Lauren McLean Iuppa Ayer

Poet | Artist | Optimist

One Small Project

Our second #daretoexcel prompt arrived yesterday, but, unsurprisingly, given my first burning question, it took me a bit before I could sort an answer.

#DareToExcel Challenge – 2:

What one small project can you define to start creating into your burning question?

Complete the top half of the My Project Brief Sheet – title, problem, feeling, and/or question as well as the wonder & curiosity that can light you up to excel. Share it with your audiences. You’ll be glad you did later in the challenge.

To help you focus, write or draw or design a simple project brief. Don’t make it overly analytical but don’t undervalue this really important process either.

Set limits and constraints. Maybe you limit how long you are going to take to create this small project. Will you limit how many pages, designs, or features the project will have? If it is for an audience or a customer base, what problem do they have that this small project might respond to?

Unlike our first prompt of the challenge which came to me in a flash (actually two back-to-back flashes), prompt number two required a little more thought–partly because I have two questions, which at first, at least in my mind, aren’t really that connected. The very first thing that popped into my head when I read this was Jeffrey’s rephrase of my first question, which he simplified into a short, catchy phrase: What if I make instead of mull? Which is great, but a) how does that translate into a project, and b) how does that project relate to my second question about the book, when the first question was actually about sewing? Which of course sent my brain into full mull-mode. So instead of continuing to let it spin itself into a tizzy, I decided to sleep on it.

As it turns out, “sleeping on it” is the perfect metaphor for how a Make, Don’t Mull project would work.

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It seems counter-intuitive at first, focusing on quilts in order to make space for a book to grow, but the longer I sit with it, the more right it feels. In some ways it’s just like taking up meditation in order to relax and clear the mind, except with the added bonus, of finishing incomplete projects that have been weighing me down. Their completion will not only free the head-space that they’ve been occupying, it will also free up the physical space in my one small room, and may even bring in a few extra dollars to boot.

So while I am stitching away, at the rate of at least one seam per day, I will also be ramping up my book research. But instead of obsessing over every historical and mythological detail, trying to will just the right way to weave it all together, I plan to make basic notes as I go, but otherwise take a laissez-faire attitude, allowing the pieces to mix and mingle naturally, letting the threads and characters make their own connections, letting the story lead the way.

This is not my usual tack. I have always been a plotter not a pantser when it comes to writing books. It is also not my usual way to finish anything beyond a first muddled draft that I find it difficult to untangle. Perhaps by letting the story steer for a change, together we might actually reach our destination.

 

4 Comments

  1. Oh Lauren, Thank you so much for this offering. This is exactly the encouragement that I needed to hear today. I love this idea that the story will emerge in the background, doing its own work. I’m coming to realize more and more that my stories and writing develop most vividly while I am tackling farm projects (especially when wielding the weed whacker!) or even on my long commute. It’s almost like my mind is more productive when it’s working in the background, not under the pressure of the spotlight. It also helps me feel the value of these tasks, that could feel or be perceived as monotonous or a time-suck, as a useful time to develop ideas. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and helping me distill these feelings! Thank you!

    • layer

      July 4, 2015 at 5:45 pm

      Thank you. It helps so much to know I’m not the only one out here, madly trying to figure out how to fit together the seemingly disparate parts of my life, when all it really takes is letting them feed each other.

      • Yes, Lauren and Vanessa! You both…..well, you’ve said all the things I could say about that. Like Vanessa, I find that it’s outside time that best feeds my writing–long walks in the woods, getting dirt-covered in the garden, working until my muscles are sore and my heart light. I’m so grateful to have encountered both of you; you so often say with unbelievable elegance the things swirling in my heart.

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