|Friday, October 01, 2004||
|This post originally appeared on my Radio Userland blog. I love to reread them, they seem just as ‘fresh’ and useful as the day I wrote them!
(5 minute read)
|Friday, October 01, 2004||
|This post originally appeared on my Radio Userland blog. I love to reread them, they seem just as ‘fresh’ and useful as the day I wrote them!
(5 minute read)
Creativity comes first. Everything else can wait. Really!
Recently I wrote about finding a new source of ideas about creativity. This 3-minute article by Todd Bisson answers 7 Questions Aspiring Writers Ask That Don’t Even Matter a Little Bit. (Short story: Write first. Everything else, later.) (In case you don’t have 3 minutes this morning.) (In which case, you really do need to do something about that to-do list…)
I loved it, because it’s true. So many folks get hung up on figuring everything out first. They spend so much time spinning their wheels, trying to finess all the marketing strategies, they never actually create a body of work to build on. And of course, in the actual doing/making, you’ll probably figure out most of what else you need to do.
I felt pretty smug as I read the list. I’ve got that all figured out already.
Then I got to my studio to work.
And felt totally unmotivated to make anything.
Fortunately, I did what I do whenever I feel stuck. I pulled out my journal (I call it my “blort book”, for…well. blorting.)
Within a paragraph, I knew what I’d done wrong.
I’d followed my to-do list.
Some of it was time-sensitive. I get the
damn boot off next week. I know if I don’t line up my physical therapy appointments now, I could lose another week or two waiting for slots to open up. (Even as I was on the phone with Megan, slots were taken as we spoke.)
But did I really have to catch up on email? Well. There were one or two that needed a quick response. But the others? No. They could have waited.
Did I have to do my volunteer commitment (Instagramming!) for the art group I’m part of? Yes. Did I have to take care of my own IG account right then? No.
Did I have to do the dishes? No. (God, no. There will be more
in a minute tomorrow.)
Did I have to do the laundry? No. Good god, usually I look for excuses NOT to do it. I tend to stock up on the essentials. I can go for weeks without running out of clean underwear. (Too much information?)
But it felt like I was on a roll this morning, and I ran with it. I was pleased with how much I’d accomplished.
Until I got to the studio and realized I was out of oomph.
I can blame the fact that it’s been a long eight weeks of recovery, a long time spent off my feet (and necessarily so.) It was my priority.
But the day that my priority is to do dishes and laundry and check email is the day I officially declare myself housewife of the year. (Please. No. Remember that 50’s TV show, Queen for a Day? Arguably the oddest game show in television history.) (Yes, it was my favorite game show as a very young-ster. There were crowns!)
(Hint: Truly desperate housewives competed for washing machines, so they could do laundry for 13 kids faster.)
So take a good hard look at your to-do list. They can be great for writing down all those big and little tasks, the ones that wear down your brain when you try to carry them all in your head.
There are extenutating circumstances and exceptions, of course. If you are a mom, especially a new mom, yes, young ‘uns are at the top of the list. So does the work that puts food on the table (if that isn’t also your art work.) Partners and friends get top slots, too
But when you can, put your creative work way up at the top. Even a tiny bit of time, and space.
It may seem like a luxury. You may not always be able to put it in the No. 1 slot.
But it is the foundation of everything else you do.
The work of your heart completes the circle of who you are in the world, and from it comes the strength, the clarity, the energy to carry everything else.
Twenty years from now, no one will remember that your laundry basket was always empty, and your sink was never full of dishes. They will remember the powerful energy you got from the work of your heart, and how it influenced everyone you met and everything you touched.
And if, like I did, you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your kids and/or the other people looking up to you.
How can you want that fundamental wish, the power that comes being in the world with a whole heart… How can you want that for your kids/people, and not for yourself?
And how will they know what that looks like, if you don’t show them?
Go to the studio–NOW!
p.s. I was going to include a photo of my sink. But you don’t need to be exposed to that today.
I don’t know about you, but right now, I’m running around like a crazed monkey in a giant puzzle box, trying to figure out what to do next.
I’m getting ready for the 80th League of NH Craftsmen’s Annual Craft Fair. It’s where I see most of my collectors and patrons for the year. It’s where I introduce new work. In my booth, I create the most beautiful displays for my jewelry, sculpture and wall hangings. This year, it’s where I’ll introduce my new presentation of my artifacts in restored vintage and antique wood boxes.
It’s also where I’ll struggle to put up my booth on a ski slope, stand for nine days in 95 degree weather, and wonder if I’ll make enough money to get me through to next year’s show.
Joy and anguish, laughter and tears, exhilaration and exhaustion, uplifted spirit and aching body. Yes, welcome to the Fair!
I’m getting too old for this.
But I digress. This is about preparing for the Fair: Creating new work (which always seems to happen as the deadlines approach). Creating and mailing a postcard to my customer list (over 1,000, and I’m very picky about who gets on my mailing list nowadays). Rebuilding inventory. Trying to remember where I packed my display stands and signs two years ago. (I took a “sabbatical” last year for knee replacement surgery.)
There are two techniques I use to get everything done. And asking a question is the key to both.
The first is productive procrastination. I’ve written about this before, so briefly… If you procrastinate (come on, ‘fess up! No one can see you while you’re reading this!) then, when faced with a task you don’t want to do, ask yourself:
What else can I do instead?
This technique is powerful, because you can get so much done! Just not the one thing you really need to do.
The second just came to me this morning. (I am the slow learner. That’s why I still write about this stuff.) Today, for example, I have about a bajillion things to do. (Yes, the procrastination technique backfired.) So the last few days I’ve been frantic–absolutely frantic–(hence the monkey metephor) about how much I have to do, and how much has gone wrong, resulting in even less time to finish this. So this morning, I ask myself:
What has to be done next?
And the answer (today–finish my postcard mailing!) gives clarity. And relief. And peace.
It’s not my fault the mailing is running late. I gave the order to the printer in plenty of time to make my deadline. (I have learned the printing lesson the hard way, and almost always allow 3x the time needed for a print job.) But despite my best efforts, the print job is late, my new label making program is overwhelming complicated, and everything that could have gone wrong, did.
The fact remains, however… What I need to do right now is label, stamp and mail these postcards.
That clarity is enough to slow my heart rate and soothe my frazzled brain.
By the way, if you don’t get a postcard from me in the next few days (and you usually do), blame my mailing list/label high-tech woes. In the meantime, here’s all you need to know:
LUANN UDELL http://www.LuannUdell.com
271 Roxbury ST Keene NH 03431
I’m all better! I’m back!!! YES, I’ll be at the
80th League of NH Craftsman’s Annual Fair
Mt. Sunapee Resort in Newbury, NH
Saturday Aug. 3 thru Sunday Aug. 11
10-5 daily rain or shine
Tent 2 Booth 203
NEW! My work displayed in restored &
refinished antique shadow boxes. They are
beautiful!! Create your own display!
(You can also scold me for not being here
last August….IF you bring chocolate.)
Photography by Roma Dee Holmes
And here’s the pic for the postcard:
I’ve been running around like the proverbial chicken without a head lately. As my surgery date nears (one week!), I find myself awash in frantic, circular thinking. It hits me hardest in the wee hours of the morning, when I wake up to find my brain a-spinning from wild, crazed anxiety. (Warning: You can skip this part, I assure you it makes very little sense.)
“OMG, OMG, my studio is a mess and I haven’t shipped new stock to my galleries and I don’t have enough materials for that new project I’ve been dreaming about for so long, and where am I going to find X, and Y, and Z supplies, I can’t do my summer show, I’m going to run out of money, I should be writing my next article, the dogs are driving me crazy, my house is a mess, that surgery is gonna hurt like HELL and I’ve changed my mind, what if I die or something?? What should I do first? Clean the studio, no, clean the house! NO, I don’t want to spend my last few days cleaning, for God’s sake!! I’m so tired, my knee hurts, my leg hurts, my back hurts, I should get some exercise, but everything hurts, and besides it’s raining, and I still have to take the dogs out, those dogs are driving me CRAZY, my house is a mess and in one week I won’t even be able to wriggle a toe without pain, I’ve changed my mind, I want my life back, no, I want my knee back, no, no, OMG, what should I DOOOOO??? I could take a nap, no, that’s a waste of time, I should go for a walk, no wait, it’s raining, I can’t take the dogs out, OMG, OMG.”
You read that? I warned you not to. I told you it would make no sense.
Because everything I’m whining about in that crazed spin-y place comes from a majorly amazing blessing in my life.
My studio is a mess? I HAVE a studio. A beautiful, spacious studio that I love being in, working in, writing in. The space–an antique barn we renovated for the purpose–is the reason we bought this house. It’s a mess because…well, frankly, I’m a very messy person when I’m working. And I’d rather spend my time making and writing than cleaning. (Although I HAVE managed to clear up some floor space and reorganize some stuff in here the last few weeks.)
I haven’t shipped work to my galleries? Well, I still have time to do that. But even if I don’t, the work isn’t going anywhere. It will still be here when I’m up and around after my surgery. Maybe I’ll even have some new work ready when the time comes.
I can’t find enough materials for my new body of work? That’s just me trying to have total control of a project at the outset. The truth is, I have enough materials to start the series, and play, and experiment. I don’t have to have everything figured out, and materials for a hundred pieces, in order to get started.
I can’t do my summer show? My main income builder, and the only way I see most of my customers and collectors? Actually, it’s kind of a relief to take a sabbatical this year. It’s a wicked hard show to do. Nine days of retail sales, outside, in the August heat. Weather-dependent–if it rains, I’m toast. Plus set-up and break-down. I’ll miss my customers–they inspire me and support me. But they won’t forget me overnight. I’ll invite them to my open studio in the fall. And I’m also curious to find out what will appear this year, when I make room for it. I’ve been given the gift of time–time to think. Time to be open to new possibilities. Time to make new work. Time to (gasp!) truly relax and enjoy summer in New England, for the first time in fifteen years.
Scary surgery? 500,000 people a year have total knee replacement surgery. Some of them have complications, but most of them don’t. And a lot of pain for a few months may mean a lot LESS pain for the next 20 years. Not a bad trade. And I’m not going to be able to clean the house OR the studio for awhile. I have the perfect excuse to have a messy house and a messy studio!
The crazy dogs? We currently have three dogs in house. All were Turks & Caicos rescue pups. Tuck we brought home with us from our vacation there three years ago. One we fostered last fall, and adopted out to a young woman. We are babysitting her for a few weeks. And Nick was adopted out to a family in Boston last year, but they can’t keep him. We thought we had a home for him, but it’s beginning to look like he’s already home. HERE. He’s a goof, and he’s still a pup (9 months old.) But he’s also sweet-tempered, cuddly, and loving. He and Tuck are already best friends. Yes, dogs are a lot of work. Any pet adds to your daily chores. So do kids. And spouses. Yep, everything would be so much easier if we didn’t have all those other people and critters in our lives. Easier. Definitely cleaner. More calm.
And terribly, unbearably lonely.
So what’s the burning question?
Today, one of my favorite bloggers, Danielle LaPorte asked, “What do you want… that you already have?”
It was the perfect question for me to ask myself, today.
Your to-do list is really a travel brochure.
My plate is loaded. Full up. Spilling over.
I have so many projects in the air, I’ve been suffering major brain buzz. I hardly even know where to start.
Now, life coach and writer Martha Beck has a great article on how to unhook yourself from a to-do list. I think she actually suggests scheduling “empty time” in there.
And I know my life is so much more than a to-do list. One of her clients, on her deathbed, jokingly said, “At least this is one more thing I can cross off my to-do list!”
But I needed something more. Something that felt more like my whole approach to life. And this morning, I found it.
I was writing my morning pages–the “brain data dump” I try to do every morning. Sure enough, “more things I have to do” kept popping up as I wrote, and I dutifully added them to today’s ever-growing list. It’s already so long, I couldn’t possible complete the tasks in a week, let alone a day.
With a big sigh, I started to prioritize my tasks. What could wait? Which ones were more important? Which IS more important–the ones about my family? The ones about the latest foster puppy? The new open studio tour I’m working on? Cleaning my studio so I can HAVE an open studio? What about my upcoming surgery? Should I focus on getting healthy? What about my phone date with Lyedie this afternoon? (You can read more about integral coach Lyedie Lydecker here and read my article about her here.
Ah. Lyedie. What was that she said about time?
It’s not about priorities. It’s not even about balance–balancing family time with art time, friend time with exercise, pet care with health care.
It’s about awareness, and intention, and engagement.
For me, it’s about crafting a whole life. Seeing, learning, participating, growing. Not sideways(sigh), but inside-ways.
That’s when it hit me. What my to-do list really is.
It’s a travel guide for my life.
It’s not an AAA road map. It’s a list of possibilities.
Priority be damned.
Some of these tasks aren’t high priority. But they also won’t take much time or effort. Or I can do them on my way to another, “higher priority” task.
Some are totally unimportant. But I like doing them. They look like work, but they are actually fun.
Even some of the most important ones aren’t necessarily time-sensitive. They’re big, but they can wait. And sometimes, they can’t happen until other smaller, simpler steps are taken.
But what really blew me away today was thinking about the unimportant, quick, not fun, actually dreaded tasks on my list from a week ago.
It involved picking something up from a person I’ve had totally negative encounters with. This person is sarcastic and resentful, in a job they hate and not getting the recognition they feel they deserve.
I thoroughly dreaded the pick-up, and had to force myself to do it. Actually, I did it first because I wanted to get it over with.
I decided to be my higher self for just a few minutes. I said I was sorry for the circumstances behind their donation.
And the walls of anger came tumbling down.
I’m sorry to be so circumspect, but want to protect their privacy. Let’s just say that I saw another side to this person, a totally different aspect of their life that blew me away. They opened up to me, sharing their sadness and joy, their dreams and hopes.
It turns out I was able to speak to that in a way that encouraged and supported them. I gave them the small thank-you gift I’d prepared, and they were delighted and grateful.
Now, the point here isn’t that all people (okay, almost all people) have an inner beauty, if only we knew where to look.
The point is, this was an item on my to-do list I’d dreaded. And it was actually a door into something powerful and profound.
There was a connection, a reconciliation, a new way to interact with this person in the future.
And it all came from a place I never could have predicted.
Now I’m sitting here with that same to-do list.
It looks different. It doesn’t seem to fill me with as much anxiety. Time doesn’t seem like a upside-down bottle of sand with grains running out the bottom.
It looks like a travel guide to a mysterious, exciting and beautiful new country, a country I’ve wanted to visit all my life..
After browsing some other artist blogs, I realized I don’t write very much about my own process–what I actually do during the day, and how I make what I make.
So today here’s a little peek at what I’m working on.
I’ve been working on a series of very tiny fabric collages. These are mini versions of my fiber wall hangings, small enough to wear as a pin.
They’re going well. I’m in “the zone” and feeling good about them. I’m using tiny horses, fish, bears, birds and I even have one with a tiny otter.
I was so confident with my progress, I called to schedule a photo shoot with my photographer, Jeff Baird of Brattleboro VT at 9:30 a.m. sharp. (Ha ha. Jeff knows I’ll be 15 minutes late.)
I just realized we’ll be gone this weekend.
If I want to finish 15 mini collages in time to have them photographed this Monday, I have to get them done today.
I’m about 75% finished with four, and 50% finished with eleven. I needed four tiny orange buttons to finish one. I had three. So I stopped to make more.
I just made 180 very tiny orange button beads.
They’re now in the oven baking, and I’m working with the collages that will use aqua, yellow or leaf green buttons for now.
Here’s a picture of one showing the very tiny orange buttons.
How is your day going?
P.S. I just ran out of pale aqua buttons.
P.P.S. Oh for cryin’ out loud–bright olive green.