Monthly Archives: June 2013

On learning to love what you do

These days, it seems like there is a whirlwind of things I should be doing to live a simpler life. Things that will save me money, save the planet, get me moving, and slow life down. Every new thing seems just as important as the last thing, and I get stuck trying to figure out what I should really focus on, and end up not doing anything.

Perhaps what would be better for me is to choose the option that I love. Do the things that bring me joy, just on their own merit, and see what happens. In the end, maybe it’s better for me to make my own bread because I love cooking, not because I want to save money. Better to carpool when I can because I love the conversations with my husband, instead of just because it’ll help my carbon footprint. Even the small things make a difference over time. I’ve been so busy convincing myself to do things because they’re good for me that I’d forgotten that learning to love them for what they are would work better in the long run.

Today, when I’m cooking dinner at home, and packing the leftovers into the freezer for lunches, I’ll be saving money. But really, I’ll be doing something I love because I love it.

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Music to Cut Paper By


So the thing about cutting paper, is that it’s slow. I mean, I’ve gotten faster since I first got started, but it’s no letterpress or computer based graphic design. There’s still the limitation of the hand holding the exacto knife, and the person sitting in the chair doing it.

And the thing about cutting paper, is that the knife is sharp, and you can’t un – cut paper. So you have to pay attention, which means that watching movies doesn’t work very well. I used to watch documentaries while I worked, but the catch was that if it had an interesting bit, all work would grind to a halt, and I’d come to as the credits rolled. Not a winning strategy for finishing projects.

My compromise has been to play music, podcasts, and other audio while I work. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve been listening to:

1. Radiolab  You might have heard these science shows on NPR in the car, depending on where you live, but I ran into these as podcasts. Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich spend an hour examining different scientific topics by talking to scientists, doctors, and people on the ground. Fascinating stuff. The production quality is amazing – something like an old fashioned radio drama meets Nova.

2. Stars of the Lid  If you’re someone who can’t concentrate if there’s talking going on, you should check out any of the Stars of the Lid albums. This Austin duo creates vast wordless soundscapes that stretch seamlessly into each other for hours and hours. Beautiful, haunting stuff, and provides a sound backdrop to the studio without sounding like Muzak.

3. Langroise Trio I ran into one of the albums of the Langroise Trio, “Volante”  at the library when I was looking for some background music for an event I was helping with. Apparently, this group resides at the College of Idaho, and has been creating haunting music together for twenty years. “Volante” tells a spare story over the course of the seventeen tracks, weaving more abstract works with a more narrative style.

4. The Moth  Now, if you’re the kind of person who can deal with doing art while listening to words, you should also be listening to The Moth. The Moth is an open – mic story telling event and podcast, where the only rule is to tell the truth, with no notes. You get everything from the hilarious to the heart wrenching, and all of it is really good. Really, really good.

What about you? What are you listening to in the studio this week?

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Stay on target… Stay on target…


Momentum is a tricky thing. Too little, and everything slows to a halt. Too much, and everything spins out of control. And then when you’re tracking more than one project, everything really can get a bit out of control. Just in time for the craziness of the summer craft fair season, I’m starting to get the hang of tracking multiple projects at the same time. It’s something like letting one slow down a bit, speed up another, keep the third at a steady pace. Checking, rechecking, calibrating, re – calibrating. A cross between a switchboard operator and the Wizard of Oz.

These days I’m tracking a few major projects in the studio – developing a fine art portfolio, maintaining a product line for the business, and staying inspired by writing the blog. The current approach is pretty simple – an adapted Getting Things Done  system, merging a paper system with monitoring on the Iphone and Cozi – but so far, it seems to be keeping me on top of most things, most of the time.

The most powerful tool towards keeping the momentum at a sane pace has been balancing Next Actions with Tickler actions. Keeping the option to either actually do something about the project, or to remind myself to follow up on the project in a few weeks has been huge in the studio. It means that I have permission to set some things aside, so that I can follow where my energy is pulling me. It makes the creative steps more satisfying – I can doodle and design drafts without spending a third of my bandwidth on worrying that I’m forgetting something.

I’ll keep you posted as the summer cooks along – with any luck I can keep this going and maintain my grip on reality too. What about you? What systems are you using to keep track of your creative projects?

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Utah_25_2010 ed

Over the past few years, my church started a new experiment – to choose one topic per month for the church, its youth and adult groups, and its ministers to focus on. It’s been a grand success, and one I recommend for any team, family, or group of friends.

covenant: n. An agreement.

Summer is just getting started out here in the Northwest. Which means that it’s still gray and cloudy most of the time, but we’re getting enough dry sunny days to put away some of the polarfleece and go out into the world. Everything is waking up, sprouting parties and meetings and productions like crocuses.

And as everything gets more busy, it’s easy to forget what we have promised – those offhand comments that we’d help with that project, or do the publicity for another, or help run that meeting on Tuesday. Everything else always seems more important – something about how the newness of what’s popped in front of us is always more interesting than what we promised to do yesterday.

This is the hard work of keeping agreements, to notice the pull of something shiny (but out of scope), and to step towards what we’ve promised. To try and stay conscious enough to notice when things have gone astray, to choose to take stock of the situation, and then to choose to take a new action that might be less comfortable than what we were doing.

Today, I’m clearing house on promises over here. I’m going through it all, remembering what’s actually on my plate, what I want to add, and what I want to release to be dealt with another day. So far, it feels good, lighter. Just in time for summer.

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