Closing the gap.

If you have read my blog for any length of time now, you understand how I struggle with self-improvement projects. I am constantly picking up goals that I feel I should have to get me to where I would like to be. Nothing too sinister or insane, either.

For example, I started reading a book by Julia Cameron called The Artist’s Way, and in it, she recommends a new practice right off the bat – morning pages. I had heard of morning pages before, and they didn’t sound like much special – write three pages, longhand, first thing every day.

About anything. No wrong way to do them, no content restrictions or guidelines, no quality standard, no right or wrong about them except that doing them is right. Doing them is the goal. Doing them gets the upper film of gunk cleared away so that when you sit down to write, or paint, or whatever, it’s easier to get the good stuff out. It’s easier to get the good stuff out when I am not worried about my sister, or losing my job, or thinking about how I want to rearrange the dining room and reorganize the kitchen cabinets.

My brain is often in the way of my creativity. She races and backflips and taunts and nags me about everything I haven’t done, or said, and she is constantly compiling an unachievable to-do list. So the morning pages help my brain get out of the way, they escort her to a nice comfy chair and hand her a good magazine and say “wait here, please.” And she usually does, until the next morning, when as soon as I crawl out from under the covers, she is right there at it again, nag, nag, nag.

I started the morning pages the first time I started reading the book. That was around February of 2011. I may have continued them for about two weeks. Eventually, I thrust the book out of reach, because I grew frustrated with the content. It’s nothing about the book, trust me – it’s completely about me and my own resistance to some of the exercises in the book. I stopped the morning pages. Nothing happened.

In September of this year, I decided to try reading the book again. Over a year and a half had passed! I remembered that the morning pages had actually been beneficial, so I started them up right away, with gusto. I even picked out a special notebook for them, and a special pen that was only for morning pages. When I didn’t get to them first thing, I took the notebook with me to wherever I was going and tried to do them as soon as possible. They were great. I was feeling inspired, lighter, more motivated, and way less stressed out than usual.

Of course, I eventually stopped writing them after about two weeks. It probably wasn’t for a good reason. It’s just like exercise. All it takes is one excuse, one skipped workout because of something small like a runny nose, to spiral me from workout fiend to couch potato. And so, one day of not writing became two, became a week, became two… you see how it goes. Until, eventually, a year and a half later, I remember that once upon a time I did something that really benefited my writing practice, and I should actually pick it up again.

But not this time.

I wrote morning pages today. Only about two months have passed since I did them. It was like catching up with an old friend. It felt so good, so relaxing, that I actually fell back asleep for an hour! I only woke up when Mr. Thor called my name because he wanted help in the kitchen.

Only two months. Not a year and a half. Maybe it’s because I am getting older, maybe it’s because I am losing my job, maybe it’s just because I finally want something more than I can excuse it away – but I am not going to let myself get lost anymore and have to start from scratch.

This applies with eating, as well. The last significant slide off my plan I can remember was this past spring. I got wobbly in March, and by May I was double-fisting hotdogs at a memorial day picnic, and by September I was buying donuts from the gas station. But I dusted myself off at the end of September, lost twenty or so pounds, and this past week started to wobble again. But I can’t take it for more than a couple of days now. I have seen the slide, and I can’t take it. The discomfort of “getting my shit together RIGHT NOW” is so much less than the discomfort of being disappointed in myself for multiple months.

I am making a conscious decision to close the gap. Faltering and falling is normal. But the truth that coexists with that normality is that every minute of every day, I have a choice. I have a choice between doing the right thing and doing nothing. So when I stumble, I can wail and fret and roll around in it – or I can get up and keep on going. The sooner, the better. Not after 6 months, not after a year and a half. This week. Tomorrow. Today, even. This minute.

I am not perfect, but I am moving. Today may not have been all that I wanted and hoped for. I may have let myself down and fallen short of my goals – but tomorrow is another chance.


The pressure to focus.

The pressure is on, and I don’t’ know if it’s in a good way or a bad way. I am writing this month, and writing a lot. My goal is to write 50,000 words of something before December 1 rolls around. And I find myself now, more than ever, pulled toward other pursuits. Wouldn’t this be a great time to cut out some fabric for that sewing project I have been meaning to do? Or maybe I should clean my studio, alphabetize my patterns, re-start my crochet hobby, maybe try knitting too, then learn how to make some fingerless gloves because every time I sit down to write my hands are icy cold. Let’s not forget about my guitar that is languishing downstairs behind the couch, the deep spring cleaning that never happened, the website redesign, the two other web domains I bought and have left to languish.

These thoughts have been racing through my mind for the past few days, and every time, like playing whack-a-mole, I beat them down. No. No. No. You are WRITING this month. Nothing else, or you will never, ever make it to 50, 000 words.

Today I read something on Facebook about a friend who could teach me to stencil on some off-white carpet remnant and my heart skipped several beats. “Just what I have always wanted!” I thought.

But no, that’s not what I have always wanted. I have always wanted time and energy to be crafty and express my creativity in a physical way (not just with words).

Crochet is not a great way for me to do that, because I have exactly enough patience to make one scarf, and if I get interrupted? Forget it. I forget how to read patterns, and then I forget what kind of yarn I was using, I can’t find that hook I need, which is exactly why I own about 17 G hooks.

Knitting is a terrible way for me to express myself creatively. First of all, I have tried to learn how to knit approximately 7 times in the past 5 years. It usually involves tears, swearing, watching and re-watching the same “how-to” video until I have everything memorized, even when the narrator takes a breath.

Random other crafts such as carpet-stenciling, wreath-making, upcyclng peanut butter jars into lanterns (I just made that one up but I bet you 7 million dollars that it is on the internet somewhere), or basically anything that involves a hot glue gun are fun, yes. But they are not what I need right now.

Right now I need two things: Writing and sewing.

Both of them require almost all of my attention when I am working on something.

Although I would never call myself an expert at writing, I can do a great volume in a fairly short time and feel pretty good about it. I can whip off blog posts without too much thought about the technical aspects of formulating my thoughts. As long as I can keep my thoughts moving slowly enough I just have to telegraph them from my brain to my fingers and the rest takes care of itself.

I am far from an expert at sewing – more of an extreme beginner – but I love it. I love the precision required, I love the occasional troubleshooting, I love knowing where every single one of my mistakes are even when an average non-sewer can stare at it, seam by seam, and never know it’s not right. I love putting colors and patterns together, I love standing with bolts of fabric, stacking and re-stacking them until I figure out just the mix I want. I love daydreaming about someday having mastery, about someday making a skirt that I would wear in public. I love my sewing machine, the fluid way that it churns my fabric under the foot and then out the back. I love that if I demand something looks perfect, I can usually get it there.

I have an entire room in my house that is dedicated to writing and sewing (OK, and it is also my closet and my exercise room, but that doesn’t matter when I am sitting in front of the computer or the sewing machine). I have a special space set aside for these endeavors. I have a clean desk with a computer on it, I have an owl painting hanging on the wall and a collage on the door that says “Hope blooms here.” I have a sewing table, and a cabinet filled with notions and supplies, and a toolbox for the things I use most, and a basket for my rulers and patterns and funny bits of materials that I don’t want to lose. I have hoops on the walls with some of my favorite fabrics stretched tight over them, above my sewing machine.

Just writing this has made me so much calmer. I was absolutely frenzied when I came up to sit and write this morning. I knew that I had too many other things to think about, a job that is ending in just 11 days, a Sudoku game that is unresolved, a pile of dirty laundry downstairs, a workout to do, mail to be sorted, and if I’m completely honest, about half of my house could probably stand to be hit with a magic eraser today. But believe it or not, those things will work themselves out.

My priorities right now are writing and sewing. Even though I am not sewing, I plan on it. I haven’t sewn since June, but I miss it.  I am trying to make writing part of my regular scheduled programming, even if right now I seem to only sit down and puke something out when I am too stressed to do anything else.

I may actually be insane.

I am trying my hand at NaNoWriMo this year. If you aren’t acquainted with any other insane people and you are too lazy to click that link, I am trying to write a novel (50,000 words) between today and November 30. Have I ever written 50,000 words? Not in the same piece of writing. Not of fiction. No, not at all.

I am doing it with the hope that I can clear the pipes, develop some form of discipline and learn how to get my ass in the chair.

Pray for my soul.