Sometimes answering is hard because you don’t know where to start. Other times, it’s hard because you don’t know where to stop.
#LiveTheQuest – 4:
What skill set do you need and want to develop or to hone? #skill
Between a naive hobbyist amateur and a signature artist is a curious apprentice. If you ever lose the apprentice’s edge, you risk either keeping your head in the sands of fear or in the clouds of arrogance.
To live your question and respond to your challenges differently, what new skill set do you need and want to develop this quarter in order to execute your one project or something else exceptionally well? What existing skill set do you need and want to hone and sharpen? How can you do so more intentionally?
Just because I’ve managed to keep myself alive all these years, doesn’t mean I have a clue about how to treat myself well. Eight times out of ten, I consider food a chore. The ninth time it fills me with dread. And that last one, it fills me with joy (but usually only when it involves things that are bad for me). And sleep? I love the idea, but somehow that love doesn’t translate into action.
I need to learn the difference between taking care of myself and treating myself with care. And once I do, I need to develop the skills that those unfamiliar actions require, like cooking, and turning off the computer before midnight, and learning when to say no. Which brings us to skill set number 2…
Today at work, my boss and I were talking about my work schedule. She told me she has hesitated to ask me about taking on more hours because she knows how busy I am. But when pressed, neither one of us could say what, exactly, I am so busy doing. Working, cleaning, errand-ing, Facebooking, planning, recovering, writing, blogging, sewing, dreaming, seeing… living?
But the fact is, much of what I spend my time on (and sometimes who I spend my time with) has nothing to do with my priorities, or even my interests. A lot of it has to do with digging through piles trying to find things. A lot of it has to do with things that other people want from me. A lot of it has to do with should-ing. A lot of it has to do with distracting myself from all of those things. And a lot of it has to do with trouble prioritizing amid a sea of too many daily decisions.
So how do I fix it?
- Let it go
- Just say no
One good way to cut down the overwhelm of excess decision making, aside from culling clutter and other distractions, is to automate as much of our routines as we can by turning them into habits. According to dictionary.com, a habit is:
An acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.
Almost involuntary–that’s what I’m talking about. And so is SJ Scott, author of Habit Stacking. Not only does he talk about the best ways to create repeatable, habit-forming routines, he also gives us tons of great suggestions for the kinds of things that work best (spoiler: discreet, simple actions that take less than five minutes to complete). String together a set that can be linked to each other and last no more than 20 minutes, and you have a recipe for success. Identifying these actions and honing their order is a skill that I’m already working on, and once I get my morning and evening routines set, I’ll see what others I can come up with (like writing perhaps).
Writing & Editing
The truth is, I already write every day–in my journal, the contents of which vary widely from story building, to bitch sessions, to To Do lists, to dreams, to whatever else flits through my early morning (and often late night) mind. But working on actual projects–a novel, poetry, blog posts–is something that happens sporadically at best (or in an intense, focused burst usually inspired by a challenge like NaNoWriMo). To be able to work on a project consistently, perhaps even slowly (dare I say mindfully?) over time? That is a skill I would love to build. Because let’s face it, as a crafter, November is insane enough without trying to squeeze in 50,000 words.
And while we’re on the subject of words, I need to add editing to my skills list–not just editing in general. I’ve already been told by many people that I have both talent and skill for that… just not when it comes to my own work. I have full drafts of 5 novels, three of which may even be worth polishing, an assortment of short stories, and enough poems to fill a book (maybe more) which are all currently languishing in some form of filing black hole, because when it comes down to it, the razor-sharp perception and eagle eye for character, story, and prose that I can wield with precision for other people’s work, goes all cloudy when I look at mine. And if I am ever going to make a real go at this writing thing (aside from a few published poems here and there) I need to figure this out.
Sewing Techniques, & Technology
As with writing, I have a ton of ideas for quilts I want to make–many of which I just plain don’t have the skill for. Hand piecing, quilting, appliqué (regular and reverse), and embellishment for example. Structural 3D for another. Also, piecing curves, making my own patterns, dyeing my own fabric, making, mending, and altering clothes and accessories. And I’m still a beginner with free-motion quilting, paper piecing, machine appliqué, working with non-fabric materials, and can always use more work on my rotary cutting (I just never really got the hang of it).
And then there is the world beyond fabric and thread–the world of sewing technology. I have a computerized sewing machine with over 250 decorative stitches, including two alphabets, none of which I have ever used. It also includes a memory feature where you can save stitch settings and combinations for repeated use which I have also never used. Sure I can stitch, and ditch quilt, and even do some limited free-motion, but I want more. Why shell out the money for a hot rod if you’re never going to take it out of first gear? And there are other machines out in the world that I want to learn. I’m pretty good with the sit-down long arm which is basically a mechanical with a speed control and needle up/down, but what about the 26″ long arm on the 10 foot frame that I played with at AQS QuiltWeek? The one with the stitch regulator that it’s almost impossible to outrun and the advanced computer where you can select pre-programmed designs (or upload or create your own) and have the robot stitch them out for you? It’s the kind of machine that could launch 1000 ships (or a serious quilting business) and since we will be hosting one in the store, I plan to learn that thing inside out.
And I can’t forget the EQ7 software (finally out for Mac) that lets you design quilts digitally, even create and print patters (that can even be sold), and the Artistic Edge digital cutter that can whip through appliqué cutting in a flash… and the list goes on.
Sure, I can’t do it all now, but with a little discernment, I should be able to prioritize, starting with two techniques that I want to learn for one more reason than just improving my craft.
I have known for a long time that I need to find a mindfulness practice that works for me. Sitting never has. Fortunately, I believe I finally have a couple of leads: hand stitching and free-motion quilting. Aside from learning the hows of the techniques themselves, I will also need to build skill in the mindfulness components: remaining present, observing without judgement, letting go of the chatter in my mind. I’m planning to try doodling and coloring in mandalas as well.
And lastly, discernment, because the truth is, I want to learn or improve my skills at all the things. Prepping, homesteading, house building, sustainable power, blogging, French, Japanese, Spanish, Scots Gaelic, Celtic history and lore, photography, spec-fic, tarot, experimental poetry, how to build a business, how to decide which business to build, to read all the books, to see all the movies… you get the picture.
Luckily, this year, I have my priorities to help guide me: Health, Creative Work, Relationships, and Learning, in that order. Reading all the books can wait. First comes eating, sleeping, and being kind to myself. Eye on the prize.