Tag Archives: art

20 for 2020: week 32

Week of 3 August

My 20 for 2020 list.

20200803 Hinsby Beach 10

Why is that photographer coming back from the beach with a giant lens? Ohhhh! There’s a giant pink full moon out there! Why didn’t I bring my camera out?

We got the reading material for our final unit of the uni course (thing 8) on Monday. I spent a couple of hours organising the material and making a study plan so I know what I need to do over the next 11 weeks. I’m trying to be more organised with this unit so that I can get more out of it than I did the last one.

 

I have three weeks to work through the first three modules (there are six) before our face to face workshop. I thought that working through a topic in each module a day (most of them have five topics) would be a good pace. That would mean I’d need to set aside roughly an hour a day to work on it.

That sounded fine in theory, but finding that hour wasn’t as easy as I thought. I found myself drifting through my days without a plan and finishing the day without having done any of the work, so by Saturday morning, when I wanted to have completed the first module, I’d done exactly no readings.

It’s amazing how easy it is to not do the work when there is no real consequence of not doing it. I found with the assignment in the last unit, I could focus on that all day because I had to do it, there was a hard deadline, and there were major consequences of not doing it (i.e. failing the unit). Whereas with the course reading material, it’s all self-directed and you are responsible for doing it: there’s no one to check up on you, nothing to hand in and no mark at the end.

Clearly, if I want to get something out of this unit, this isn’t the way to do it, so I made it a priority on the weekend to complete the first module and to schedule regular time each day to work on the material. This fits in nicely with the work I am doing to better organise my workload at work and to try and prevent my role of being that annoying person in the branch who manages all the coordination requests (I mean, being my branch’s coordination superhero) leaking over into the rest of my day and affecting my ability to focus on the projects I’m supposed to be doing.

That’s a whole other story and perhaps I’ll write a post about it one day, once I get it worked out.

The other thing I need to do for uni is to decide on a workplace project and get started on planning that so I can hand in my draft project plan next week. This project will decide my final mark so there is a real consequence of not doing that. It’s been something I’ve been thinking about since the start of the course back in September 2019 but now it’s time to take my thoughts and put them into something that I’m actually doing to do. I have ten weeks to plan it, do it and report on it. No pressure, then.

20200803 Cherry blossom 1

Spring started to spring . . .

I didn’t hear back from the sewing machine people (thing 2), so I’m not sure where that’s at.

I had a conversation with one of my workmates this week, which turned into a conversation about our art (she’s a proper artist who has actually had shows). I was telling her about my Photoshop work (thing 7) and a vague idea for a project I want to do but how I feel a bit overwhelmed about getting stuck into it because it’s all so new and there is so much to learn. She said the same thing to me as I’ve heard and read so many times that it should be ingrained into my mind and something that I just do. That is, it doesn’t matter what you do, just do something. Make a commitment to do just one thing every day. She said for her it might be something as small as making a decision on the thickness of a hem. And she said that sometimes just doing one thing will lead you to do something else and something else and, before you know it, you might have completed a piece. Which is great. Or it might not, which is fine too because you’ll still be one step further than you were before you did it.

That’s the point of my 15 minutes a day creative habit. Just like my uni work, I need to schedule this and then actually do it. I know I can’t commit to doing huge chunks of the Photoshop course during the next ten weeks. I’ve already agreed with myself that I can’t possibly take on two huge study projects at the same time and that the Photoshop work is going to take a back seat for now. But 15 minutes a day, I can do that if for no other reason to reinforce to myself that I am creative and that I make art. Even if it’s bad art. To quote photographer David duChemin, everyone starts ugly. But without the ugly start, you’re never going to make anything beautiful.

I went back over my monthly review and picked up on the things I didn’t quite get through when I did it last week. In particular, I wanted to set some goals for August:

  • Complete all of the readings for Unit 4.
  • Decide on a workplace project and submit the proposal.
  • Commit to 15 minutes a day to creating something.
  • Finish two chapters of a book I’m working through.
20200804 Davey & Murray St 503pm-1

. . . and winter hit back

I also decided to ask myself three questions at the end of each week:

What did I do well or what did I achieve this week?
I can’t think of anything.

I need to pay attention to small wins and accomplishments to remind myself of the good things I did. And knowing I’m going to be writing about it each week is going to inspire me to think of at least one thing I did well . . . it’s going to look like I’m pretty down on myself if I only write about what didn’t go well!

Actually, now I think of it, I did do something well. I overcame my fear of speaking in meetings and contributed to a national meeting of about 40 people, most of whom I’ve never had anything do with, on a subject I am not very familiar with.

What didn’t go so well?
I’m still struggling with going to bed on time and getting up with the alarm instead of lying about in bed for half an hour or more. My Fitbit sleep scores are mid-80s. I want this to improve.

What do I want to do better next week?
Start packing up at 10.15. Set a reminder for this.

Schedule time to create something every day and actually do it.

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 11 (1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20)
  • Things I progressed: 2 (8, 22)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 5 (2, 7, 11, 13, 17)
  • Things not started: 4 (9, 12, 19, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit: 3
  • Days I read a book: 7
  • Days I did yoga stretches: 0
  • Days I was in bed by 10.30: 6

20 for 2020: week 13

Week of 23 March

My 20 for 2020 list: https://thesleepydwarf.wordpress.com/20-for-2020/

This week was a bit of a blur trying to get a grip on what’s going on in the world during the covid pandemic and what it means for me, my family, my work, Kramstable’s schooling . . .

20200323 Deserted Cat & Fiddle

Monday lunchtime in Hobart

My main focus aside from all of that was getting my uni assignment (thing 8) completed and submitted. I did my usual thing of writing far too many words and then spending a large amount of time trying to cut it back to something that resembled the maximum word limit (plus 10 per cent) but that still included everything I wanted to say. Much as it caused me angst, I knew I was going to hand something in. It got to the point where I was quibbling over individual words and I knew that the effort I was making wasn’t going to improve the essay in any substantial way, so I bit the bullet and handed it in. Bang. Done. I am now officially half-way through the course and I have a break for about a month before the third unit starts. Whatever that’s going to look like.

20200324 Hinsby Beach 42 edit

Tuesday afternoon reflection time

I spent 15 minutes every day working on my photo project (thing 1). I watched some of the Photoshop course videos (thing 7), and even tried to use one of the techniques, which, let’s just say, did not end well. I have a lot of practice to do!

20200328 Hinsby Beach 2 edit

Watching the clouds

This was week 4 of no alcohol (thing 5). Since I’m riding my bike on the days I go to work (thing 10), I don’t have time on the bus to read (thing 14) anymore, so I’ve been doing it before I go to sleep at night. It’s not my favourite time to read but, because I’ve been going to bed earlier, I can actually do it then. Maybe over the coming weeks I’ll be able to find another time that works better for me.

20200329 Tea break edit

Tea break instead of alcohol

Sunday was the closest Sunday to the end of the month so it was time to do my Unravel Your Year monthly review (thing 22). This had been a coffee shop ritual, but as the coffee shops aren’t allowed to serve anything on the premises now, I decided at least to stick to the ritual, get a takeaway coffee and do it at home. I don’t find it as easy to concentrate on things like this at home so I don’t think I did as good a job as I’d like to have and I didn’t really come out of it with any clear goals for April. I feel like my March goals (and sub-goals) are still a bit undone because so much has happened since I wrote them down and that I need to keep going with them rather than try and move onto the next thing.

That’s okay. I rather suspect I will have a lot of time to do that work in coming weeks.

20200326 Salamanca Place & Gladstone St 534pm 1

Salamanca Thursday home time

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 6 (4, 6, 10, 15, 16, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 6 (1, 5, 7, 8, 14, 22)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 3 (3, 13, 11)
  • Things not started: 7 (2, 9, 12, 17, 19, 20, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit: 7
  • Days I scheduled (and did) 50 or 25 minute blocks of time to work on my projects: None.  Let’s face it, this isn’t working!
  • Days I read a book:  7

20 for 2020: week 3

Week of 13 January 2020

This was my last full week of work before school goes back so I am rather looking forward to some time off next week.

This week, I rang the hearing centre and booked a hearing test (thing 16). They didn’t have any appointment for the tests I need for three weeks but I’ve finally made the appointment, so this thing is now in progress after me putting it off for more than six months.

I read some more of my uni material (thing 8) and started work on some of the exercises. The unit officially starts on Monday and the first assignment is due three weeks later. So I think most of my effort is going to be directed at that for the next three weeks. I’m really excited for this unit because it focuses on self management and a lot of the material is stuff I’m already familiar with so I think I’ll enjoy this work.

I started putting my phone away when I’m travelling to work and have been reading on the bus instead (thing 14). In my quest to develop an evening routine (thing 3), I’ve started reading before I go to sleep most nights. So far this year, with these two new opportunities for reading, I’ve finished five books. Three of them, I started last year, but they are now out of the “reading” pile. You can find my reading list here.

Things went bit chaotic for a bit over the weekend and early in the week and I haven’t had a chance to listen to any more of the creative kickstart lessons (thing 3). I missed a few days of doing my “just 15 minutes” from that class where I sit down after my walk and work on my photo project (thing 1) but I got back on track later in the week.

20200113 Jaffa & T&G 3

Happy Monday!

I looked at my 196 hours that I figured out last week that I need to get everything I want to do done in a week from the Chapter 10 exercise of Indistractable (thing 13) and ran away screaming. Trying to work out what to let go of so I can do the things I really want to do.

Just about every productivity manual I’ve read says that if you want to get something done, you need to put it on your calendar and treat it like an appointment you might make with the doctor or a meeting you have to go to at work. This is great in theory, but I don’t work like that. I see “time block for photo editing” or “time block for meal planning and shopping list-ing” that I put in the calendar last week and if I don’t feel like doing it, I generally don’t. Same as setting an alarm to tell me it’s time to get ready for bed. I ignore it.

One of the suggestions in the creative kickstart class is that you identify the times you’re most creative and you put the time in the calendar to do creative things at those times. Which is also great in theory, but the times I find I feel I’m at my creative best, I’m either at work or I’m having to do something like cooking dinner that isn’t so easy to reschedule. As for other suggestions you need to schedule three to four hour blocks to sit down and do your work, believe me, there is nothing I would love to do more. But I work five days a week, I live in a house with other people who sometimes like to interact with me and for whom I sometimes have to do things like cook dinner. There isn’t a day during the week that I have three or four hours to devote to my work so this is never going to happen then. I’m sure I could structure my weekends better, but it hasn’t worked for me so far.

This whole scheduling time to do the things I love and that are important to me just isn’t working out for me.

By Saturday afternoon, I was feeling stuck and hopeless and ready to throw it all in. I walked out of the house, caught a bus to town and went to a location I love to photograph. 3pm Saturday is not a time I would ever “schedule” for creative work. The hours between 1pm and 4pm are my lowest hours of the day, I have no energy and am no good for anything. Yet there I was (after having a quick nap on the bus, which I’m sure the driver noticed and that’s why he stepped extra hard on the brakes at one of the stops), at my lowest time of the day, going out and doing what I love to do.

I have to rethink this one and remember that I only have to take from these programs the things that will work for me. I don’t have to do everything and I don’t have to do it perfectly. I have to do something and hopefully by taking small steps, I will start to see positive change.

The same goes for the wellbeing work (thing 3). The course rolls around every year and you can dip in and out, taking what you need at the time. Last year was the first time I listened to all of the classes (well actually I finished them in the first week of January this year). I didn’t do all of the activities but I did the ones I needed to at the time. Right now I am still trying to set up an evening routine, which is an activity for the middle of the year. I have a couple of journalling tasks left over from the end of last year that I want to do to close the circle on 2019’s work and, when I’ve done that, I will call this thing done. I’ll continue to listen to the lessons each week and pick up some of the work I didn’t do last year, but for the purpose of this thing, I specifically wanted to complete the last module and those exercises.

Finally, to scrape in progress in one more thing this week, I worked on a couple of photo collages from my 2019 photojournal (thing 4). I only have four more collages to actually make (and three from this year), then I have to print them and stick them in the book. I’m nowhere near as far behind with this as I was with my 2018 journal.

Summary for the week
• Things completed this week: 0
• Things completed to date: 2 (10, 18)
• Things I progressed: 8 (1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 13, 14, 16)
• Things in progress I didn’t progress: 0
• Things not started: 12 (2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 15, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22)

Weekend wisdom 4: perfectionism meets comparison

A weekly review of things that came through my inbox that I found interesting and want to remember.

Perfectionism has been the major theme in the things that have caught my eye over the last couple of weeks and I think I’m calling an uneasy truce with it now that I’ve come to understand what it is. After much thinking and writing, I thought I was done with it and that it was time to move on to other things that were grabbing my attention. To put it in the words of a friend who I’d been talking about this with recently, I thought I had kicked that shit to the kerb.

But perfectionism isn’t done with me yet and so the lessons keep coming. It’s probably good that they do, because I don’t think you ever truly “recover” from perfectionism. You have to constantly be on your guard that its voice doesn’t start speaking to you again and that, if it does, you don’t start listening to it. And one way of doing that is to have the message that perfect is the enemy of the good (or done is better than perfect, whichever way you want to look at it) constantly reinforced because reinforcement is how the old pattern of perfectionist thinking got entrenched in the first place.

So, the first thing on Monday morning I saw was this article by Lisa Byrne on perfectionism, in which she says that she sees perfection as being the opposite of excellence. This rang a bell with me because I see my pursuit of perfection as a misguided pursuit of excellence. That is, where I thought I was seeking perfection I was really seeking excellence. I’m still processing my thoughts on this so that might not make too much sense, but I was interested to see what Lisa had to say.

Lisa says that perfectionism leads us to compare ourselves with somebody else (real or imagined) and that when we do this we’ll always come up short because we are not them. (There’s a theme emerging in these posts, isn’t there?)

In her post, Lisa writes of an interview she did with the shame researcher Brené Brown. Brené observed that we are all unique. We’re made up of different parts and we’re all many different things: mother, father, sister, brother, partner, worker, volunteer, writer, gardener, cook, artist, singer, teacher . . . whatever we are. There is no exact replica of us in the world and, therefore, no one to directly compare ourselves to. So instead, Brené says, she (we) (I) compares one part of herself to the “perfect” version of that part. So she might compare her writing to the World’s Best Writer’s work, her volunteer work to Mother Teresa’s work, her research to the World’s Best Researcher’s work, and her photography to the work of the Artistic Genius I referred to last week (no, she doesn’t, that’s what I do . . .).

And guess what? She concludes that she’s falling short in every area of her life because she compares each individual part of her life with the “top” parts of several different people’s lives.

The “comparee” might be a full-time artist who has spent their whole life learning their craft, and has been doing it 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for the last 25 years. They might have devoted their entire life to the service of others. They might be at home full-time with their kids . .  . and so it goes . . .

And hopefully you begin to see that you can’t be the Artistic Genius AND the World’s Best Researcher AND Mother Teresa AND the Gardening Guru AND be home looking after the kids all day because you don’t have 48 hours in a day or 14 days in a week to put in as much effort to each one of those things that you’d need to put in to reach the standard of one of those people in one of those areas. Even if you never slept, you wouldn’t be able to achieve at the level of all of those people in all of those things.

This reminded me of a time I was reading blogs about whole foods and trying to eliminate as much processed junk as I could. I thought I was doing pretty well until I read an article from a homemaker blogger, who said she milled her own flour because flour starts to go bad as soon as it’s milled and the fresher it is, the better.

My first thought was: Are you fucking kidding me? I make my own chicken stock, I am learning to bake bread, I buy hyper-expensive organic yogurt, I don’t buy packet sauces or tinned baked beans or frozen meals anymore, and I have my own chickens and now you’re telling me I have to Mill. My. Own. Flour.

At the time, I felt hopelessly inadequate beside this “homesteader”, who did absolutely everything from scratch, and wondered why I was bothering even trying because I could never achieve this level of food nirvana.

This week, as I reflected on how that had played out, I thought, hang on, if Brené Brown, world-renowned researcher and author, is comparing herself to others and finding herself falling short, then what hope is there for me in getting off the comparison hamster wheel?

And it hit me that maybe there isn’t. No matter how skilled I get at something, there will always be someone who is “better” than me, who knows more than me and who has been doing it longer. If I reach a level that I consider equal to theirs, then they will have moved forward too and I’ll still feel inadequate in comparison.

Comparison is a game we can’t win because the goalposts are always moving. Therefore, it’s a game that isn’t worth playing.

It’s a trap.

We compare ourselves unfavourably to other people because we’re comparing one part of ourselves to the only part of them that we see. When Brené Brown compares herself to the World’s Best Researcher or Barb compares herself to the Artistic Genius or the Homesteader Blogger, Brené and Barb are always going to feel inferior because they’re comparing a small part of their identities to what they perceive as being the whole of that person’s identity—that is, the part of that person’s identity that they show in public. (That was the only time I’m ever going to be mentioned in the same sentence as Brené Brown, so let’s just take that in for a moment . . . )

And you know what, if Brené thinks she comes up short against World’s Greatest Researcher, then I bet that the people I look up to have moments where they feel inadequate compared to someone else too. After all, they are human too. Homemaker Blogger might look at Artistic Genius the same way I do and feel like giving up her art because it’s not as good as theirs. World’s Best Researcher might look at Homemaker Blogger and feel terrible about their own food endeavours. Hell, Artistic Genius might sometimes feel totally incompetent in their own field because they aren’t Van Gogh or Ansel Adams. But they’re still in the same comparison trap that I’m in. They’re comparing their whole self with only a part of the other person’s identity.

One of my favourite expressions about this is that you can’t compare your cutting room floor footage with someone else’s highlight reel (thanks, Kendra). We don’t see the crap that the “comparees” made first, the struggle they’ve gone through to produce what they show us, the things that went wrong. We only see the finished product. We also don’t see the World’s Best Researcher pop in to Macca’s for drive-through on the way home every second night because they don’t have time to make dinner. We don’t see Homemaker Blogger’s pile of unfinished art and we don’t see Artistic Genius’s overgrown garden.

And that’s the way I have to deal with these comparisons whenever I hear that nagging little voice in my head tell me that what I’m doing isn’t as good as what . . . is doing.

So, after the initial guilt for using potentially tainted flour had worn off, I told myself that Homemaker Blogger devotes her entire life to raising her family, making a home and preparing the absolute best food she can. I am not this person, I am nothing like this person and my life is nothing like hers. For a start, I work outside the house. I have to, to pay for it. Therefore, doing home stuff is a much smaller part of my life than it is of hers. Just like I have less time to spend on my art than the Artistic Genius has and Brené has less time to volunteer than Mother Teresa did.

So rather than looking at World’s Greatest Researcher or Artistic Genius and thinking I’m useless in comparison and feeling deflated and defeated, I need to learn to acknowledge that someone else’s personal best is their personal best, not mine and that I should be striving for my personal best from the place I’m at, not that person’s personal best.

Rather than allowing it to make me feel inadequate, I can then use comparison as a motivation to do my own work and to get better. To shine my own light, not someone else’s. I can look at what it is I like about what they do and see if there’s something there that I can learn from. Perhaps I can buy better quality flour in smaller quantities and store it differently. If like the way the light falls in this artwork, maybe I can look for opportunities to incorporate that into my work. When I noticed that a writer has used words that flow with a certain rhythm, I can experiment with doing this and see if it works for me.

Comparison is a two-edged sword. When it inspires you and moves you forward, it’s a useful tool. When it deflates and demotivates you, it’s time to stop. Get off social media, stop reading blogs, take a break and focus on your own work. Forget about what everyone else is doing and go out and do what makes you happy.

And stop I will because that’s long enough to spend on one article from my inbox (which, incidentally, is still not at zero).

I had a couple of other strong messages grab my attention too this week. First, was an article from James Clear called Stop Thinking and Start Doing: The Power of Practicing More, which is a great reminder that you don’t get better at something by reading about it and thinking about it; you get better at it by doing it. The second theme that I saw in a couple of places was the importance of learning, which at first seems to contradict the message in James’ article, but this wasn’t as much about learning new skills as it was about broadening your world view through reading, exploring new ideas and getting out of your comfort zone. Here’s one of them by photographer David DuChemin, The Greatest Misconceptions in Photography.