like nooooooo. It’s been a real struggle to even imagine a job I want to do at all. The best I came up with was Barista or baker. 🙂
I recently came up with an idea for a way to spend the next 6 months. And it starts with Nanowrimo. Which starts in a few days. So, here I go.
I told one of my friends from grad school that I am ready for mediocre. Growing up I always felt like I wanted to do something important, something that made a difference. It’s probably why I chose nursing, although it wasn’t my first choice of careers. But I was good at science and wanted to make a difference. I also had a problem with wanting to be a people pleaser which meant I never did work without thinking most about how it would be received. That is, graded by teachers, received by patients, viewed by coworkers. Everyone else’s judgement of my work was always more important than my own. Because of that, I regularly felt crushed by feed back. I constantly thought I wasn’t good enough. A lot of ideas I had early in my adult life I would never attempt or quit because of fear of failure or criticism.
But as I got older, I started trying more doing more and trying to work past my work not being received well. I started believing I was good at some things and I worked very hard at them. But I still struggled with anxiety about failing or doing things poorly. But mostly I kept looking for ways to work hard to make a difference.
The pandemic has changed the way I think about work. Lately I’ve been thinking, I am tired of work. What’s the point of work? What’s the point of 40 hours? Who is my work for? And can my work be for me?
I think this is really an exploration of the idea that I, personally, can let go of working for others in a way that leaves very little for me. I have known this for a while. But practicing it regularly has been a challenge, because I constantly find myself jumping back into old ways of thinking. I think I should be working harder, proving my worth as an employee, looking for advancement, helping the organization be better, etc. But at the same time I feel compelled to do that, I think to myself why? Why should I? Why should I be a model employee? Why can’t I be mediocre and let things go instead.
So the other day, I told my friend I want to be mediocre. I want work to shrink in it’s importance and to let all of the other things grow. More books, more art, more hiking, more time with people I love. I am ok with not being significant and just being average.