*happy-happy, joy-joy*…new books!

Lame brag post, sorry. Too tired/busy to come up with something substantial from Wednesday to Friday, as I work long hours. Lookin’ forward to my four day weekend, to put together something you can use!

Still, don’t you love the crisp, pristine loveliness of new books? I love my local library, but its books are dictated by the borrowing habits of its readers…comprised mainly of bored housewives, kids, and senior citizens (they’ve got a LOT of “Large Print” books!), and I have tired of easy fiction, lately, and wanted something less mainstream, more challenging to digest.

two penguins

Because a truly good book doesn’t need fancy cover art to pimp it—the content IS the candy…

Can’t describe the joy these retro Penguin paperback covers give me…they’re iconic as heck! I wanted them all. Three is plenty.

And what about these essays by Theodor Adorno from Routledge, the academic publisher I slept with at university  🙂 The essay “On Free Time” is a scathing critique of the way we live now. I like that! I like views that see through all our Emperor’s New Clothes and laugh at how self-deluded we are.

STORIES, Edited by Gaiman and Sarrantonio

Exciting in an other way is this gorgeously styled and photographed book on black work, with lots of modern charted blackwork designs that I can’t wait to put to use!



Committing to 15 Projects

This picks up where the last post, Michael Nobbs Takes 20 Minutes a Day, left off. The simple idea is to:

….Pick something you’d like to achieve and publicly commit to doing it.

Then regularly (everyday if possible, but at least three or four times a week) work on your project for twenty minutes.

Michael Nobbs | Sustainably Creative » Take the 20 minutes a day challenge.

Deciding to take this challenge up, I made a (rather long) list of things I’d like to work on, make, achieve, experience, do…and picked the first (or the most pressing) fifteen items on that list. I’m going to try and give each of these items 20 minutes,at least 3 or 4 days a week, and see if I can bring them all closer to the finish line at a roughly even rate, without neglecting any one of them.

15 Projects I am publicly commiting to doing...

1. Fill a sketchbook with drawings

2. Join a group and complete a 365 photo challenge

3. grow a lovely veggie and flower garden on the boat

4. “Random Acts of Crewelty” : Have An Exhibit in 2011

5. The Phat Quarter Swap: Movies!

6. Sew a Spool Bird: “Red Brocade Bird”

7. Sew at least one item with each of the patterns in my collection

8. Make a group of 15 journals using the Allium flower technique

9. Framed, embroidered pendants and jewelry

10. Read 10 books before the end of the year

11. Use up all my small canvases…paint lots of small paintings!

12. Write 4 poems

13. Craft a series of patchworked journals and mini quilts (20)

14. Craft 12 Bijou (miniature) books using existing materials

15. Complete the August Challenge on 750Words.com

Most of these projects are part of a bigger project, with its own blog, called From Hell to Breakfast

Michael Nobbs takes 20 minutes a day

Michael Nobbs is one of those admirable people who you sometimes see, quietly doing whatever it is they are doing—putting one foot in front of the other, one small step at a time…not making out that they are doing something heroic, not making a big fuss about it at all—and then it turns out that they were actually completing a journey to the North Pole, or achieving some other huge goal like that, while the rest of us were were just shuffling back and forth to the corner store.

The thing about really big projects is that they can be intimidating. If you always keep an image of the completed project, the dream fulfilled, foremost in your mind, the disparity between where you are NOW and where you’d like to end up can seem so huge that it’s actually discouraging.

Michael wrote a post on his blog where he shares his technique for getting a lot of things done, slowly but surely, over time. It’s called The Twenty-Minute Challenge,

What is the challenge?

The challenge is simple. Pick something you’d like to achieve and publicly commit to doing it. Then regularly (everyday if possible, but at least three or four times a week) work on your project for twenty minutes.

Michael Nobbs | Sustainably Creative » Take the 20 minutes a day challenge.

Some of the things that Michael suggests you can do in twenty minute bursts are to fill a sketchbook, blog, learn a language, or write a book. He suggests you pick projects that have a specific aim, or a clear end-point (three months, for example), rather than something interminable that stretches on and on into the distant future, and I would say that’s because it helps to reinforce your motivation to do things if you can gauge your progress, and enjoy a feeling of accomplishment as you arrive at the end of a project.

Some tips

  1. Get yourself a dedicated timer for your project.
  2. Projects that need very few tools or resources work best.
  3. When working on your project do so at the exclusion of everything else.
  4. Don’t skip the public commitment step. A very good post about this over on Zen Habits. Committing to something publicly is a great way to stay true to your goal.
  5. At the end of your twenty minute session, stop. Don’t be tempted to work on after your timer has rung. If you have the urge to do more, that’s great, it’ll mean you’ll be even more motivated to start again tomorrow.

drawing tools
Another reason that doing things in twenty minute parcels is such a great idea is that you can work towards several goals at an even pace...without excluding or sacrificing any of them, or having to put everything else on a back burner. This is important to me, personally, because I find it very difficult to commit to any one thing…if I have to drop 3 of my plans and dreams to focus on just one, I automatically start to worry and panic about the other 3 and cannot concentrate on the one that is at hand. It’s a crippling mindset to have because I end up paralysed and not accomplishing anything!

So I’m getting ready to post a public list of modest projects that I would like to work on in twenty-minute packets of time, here on my blog. It’s exciting! And a bit like signing a public contract…when other people know and are watching, it helps hold you to your word.

Have you got some medium-to-largish projects that you’ve had trouble starting on (or finishing)? What are they, and do you think that working on them everyday for twenty minutes could be the answer for you?

7am: Dude & Doona

July and August are part of that time of the year that people in Darwin call The Dry—characterized by much less humidity in the air, by a stiff wind blowing in from the deserts in the South, and a drop in average temperatures—though we haven’t seen proper Dry Season weather this year, at all. The last couple of weeks have been humid and hot as hell…a subject that the locals will happily discuss over and over again, with anyone they run into!

Thankfully, there was a change in the air last night and we had to dig our doonas out at 3 in the morning, as the humidity dropped to 27% and a cold wind blew over the water all night, making it chilly enough at 7am to want to cradle a hot cup of with both hands and put socks on to keep the toes warm!

I have a lightweight doona (quilt) that is perfect for these not-so-cold nights during The Dry, but have had to share it with Mr. Four Paws, Sixteen Claws here.

something beautiful : : encre 1670 by J.Herbin, France

Depuis 1670...

I love dip-pens, and I am mad about subtly-colored inks in lovely bottles. In fact, I love the writing produced by very fine steel calligraphic nibs so much that I wrote my class lecture notes at university using a dip pen…cradling a little bottle of  sepia ink in my left hand and covertly dipping into it as I scribbled. I was a bookbinder, too, and so my notebooks were handcrafted, hardbound, and covered in real marbled paper. Oh, it was hoity-toity, la-di-da, and affected TO BE SURE! But—just so you know—my notes, covered in very fine, dense, coffee-colored calligraphy, looked AMAZING. It was totally worth the hassle!

I don’t collect pens and inks so that I can keep them in a drawer and once in a while do some fancy party-trick calligraphy, either: I use my steel nib dip-pen in a wooden handle, and my rainbow of bottled inks, every day. I once, stupidly, filled out a job application for housekeeper at a hotel this way. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job…shit, would you hire someone to make up dirty beds and scrub toilets if she crossed her t’s with looping flourishes? *laugh* I should have used a blue biro, made my letters a centimeter tall and dotted my i’s with little hearts, instead!

I write my journal entries, notes in my daily planner, my to do lists, my pipe dreams, sometimes even my Post-it notes, in a small, italic hand with flourishes and decorative swirls. Because it’s times like these—all the mundane, everyday moments that actually make up a life—when standards in taste and quality should apply. Show-off moments, when you are surrounded by an audience, don’t count: the true quality of your life is determined by the way you spend your time at home, alone or with your family, on the ordinary days.

Encre “1670“, also known as “l’Encre des Vaisseaux” (The Ink of Ships) is a special Anniversary Edition of the blood red ink (Rouge Hematite) that French ink- and sealing-wax-maker, J. Herbin, originally made some 340 years ago for the French…er…people? 😉 I was tempted to say ‘courtiers’, but that’s just fanciful and romantic. Hah. Probably, he made the ink for clerks and lawyers. But hey, don’t f**k with my fantasy! Being in Australia, I buy my J.Herbin inks from the New Zealand pen and writing supplies shop, Zany…they are friendly, fast, efficient, and there is a warm human touch to dealing with them that many of the larger companies online simply can’t provide.

A beautiful blood red ink that is somehow also deeply orange, and yet also a deep rose colour. Clean hues, with no hint of brown at all, and also much more strongly pigmented than the company’s regular fountain pen inks (The Jewel of Inks, or “La Perle des Encres”.) The variegated shades that emerge as the ink pools and dries make for rich, subtle, beautiful (not at all like the uniformly bright red ink used by zealous professors to correct examination papers!) lines. This is an ink to write a passionate love letter or cast a spell with, or pen some swoon-worthy poetry in. What are you waiting for? Go on, then.

Do something beautiful with your life; it is later than you think.

1670 by J. Herbin

Depuis 1670...

A particularly compelling writing bug

Soon after Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way came out, everybody  was talking about Morning Pages. Morning pages were three pages of continuous, stream-of-consciousness-style writing that you were supposed to perform “in long hand” every day, so early in the morning that even your brain hadn’t woken up yet. It was by far the most successful exercise in the whole book, and everyone I knew started doing them. My mom—who owns a copy of every New Age, self-help, inspirational, motivational, behaviour modificational book that has been published since 1978—immediately got herself a copy of The Artist’s Way, and gave a copy to each of her children. I wrote my Morning Pages for a couple of months; my brother Bruihn, who is an ace painter and not blocked or insecure about his art at all, wrote them for much longer.

Writing those three pages (approximately 750 words, or 250 on each page, if handwritten) every day loosened up the tight, cramped muscles of the mind. After the first week’s pages, where beginners…well, okay, where I mostly wrote that I had nothing to write about, or wrote about the exercise itself…my thoughts started to fall into place and I found that I could think more clearly, expressing what I wanted to say with a richer vocabulary and more efficiently; that I could sustain an orderly progression of ideas from Question to Solution to Better Question.

750 Words is the online, future-ified, fun-ified translation of this exercise.

You create your account and log in, and are immediately confronted with the day’s blank screen: there’s the date at the top, and a word counter at the bottom. That’s it…no titles, no tags, no frills, no drop-down menus of categories, no having to decide who gets to see this post or not (it’s all private), no formatting, colors, or styles for the type; somewhere behind that calming white screen a timer has quietly started, and since there is nothing else to look at or tweak with, there’s just no avoiding the act of writing, itself. You start by starting, like the “journey of a thousand miles” that begins with one step.

Buster Benson is the clever, enthusiastic, and one is moved to say ‘caring’, man behind the site, and a veteran Morning Pages writer, himself. Obviously, he’s a highly motivated and disciplined individual, since he not only uses his own site without missing a day, but had to do all the work to create it, and he maintains it, as well.

But his site has managed to turn even lazy procrastinators like me into eager daily typists…and I have done the morning pages before, so why do I react so differently to the exercise this time? Would you believe that a dozen or so little bird and animal badges like these ones have actually helped to motivate me? You get these badges for writing so many days in a row without missing, or for being a consistently speedy typist, or for typing without long pauses. I love my badges! And I keep wanting the next one up…the Albatross for 30 consecutive days, the Phoenix for a hundred days…750Words.com—badgesIt’s competitive, but not necessarily with other people…it’s more like a computer game, where I am simply trying to get more points and move to the next level: I am competing with my previous points, and trying to better my own performance.

But better than badges (and this was a stroke of genius on Buster’s part) are the stats. I love the pseudo-science of statistics: they are mathematically and precisely calculated, yet the results are so easy to influence and contrive, that they’re ridiculous. 750Words uses all sorts of data culled from one’s writing—from words per minute and speed records to most frequently used word clouds, your mood and concerns for the day—and turns them into colorful pie charts and bar graphs. Not that any words-to-psyche measuring stick is very accurate…if I write “god knows,” I am likely to be concerned with religion, according to my stat page. But they are a bit of fun and not to be taken too seriously…you don’t really expect to see into your subconscious with a 9-color pie-chart of simplified emotions, do you? They’re all, according to Buster, “just tricks to help get us there.”


And get us there they do! I’ve written 14 days, so far, and over 14,000 words. My husband, who has written three books and published two of them, always used to advise me to “try and write a thousand words a day, you cannot fail to become a better writer.” 750 Words would be a great way to start writing the bits and pieces that might go into a book, eventually. Or you could just start with a daily prompt (from elsewhere) and write about it until you get everything you want to say, about that particular topic, out. It’s also a good place to dump, rant and vent your day’s anger, worries, gloats, hate…and free your mind to concentrate on better, worthier things.

750 Words.