working through the doldrums

update: find the paper mache ship pattern here

Big projects have them. Usually what keeps me motivated is the process – I like making things, all sorts of things and that has extended to my new project: making patterns  (especially because it’s new to me and I’m all lit up with learning).

I had hoped to finish the paper mache ship pattern in the Adirondacks over the holiday weekend. Planned on it really – no distractions, great light, plenty of room etc. but I’m back in thick, hot NYC summer and I‘ve still got a long way to go. Often, if something is taking me a very long time it’s because I’m lingering in the process – I don’t want it to end. In this case a lot of the fun designy stuff (like the cover) is done. And the project has gotten bigger:

I had made the executive decision to keep it small and manageable – just one ship – one small, pretty ship and I was nearly done with that.

small ship

But then I reversed that executive decision and decided to make it a collection – 3 vessels. The original small ship, a little boat and a large ship (similar to “The Gulnare” one of my favorites) – a big billowy full sailed affair.  And the large ship pattern had to be designed pretty much from scratch – I didn’t have a reliable large ship template. That’s a lot of  designing, and a lot of step photos and instructions, editing, testing etc. A lot.

The Gulnare

This morning I woke up feeling daunted by the hugeness of the task and frustrated about not being where I hoped I would. I re- read a post from James Clear that I keep a quote from pinned to my wall:

 “Reduce the scope, but stick to the schedule.”

It’s great advice. Great, simple advice that I still need to be reminded of often. The size of the project has changed and it requires a new strategy to finish.  Rather than pushing hard towards a completion date or relying on my enjoyment of the work to motivate me I’ve got it on my schedule everyday – 3 hours –  first thing in the morning: photographing, compiling, testing and editing.

I can’t wait for you to try the ship patterns and I know that focusing on the schedule rather than that goal is the most reliable way to get there.  If something, some goal has been eluding you I recommend trying the approach.


  1. Whatever results in accuracy and clear instructions works for me. So I’m looking forward to your ship patterns no matter how long it takes. Technical writing about a creative process is such a challenge. It’s awesome that you’ve taken it all on in such a short time! I would have had to take a long vacation after the first ones you offered. Cut yourself a big slice of slack and please, please keep your level of enjoyment up. It would be a crime if the process burned you out.

    Hugs from Helen in Colorado (by way of Bklyn ‘n Queens) 🙂

  2. We are the only ones who can stress ourselves…it’s the expectations we hold – a familiar pattern for me. I’m looking forward to trying your pattern when it’s done!

  3. I was eagerly waiting for this pattern, and now, knowing that will include not one but 3 ship patterns my anticipation grows!
    I can’t wait to embark in this project.

  4. Practicing patience waiting for the pattern, but I know it will be worth it.
    Love, love, love your work.

  5. Elizabeth

    Am looking forward to the patterns – whenever they are ready.

  6. Hi Ann,
    Just ordered your bird pattern, downloaded, and excited to start making birds for Christmas. Look forward to the ship patterns.
    I feel so Blessed to have met you online. Please keep using your talents. I’m registered for your workshop at Squam in September and can hardly contain myself waiting to create those delicate botanicals. I LOVE the pictures. Botanicals are most important to me at 71 years (can’t believe-b/d 7/21) because botanicals have been an important part of my life since age 3-4 yrs. I’ve grown herbs for years and still do so and use them for everything I can think of. I’m very much an earthy woman and have taken care of myself and family naturally as much as possible – prayers, homeopathy, Bach Flower Essences, essential oils, etc.
    I notice you haven’t shown any other botanicals on your blog. Is that because it’s a special creation for Squam?
    Many Blessings, Liz

  7. Janet Chalmers

    Whenever you finish will be just the perfect timing. Live intentionally and have fun. If it’s stressful, all the fun fades and disappears. Thank you for sharing your talents with us.


    Janet in Georgia

  8. Patty LaLa

    Being an artsy person I understand how simple little fun ideas can bloom and grow and spin out of control. My family has grown to expect that of me. Now I have “the Quote” I am going to print in vinyl and attach it to the wall by my art workspace. Because I’m a little off and a lot Artsy it will be vertical in the corner….. I love the little birds pattern but I Love Love the Ships, I will be sitting at the edge of my seat waiting for your pattern packet to be published. (I’ve already made several ships from your post). But I love to support the artist with the purchase of pattern packets. I’ve been gathering Victorian clothing and fabric to work on your Owls, have I told you how much I love your owls, the most exquisite creature on earth……thank you for sharing your creativity with the world.

    A dedicated follower, Patty LaLa

  9. So glad you’ve found your way through the soup Ann!
    Having made up a few patterns of my own, I know how much work and time and doubt can be involved, and mine were nowhere near as involved or as gorgeous as your ship pattern!

    Best wishes for an easy outcome. I’m so looking forward to your pattern being ready for sale! x

  10. I guess I am feeling stupid but can someone please explain the “reduce the scope” part. I do love the idea and Ann, I can certainly understand getting bogged down. I even get bogged in the schedule, very hard to keep to it!
    XXOO cat

  11. Thanks for the encouragement!

    And Hi Cat – I can get bogged down in a schedule too and sometimes schedules need to be adjusted to be realistic. I can tell you how this idea relates to my ship pattern project. I’ve been swinging for the fences on this – working on it whenever I can – so excited to get it done and then as it grew I ran into some snags – in terms of organizing the large amount of information. I found my self needing to learn a bunch of stuff to complete it – delays and extra work I wan’t expecting. Part of me felt like back burnering it. But the truth is there’s lots I can still do right now- plenty of forward progress to be made so instead of stressing about hitting the release date I hoped for I’m focused on daily progress and feeling good about it. “The reduce the scope” part is really just a reiteration of the old idea that productivity and reaching goals is all about habits.

  12. Hi Liz! We are going to have a fabulous time at Squam and thank you! I do have a botanical post coming up soon – some of the ideas we’ll be working with in the class.

  13. Great advice! Thank you! Looking forward to the ship patterns whenever they are ready!

  14. So glad you didn’t choose to back-burner this… At your pace and time – I love that.
    And thank you for the quote and the link. I’m going now, to see what I can see…

  15. I thought it very clever of you to use the term “doldrums”. What an image. It really brought out a smile when I thought of your poor ships sitting on a patch of calm water in the middle of the ocean. I’m glad you worked through it. Your patterns are fabulous and I think I will have to get the ship one when it comes out. I’ve thought yours were so beautiful.

    Thank you.

  16. Hi Ann, I can’t wait for the ship patterns but I know how hard it is to make patterns. My houses take an incredible amount of time. First to design and then to organize the graphics and then the instructions. It is not easy, I know. I can wait and I am looking forward to the ship patterns. I have made one pattern for a ship, already myself and it took me forever. I love your creations. You are extremely talented.
    Barbara D.

  17. I can be very patient and wait for those fabulous ship patterns. In the meantime, i’ll make birds!

  18. We live in an age where everything is expected instantly, the art of patience and anticipation almost lost along the way. It won’t matter how long it takes for it to ready – how bloom in lucky we are to have 3 ship patterns to look forward too!! Thank you for all your hard work xx

  19. Just popped in to see if the ship patterns were available. I’ll pop back again next week.

  20. I am so looking forward to the ships also. I made two of the sailboats and have already given them to my grandkids. They are ordering the colors they want now! Started something! hahaha

  21. squirrel

    Have you ever had to be creative during a depression? I am in the last year of an MFA programme but am too sad. I am stuck in the not doing work inertia. Wondering if you’ve ever experienced this and if so, how you helped yourself?

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