Category: productivity

the creative sprint part 2 : the part where you have to start

edwardian bird

Following up on last week’s post – I so appreciated hearing  your thoughts and comments – I know how hard it is and I wanted to offer you a couple more simple ideas besides the creative sprint  (aka the  activity bomb) for getting past the stuckness, the overthinking and a little bit of a challenge……  Procrastination has nuances and flavors – I am a lifelong connoisseur of them.  And  it comes in a variety of disguises.  There are all sorts of ways to get passed it – different things that work for different kinds of stuckness and people.  For me what matters most is that I take some – almost any – action.  It’s a scientific fact:

“A middle aged craft lady at rest tends to stay at rest and a middle aged craft lady in motion tends to stay in motion.”

I constantly have to trick myself into action.  The first is the hardest – it’s much easier to keep going than to start.  I’ll tell you about 2 first steps I rely on:

Baby steps –  gather supplies, or thread the needle, write the first sentence – commit even just 15 minutes. Repeat.

Create accountability – this blog, my business, the work I do all sprung from a need to prod myself into doing my own creative work. You are my accountability partner.

And it’s never over – it’s a life long challenge. Today I’ll commit to two things I haven’t been able to get myself to do.  The first is my daily  painting and drawing practice. It’s such a hard thing but so good for me – in fact I think it is one of the most important things I have done for my creativity in a decade. But – it is so often a huge pain in the ass to accomplish. I took a break and slippery sloped myself into abandoning it. I’ll begin again this Sunday. Just  thinking about it makes me anxious.

Damn. Now I have to do it…..  See how this works!

edwardian bird

The other is this bird. I started him about 9 years ago. And he’s been hanging around judging me even since.  I’m really not sure what happened here – I got stuck on some little detail and then got weird about it. I’ll show him to you all finished on Tuesday.

If you feel like committing to something – to taking some action  –  it could be as small as gathering supplies in a box or putting in 15 minute a day  – state your intention in the comments and I’ll see you here on Tuesday – you can report your progress,  share a link- whatever you like.

Update:  I accomplished both my tasks – it was painful  and I’m so glad i did it –  the victorian bird is finished and I began my daily painting and drawing practice on Sunday.  I’ll post the sketchbook every Saturday and you can checkout the victorian bird here.

How did you do – did you get something unstuck?

the creative sprint : progress on the naked rag doll pattern

naked rag doll pattern progress

snow day in brooklyn

I had such a nice day today. And I wasn’t planning on it, I was planning on having a lousy day. The snow helped – it’s the delightful kind, mostly because there hasn’t been much of it this year and I don’t have to go anywhere or shovel it. I didn’t have any spectacular reason for a lousy day – just frustrated with my pace. Feeling a little stuck on a couple projects.

I am determined to increase productivity this year – in part by being very clear with myself on what that is. It is not busyness, it is not planning, it is not “research” (AKA the internet), it is not perfecting, it is getting things across the finish line: publishing, shipping, completing.  All those other things are sneaky – and they trick me into feeling productive when I’m really not.  To break the inertia I applied a tried and true method – making a big, messy sprint towards the finish line. Deciding, just for today, to pick up the pace – bypass the over thinker within and make stuff. Jump right over details I’m struggling with and surge ahead. Try stuff.  In the simplest and I think most accurate terms:

Going forward instead of in circles.

prototyping the naked doll

I’m very prone to getting stuck in sewing pattern prototype creation – it’s so different from making a one- off. The rule for the day was – I’m not going to re-draw her face endlessly anymore – making minute adjustments to scale etc. I’m going to pick one and go with it.  I’m not going to try another different hair style or silhouette. I’m going to make a doll.

rag doll progress

naked rag doll pattern progress

Because I’m still who I am I can review, revise and refine tomorrow after a full day of rapid prototyping. It always works – the faster physical pace helps shift energy and lifts some brain fog. I can always make a much more reasonable and clear assessment at the end of a sprint day. The “experimental phase” of a project can be a dangerously sticky place – it almost always is for me.

If there is something you’re stuck on, if you are lingering in thinking about possibilities give it a try – for a day or even for an hour – the very least you will get is new information.

deliberate daydreaming

deliberate daydreaming

deliberate daydreaming

Sometimes focus feels impossible. Sometimes your imagination, your creativity and your drive seem to have vanished without warning. Sometimes thoughts and ideas spin so frantically you can’t catch them.

And, there are moments when it all seems to magically work – the better part of a day slips by without notice while you’re completely lost in a glorious flow state – effortless, creative and productive.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have it all at your command, to be able to summon deep focus, motivation and drive, ingenuity, and sparkling original ideas as needed or desired.  But our minds don’t work like that. Our minds do what they like and so often just the opposite of what we’re looking for.  Practice, training and attention help though and I’m always on the look out for ways to improve – stuff to try – ways to reach the deepest parts of my imagination and creativity.

Something I have come across a lot is the idea of alternating focused work with distraction in an intentional way – one example is The  Mac Gyver Method – which I love and use all the time.

And Earnest Hemingway talks about the value of letting things percolate in The Movable Feast :

“It was in that room too that I learned not to think about anything that I was writing from the time I stopped writing until I started again the next day. That way my subconscious would be working on it and at the same time I would be listening to other people and noticing everything.”

Last week I heard the term “deliberate day dreaming” for the first time In this podcast episode  (If you are curious about why your brain does what it does you will particularly enjoy this episode).  I even like the sound of it – deliberate daydreaming – I like the idea of an intentional, daily invitation to let your mind meander and watch where it goes.

My mind wanders off all the time without permission – especially while I’m doing pleasantly (for me) repetitive tasks. I think it’s part of what attracts me to things like hand sewing and paper mache.

tiny rag doll

So I wonder what the effect of intention and daily practice will be. I’m test driving the idea for the next month – devoting 10 minutes everyday to “deliberate daydreaming”.  I will let you know how it goes and if you feel like experimenting with me I’d love to hear about it.

chalkboards and clothespins for a productive year

chalkboard : ann wood

chalkboard : ann wood

Did you know – the larger a list is – scale-wise not length-wise – the more fun it is to check stuff off?  I think so anyways. I love a list and at times when there’s a lot to move forward simultaneously  (not my best thing) I put it all on poster board in sharpie and find that it helps me stay on task, helps me do the right stuff and follow through.  I’ve wanted a chalkboard for this purpose for ages and finally made one for myself last weekend.

getting things done

I painted a lovely old frame black and the chalkboard part was easy – it’s chalkboard contact paper on foam core. And I love it (PS- I’m not being compensated  in any way for this – just sharing because I think it’s useful). I found it online and I was willing to give it a shot – to the tune of about 20 bucks – but  wasn’t feeling super optimistic about  it. I grew up in the 70’s and contact paper was a frequent and largely unsatisfactory design solution.  This stuff is great though – it doesn’t look or feel plasticy and cleans easily with a damp cloth.  They also sent a marker you can use – It’s a little harder to clean off but looks good.

I’m pleased with my chalkboards and pleased with the effect the presence of the big list has on my fidgety brain. I’m determined to have a record breaking year in terms of productivity – I’m always busy but I spin my wheels a lot.

clothespin label

Another time waster/ procrstinatey activity for me is looking for stuff. I have all my fabrics and other supplies and projects in file boxes and spent time recently labeling everything accurately. I’ve been using the same boxes for 5 or 6 years and clip clothespins are perfect for labeling- since projects and materials change often.

I’m tackling the computer next – it’s a mess.

What keeps you focused and on task? What de-rails you?