Shopping for art supplies

Starting a new project should be fun but no-one said it should be easy

You know the problem of shopping for art supplies in proper art shops is you soon find out you don’t know what you are talking about. And if you don’t know then you are likely to make a fool of yourself three times in an hour or is that just me?

Shop One: the man was friendly and took pity on me obviously realising I had been on an American website and the measurement I thought I knew, I didn’t. He sold me the baseboard he would recommend for book-binding as the one all the students use. I didn’t even realise this was a common art school practice but it perhaps explains why it’s such a trend online.

After fitting myself out with my tools and board. He mentions a lot of people like that board because you can paint it. So as well as learning a new tool, I need to learn how to embroider the pages together (and there are a myriad of ways) and now I need to paint too? I tentatively suggest I might want to cover with paper but that’s at another shop.

Before I leave he shows me the binder rings that “a lot of people find easier to use”. I think he has the measure of me and I tell him I will be back!

Shop Two: I make it in to the larger arts and crafts store but they are having a huge student discount day and as I enter someone tries to hand me a milkshake and a form to fill in. Though I am temporarily flattered that I am taken for a student, I am soon put off. The over attentive staff member with presumably with a sales target in mind directs me towards the sketchbooks and paper at the back of the store. That’s not what I asked for.

Way too people-y in there for me, I don’t even make it as far as the craft paper. Instead I take a circuitous route to avoid the enthusiastic people.

Shop Three: Realising I am near the fabric shop I decide that I should look out for ribbon, thread and needles. Again the staff member is attentive. When she gets the ribbon down it is not the right colour but she does try and find me one nearer to a forest green skein of embroidery thread I find.

photo from lovely site with ideas for kids

Next she helps me with needles, but when she learns that I am attempting book-binding she looks confused and suggests something completely different. I ask her to show me the needles if I did want to do it the way I was reading about. And she brought over the needles. When I commented on how short they were she brought over a load of needles.

This place most of all I felt like I needed to know what I was talking about or she just couldn’t serve me. I reserved the needle and thread I had chosen but could not pay by card. By the time I found two ATMs out of order, I was totally overwhelmed and came home without anything. Sorry for wasting your time needle-lady.

As much as it’s good to go to local stores with expertise, the intensity I felt in them asking specific questions, their need to understand my project was off-putting. But only to me, I can see. Maybe partly because I am embarrased about my project, embarassed to have a go, because my inner artist wants to try something new but also feels unsure of herself. Feels outside of this artistic world.

This resistance I feel is good, it tells me I am stepping outside my comfort zone. Not only in trying out a new artistic endeavour but in actually approaching people in shops, asking for advice. Because we are used to not having help anymore, shopping online, asking no-one but strangers reviews. And because I, like many I hope, fear not knowing the answer.

This revelation is quite useful to consider in how I am approaching my life at the moment. One of my affirmations which I must repeat more often is:

You have a right to be a beginner

The staff who helped me today were all friendly and happy to help. They didn’t do or say anything wrong when they questioned what I was going to be doing. I know now more research is needed to understand everything a need to do book binding. But thinking how hard I found it just to go shopping, how much harder will it be to embark on my artistic endeavour?

Time to detox?

Don’t worry, I am not going to sell you charcoal or cider vinegar…although my suggestion may be worse: is it time to take a digital and reading detox?

I avoided this step when it came up on week 8 of The Artist’s Way programme but I knew I would give in eventually. I have already been monitoring my time on social media with a phone app. But giving up reading too? Hadn’t one of the reasons I reduced my screen time been to make time to read?

According to Julia Cameron the reading detox is the section her attendees moan about the most. Since the book The Artist’s Way was published, she has also updated the detox to say no digital media consumption.

The idea is instead of going online or reading, you allow your brain to go other places. Hopefully creative places. Here’s what I did during a week detox:

Puzzles, crosswords and also a jigsaw with my son. I suppose when I started the week I was optimistic that I would have quiet time but when it came to it I still found I needed busy work. Down time is so important to me that I did not find I could launch into a new project straight away. In the quiet moments I got out a puzzle book or finished a jigsaw my son had walked away from,

Craft project more to come on this, but I started learning about book binding. I used to have a lot more craft supplies in the house but since clearing the clutter I have admitted that a lot of the craft supplies hanging about the house were more ambitions that actualities so I just have basic tools. I found this frustrating that I had to go out and buy new things to make craft happen but when space is a premium, you can’t keep everything arty in case inspiration strikes once every five years.

Wrote but only a little. I was too tired to really use the time for writing which may seem like an excuse, but we are coming off some busy weekends, a birthday and a child with a cold, sleeping even less than normal. Maybe then the “detox” was not as inspirational as it could be because I could not summon the energy to do much.

Napped: this feels embarrassing to admit and gives stay-at-home parents a bad name but I rested in the afternoon twice in the week. As I mentioned my sleep has been poor and this means I have to be realistic about what I can achieve in the limited time I do have to myself.

Local graffiti: sometimes synchronicity is a bit too on the nose

Worried My phone is a major distraction from the overactive part of my brain. But what is odd is that I found it a relief to be away from the News and stress-inducing social media. Unfortunately, my brain just worried about other things, so I had to combat the feelings with a lot of journaling. I think that this has highlighted to me how much I need to return to meditation and relaxation because without my usual distraction it was often quite hard to quiet my mind.

Missed Out: but only a little. There was some people’s news shared on Facebook and I didn’t see, some sad, some happy and I felt bad not to have commented. We are all so out of the habit of calling people I suppose I may not have learned this news other ways. I did take the opportunity to catch up with a couple of my closest friends on the phone.

Binged TV at some point it was inevitable that I would give in to the TV. I am not sure whether it is just synchronicity or my current questions that brought me to Mr Robot. But, that’s going to help you really re-evaluate your relationship with social media even if the conspiracy thriller also leaves you a little paranoid.

And finally I….Cheated I am not going to say I was totally offline all week. I certainly didn’t manage without TV. I also posted on my blog and ended up on Twitter to share the post. Then I went down an Instagram rabbit hole after a Real Housewives story came up on my Google homepage. Finally, someone was leaving from my old work and so I had to use Messenger to join in the chat. But still I reduced my use to just a few hours in a week.

So, would I say that a detox increased my creativity?

Not really, but I would say that it has made me stop and re-evaluate. I logged out of the apps on my phone so I have left them like that so that it takes some effort and a conscious decision to use them. I also realised that I was using my phone in particular to distract myself. Although I have written about it being a great tool, maybe I need to use it less. I came back to reading with a lot more enthusiasm and I think that this shows this is a much greater priority for me than social media.

I would love to know if anyone else has tried a reading and digital detox? Did it help your creative brain?

Lucky number seven

Seven! seven today! Because you know “isn’t seven the most powerfully magic number” (Did I just quote Lord Voldemort?)

My son is seven. I always get waves of nostalgia now on this day. I think about all the birthdays and that day seven years ago. I was temporarily super woman. No really, I think being in labour was the most powerful and confident I have ever felt. It won’t feel like that for everyone, but I will always be grateful for just the right level of pain relief, the birthing pool and the self-hypnotherapy I spent weeks learning. I was lucky that day and everyday since.

I decided a while back to take down my blog about him because there are private challenges I didn’t know how to share. I read a lot of blogs about parenting and admire so much the way they share but keep just enough private. But I can share what’s wonderful about you.

  1. You walked in to wake me and said “It’s the first day I am seven!” Despite the early hour, you always wake up raring to go. I love your boundless energy.
  2. You still love a cuddle (on your own terms of course) and I am so happy to snuggle you close. I am happy to be your safe place, your soft place, your best place to land for as long as you need.
  3. You have blessed me with love I didn’t know I could have. Having a child is like having a piece of your heart on the outside. (That’s from the excellent film “Judy” via someone else, I am sure.) Even when you are away, I feel it deep inside, part of me is with you.
  4. You make me laugh all the time but now you have started to understand jokes: we are peak for finding penguin bar jokes hysterical but it’s the giggles that are the best.
  5. You boss me about and if you do want me to play I have to do what I am told. But most of all you want to share it with me, your Minecraft world, your biggest numbers, a video you have seen. Sharing your passions with me are some of the best parts of the day.
  6. You can’t stop drawing: maps, big numbers, alphabets: your pictures litter the house and you go through papers and pens even more than me. Not only are you also a stationary addict, you have this love of your ideas that is an inspiration to see.
  7. I love that you adore the moon. I think seven is often the age for dinosaurs or space for lots of kids but I love that curiousity drives you to learn things I never have. You want to be an astronmer now. Reach for the stars, kid!

What a wonderful little person to be around. Happy Birthday Little A! Having you in my life, I really am the luckiest person!

The vision vs reality

No-one told me life was going to be this way…in which I consider the writing life I envisioned vs the reality. And how to overcome it anyway!

I recently wrote my imperfect guide to morning pages because grabbing time to even write three pages in the morning is hard. But it got me thinking about how much my disappointment in my writing is to do with the wonderful life I envisioned as a writer.

I thought I would:

Have a beautiful writing space

In a recent shoot in Vogue of Madonna is typing on a type-writer, sleek white shirt, cigarillo and coffee as she works. These beautiful nod to Parisian artistes and a bygone world sum up how I envision the romance of a writerly life. She is pictured in Fashion, Hemingway loft-style, if I am not sat with a quill, I am imagining this. To be an artist, you have to be this.

But she is Madonna. And I am sat in my pyjamas on my bed writing on my lap. There’s a pile of washing in the basket at the end of the bed I ought to put away.

This was where Austen wrote, so what’s my excuse?

My solution to dealing with writing space problems is often to go out as I wrote earlier this year in Nowhere to Write today, is to write in cafes. To take inspiration from other people’s curation of space and if all else fails, write whenever everyone else is in bed.

Work solidly in the time I have

Sure, if the muse takes me, I can sit anywhere and write but even on my best days sitting in a cafe can be distracting. I find myself absorbed with people or the music is too loud or sometimes I just have to sit and eat cake.

The solution I find is to make notes in margins of what has annoyed me. Sometimes what I have seen will even wend its way into my work. Like the woman taken to a coffee shop to discuss her future at the company, she started me thinking about how people at my main character’s work place may have dealt with her breakdown.

Plan out my novels

I have admitted before that I only have a casual plan for the books I am working on. As I start a scene I may jot down what is supposed to happen but I can’t decide if a detailed plan would do me more good.

My solution has been to try and be flexible and try a few ways the story could go. The way I track the ever changing order is by listing scenes on a spreadsheet and having a chronological list on one sheet.

Finish while my son was a baby

They just come with all this washing…

This is a big reality check for me, my little baby boy is about to be seven and a reminder that no, neither of the books I have worked on since he was born are final drafts. What a fool I was to think that maternity leave, or even working part time I would have time to write.

My solution is so simple, I am carrying on regardless. It may be going at a turtle pace but, as the running adage goes, “you’re still going faster than anyone sat on the coach”. Before I turned thirty and had a baby I didn’t even have the confidence to do what I do now: try and write.

Reality Check

I have shared solutions here but what else can I do? Well as I embark on the #last90days of this decade I can commit to working on my draft everyday. This morning that meant writing a few lines on the bus. What motivates me to try: by working on what I dream of doing, my vision may one day become a reality.

What did you get wrong about being a writer?

Learning to say goodbye

I have been dreading the end of The Artist’s Way programme, so how do I learn to say goodbye?

#Creativity #Last90days

This is the blog I have been putting off writing, you may have noticed I have been writing my guides to doing the steps on The Artist’s Way Programme. This is partly because I think the Morning Pages and taking Artist’s Dates have been helpful, I also think I have been avoiding the inevitable, coming to the end.

As the final week ends, I am reflecting on the resistance that I feel to ending the whole process. This mirrors my continual revising of the ending of the book I am writing, which of course changes the start I come up with and continues the process of drafting for evermore. This may just be the way I write, though I would like to think that there may be a time where I am confident in the writing a story I have plotted, I have a feeling my tangents are part of my process. So why are ending so hard?

Change is the only constant, for one.

I had the opportunity to test out how difficult endings can be, I learnt that someone from my son’s school whole family had moved away over the Summer. As is typical, we had not seen them in the holidays, but I am sure my son would have been happy to see their little boy in his class again, as they have been in school together for the last three years. When I learnt the news, and that they had had to go with no notice, I was shocked. It threw me completely and I think I was far more upset than my son at the change.

Sometimes people move away. Liscensed under Creative Commons

I have a history of finding goodbyes challenging and have left schools suddenly myself, so I am sure like a lot of things, this linked back to childhood fears. Saying goodbye is something is you learn to do over and over. So I called the family and also helped out a little here. It felt good to get closure on this phase of my son’s life as well as my own. And I got some satisfaction that I was a good friend on his behalf. I think stopping to acknowledge parts of your life that are changing is very important. That this happened as I finished the programme is something the author Julia Cameron would call synchronicity and I am inclined to agree.

I know as I step off the cliff from the comfort of the programme, I have to carry on writing my pages and using Artist’s Dates. But I also have to get the work done. That is not to say that I will not revisit the programme or dip into the exercises but in a sense, I have done this programme all the way through for the first time. That should be celebrated. Early on in the book, Cameron says a lot of people drop out or resist the programme which in the main part I haven’t. Although I did avoid the digital and reading detox in week eight. I am in fact coming back to it now and will report back soon.

So, it must be acknowledged, I did it! I have found ways to adopt pages into morning although sometimes it means I snap at those around me to leave me alone. I notice if I have a bad day, I will find I haven’t done my pages in the morning. It’s become an essential lifeline. I can also say that I am writing though still not as regularly as I like. The next steps are making the goals into tangible steps and using the #last90days of the decade to really finish what I started. With this in mind, I have a new writing planner on excel including blogging schedules: mundane but necessary to try and use the time I do have to work efficiently.

But the goal of the final week of the programme is to “Recover a Sense of Faith.”And that means being surer that your life will lead you to where you need to be if you continue to work towards what you want. I am still uncertain, of course, but I think I approach doing my work with more confidence than before. And I think having insight into my resistance was a great way to uncover things for me. As I don’t like endings, as is clear, I will leave the post I didn’t want to write on a quote from this chapter:

“Life is meant to be an artist date. That’s why we were created.“

Julia Cameron

I would love to know if anyone else has completed The Artist’s Way programme, do you still use it, has it changed your life?