Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Inside & Outside the Lines

I have big plans for the rest of the year, so my writing days are starting to assume that roller-coaster quality they get when I'm trying to manage a lot of projects in a short amount of time. Before I get completely immersed, I thought I'd put on the brakes for a minute and look back at how I've done so far with 2012's theme of coloring outside the lines.

I joined a penpal initiative, and started out writing letters to twelve complete strangers. I wrote one invitation-to-write-me letter that was sent out at random to six people, and replied to six letters that were randomly sent to me. I didn't try to hide who I am behind a fake name or anything like that; I figured take me warts and all, or not. Three never bothered to answer, five were good for one letter, two managed two letters, one is still writing (sporadically) and one has been a steady correspondent who is becoming a friend. Sustaining a real correspondence through letters -- just like writing anything -- is as much work as it is joy, so I didn't have expectations. That I reached out to strangers was very not like me but I'm glad I did.

I had an art exchange with another artist in a medium I rarely show anyone -- my jewelry making. I've been getting more into metal and steampunk, and all my quilting pals do are beaded pieces now and then (which are great but they're more about the patchwork.) I've also been creating these fusion pieces with quilted, beaded and metalwork elements and I want to explore more of that. It's lovely to know someone who is working in this medium.

On the home front I threw my family in a rental car and took them to another city for a long weekend. I planned nothing in advance but the rental car, the hotel, and a very brief visit to a college. I never do this. We had an amazing time. We're definitely doing it again.

I've done more self-promotion since January than I probably have in years. At times I've asked friends and colleagues for help, something that I never do because I have a real phobia about imposing on people. I'm still wrestling with it but it gets a little easier each time. I'm wrapping up the year with much more effort to promote my work in ways I've never before tried, and so far it's been good.

Where I fell short this year:

I didn't enter the art quilt challenge I talked about in early 2012. I wanted to do it mainly to introduce a new technique I've developed, but at the last minute I chickened out. It was a combination of time constraints plus dread, but mostly it was dread. I'm going to try again when I do a few more test runs and feel a little more certain of my expertise. This is a solid solution to an age old problem all quilters have, and I don't want to screw it up.

I stopped work on my 1K Cards Project, which put me a month and a half behind on it. I've since caught up, but allowing emotional stress squash my creativity is not a way to cope. I know I handle problems best by working through them, not hiding from them, and when I'm feeling blue I need reminders of this.

I've pushed myself this year, but not hard enough. I've avoided some opportunities to step outside the lines because I was either keeping the peace or I felt inadequate. Often I just couldn't get past my need to organize everything perfectly; some things cannot be planned, mapped out or predicted. Fighting your routines and your methods in order to try new things can be exhausting, and half the time I gave into the familiar and stayed behind the lines when I should stepped out.

I think every year is a mixed bag in some fashion, but this one has been a real 50/50 for me in every category. So far 2012 has taught me that you can set goals you think are reasonable, but you discover they're a lot harder than you thought only when you're working toward them. Channeling your energy appropriately plays a big part, too. Things that seemed only a little difficult in the planning stages are much tougher when you're tired, or depressed, or spread too thin.

Are any of you still working on the goals you set for this year? How are things coming along for you? Let us know in comments.


  1. Fran K6:24 AM

    I really admire you for setting goals and keeping to most of them, and I don't think its just because you have to keep to writing deadlines.

    For the past couple of years I've been finding it harder & harder to even set goals due to an overwhelming apathy which has me sunk under. I'm not sure what to relate it too without giving your my whole boring life story, but I think menopause has a lot to do with it. I find it hard to motivate myself to do anything other than going to work and reading. I've tried giving myself little rewards like "do that washing up & clean the kitchen and you get to read 5 chapters with a nice cup of coffee" but find myself thinking "what the heck, I'll just keep reading...".

    I used to be so outgoing and busy ... maybe its got something to do with having no little ones to run around after as my boys are now 21 & 18. They don't need me now especially as No. 2 son's gone away to university. No. 1 son still lives with me but as a chef works unsocial hours and sometimes I don't see him for a couple of days.

    I know I have to get out and meet people but the lethagy (and financial constraints) really doesn't want to let go. I want to break out of it but can't seem to. Any ideas / remedies to the menopause blues would be much appreciated.

    Then I can move into 2013 with a new attitude and improved outlook ... I hope.

    1. I've wrestled with depression most of my life, Fran, and what I've discovered that helps me most is to work through the blues. Creative activities, cooking, gardening, house-cleaning, or anything that has physical tasks to keep me from sitting around and brooding. This was especially helpful during the stretches with my menopause when I was fighting to stay off the emotional rollercoaster.

      Aside from writing I'm very invested in quilt conservation, but I don't much care for traditional clubs and organizations. Over the years I found some women who felt the same and we formed our own private guild. Because we're scattered all over the country we communicate by e-mail, but we do try to get together in person every couple of years. We mostly share techniques and challenge each other, but we also do charity projects and group activities within our own communities. If you have a similar passion, you might try to find others who share your interests and form your own support group.

      Volunteering is another way to make new friends who share your values. I regularly donate supplies and my time at one of the local no-kill animal shelters, which is where I've met a lot of great people who are committed to animal rescue and public education. I've also gotten together with a bunch of authors, editors and agents in a number of projects to ship books to soldiers stationed overseas, provide books to patients in veteran's hospitals, and helping to start a mobile library for Army personnel fighting in Afghanistan. If you volunteer to do something you love, you'll find other people just like you.

      Going back to school to study a subject you love is another way to expand your horizons. If you can't afford to enroll or there aren't any schools in your area you can often find inexpensive classes to join online. When I took an art class online this year I had a blast, and that experience has given me the confidence to think about enrolling in an art class next year at university.

      Since you love to read, you might check into starting a book club at your local library. You could meet once a month to discuss one title everyone agrees on, and if you start the club yourself you can decide how you want it to run, what sort of books to focus on, etc.

  2. Eh, I don't set goals for years exactly. Just...goals.

    One that I had set for myself-write an UF, try to sell it. I wrote it. It didn't sell. So I did myself. And that's...working out pretty well, I think. :)

    So I'll do more.

    Next goal-world domination.

    Or maybe I'll try to focus on hitting the list that keeps eluding me.

    1. World domination is highly over-rated. All those countries wanting to squabble over every tiny skirmish can be a real pain. :)

  3. I've done less painting than the goal I set for myself. I flirted with artist trading cards but I only made half a dozen. I've met all my writing goals but one and it's a big one--tackle that book that I want to write even though it intimidates me. Next year. Definitely. Probably. Maybe.

    1. NaNoWriMo is less than a month away. Just saying. :)

  4. This year has brought massive change, and we are still trying to catch up, I think. At the beginning of the year, my husband was unemployed and we lived in a house not built for wheelchair use.
    Today he is working as a teacher/mentor in the computer industry and loves his job. We moved in July to this fully accessible apartment which (as you can imagine) really revolutionized my life.
    I have been struggling to balance my new freedom with the need to not push myself physically (my will is stronger than my common sense). I am SO much healthier that I am writing more reviews than ever before and beginning on my 50th birthday (Oct. 6th) I will devote time each day writing fiction.
    I have reduced my pattern design business and will use my craft time for playing. And also for pursuing the Master Knitters program. :-}
    So, although I feel like 2012 kind of rolled me around in the surf, I have regained my balance and am moving forward better than ever! I am looking forward to 2013.

    1. I know having an enabling environment at home clears away so many other obstacles, Diana, and frees you from worry so you can focus on what's important. It sounds like you're going to get a lot accomplished. Happy birthday. :)

  5. Oh, that's so reassuring to know that there's a writer who doesn't mind busying her hands with crafts (I always feel a little guilty when I crochet--after all, aren't my hands supposed to be on the keyboard)?

    I started having real plans only deep in the second half of the year (at the beginning, I thought this will be a perfectly normal year of doing my day work and just getting along, definitely INSIDE the lines. I think that I actually made a promise to myself not to stand out, not to do anything crazy, keep up being normal, don't embarrass yourself, keep your mouth shut and your eyes down).

    Then life changed. And I set up a couple of deadlines for myself. Crazy deadlines. Deadlines I knew that I had no way of meeting. However, there's the good thing about them: I realized that if I set up a crazy one-month deadline, I get the job done in, say, one month and a week. If I set a cautious, reasonable one-year deadline, then I will *probably* get the job done, but, let's be honest, one year is a perfect time to come up with a really really good excuse of not finishing the project at all. So I decided that for me, overestimating my abilities actually works better. I don't have the time to get scared. I just sort of go "wheeeee!" and jump. And if I swallow a mouthful of sea water in the process, that's just part of the fun.

  6. Lynn--I would remind you to, perhaps, add this to your goals: be gentle with yourself. It's something I struggle with. Why is it so much easier to be supportive of your friends and loved ones than yourself? (I think if anyone can answer this, a nobel prize is in the cards. LOL.)

    Thinking of you.

    (ps--your card brought tears to my eyes--the healing kind. xxoo)


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