Procrastinators of the world, unite … tomorrow

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What do you do when you have a squillion and one things on your to-do list and deadlines breathing down your neck?

Why, you start crocheting a random shawl, of course. Despite the fact you’ve never worn a shawl in your life. And summer is approaching, and said shawl could not possibly be worn for another six months.

Hello, my name is Marina and I’m a terrible procrastinator. Well, actually I’m a darn good one. It’s my habit of procrastinating that’s terrible, and it seems the more urgent the tasks hanging over my head are, the more likely I am to skive off and do something else completely. It’s as if the weight of everything hanging over my head paralyses me and makes me incapable of doing anything.

I am enjoying crocheting again, though!

And the situation isn’t quite as dire as I’m painting it. I’ve written two scenes in Moonborn since my last post. Should have been more, of course, but two is better than none, and I only have five to go. I’ve finished the read-through of the first draft of Fairytale Curse 2, which is the first step in my revision process. I also finished up a beta read of a friend’s novel, so I haven’t spent all my time crocheting.

Funny thing about that, though. I realised some time ago that all my creative pursuits have fallen by the wayside since I got serious about this writing thing. No more quilting, crochet or scrapbooking. Each of those has been a huge part of my life at one time or another, and I miss the colour. I’m a very visual person. I love playing with fabric, and seeing a piece of art emerge under my hands. It still thrills me when I look over a piece of crochet forming and marvel that this object is taking shape from a single strand of yarn. I miss the tactile nature of practical crafts. Making up worlds and people in your head is a very different kind of creativity, and even though I love that, life has felt like it’s missing something since I started focusing so exclusively on it.

And sometimes, particularly when deadlines are looming, even the most creative enterprise can still feel like work. That’s when a hobby, something you do just for fun, no pressure, can be a wonderful release. Whether it’s baking, woodwork, gardening or crochet, there’s nothing like the feeling of creating something with your hands, and the quiet, contemplative nature of such creation makes a great stress release.

So maybe my shawl wasn’t so random. Maybe it’s my subconscious’s way of telling me to stop and smell the roses a little. That’s my excuse, anyway, and I’m sticking to it!

What activities do you turn to when you need to chill out?

Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas, everyone! Hope Santa brings you lots of nice books to read. I was lucky: I have a new Benedict Jacka, a new Guy Gavriel Kay, and a lovely quilting book so I can plan a whole bunch of new quilts to join the unfinished pile.

Christmas was very yummy at our house. The girls made these gorgeous Santas that featured in the Sunday newspaper last weekend. Aren’t they cute?

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And here’s a couple of photos for the Dr Who fans. Don’t blink! There’s a weeping angel on the top of our tree this year:

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Fortunately my husband’s traditional tree-topper is a great defence against their deadly gaze:

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Hope you have/had a lovely day, full of friends and family and good cheer!

3 ways to liven up your next dinner conversation

We are big believers in sitting down every night together for dinner and chatting. The ducklings are old enough now to be amusing dinner companions, and we have some good conversations, despite Baby Duck’s occasional derailments into Minecraft or Lego territory.

However, Baby Duck can sometimes take a loooooong time to eat dinner, and even the best conversations tend to trail off, leaving us all staring resentfully at him, waiting for him to finish. When that happens we have to get a little creative, and we have three tried-and-true methods for getting the party started.

Charades

An oldie but a goodie. Maybe it’s corny, but it sure can be fun and even quite young kids can join in. I have rarely laughed so much as watching the Carnivore try to get us to guess “The Bourne Identity”. What he was doing looked illegal in at least forty-three states.

“Three True Things”

I don’t know what this is really called, but I call it “three true things”. Everyone has to take it in turns to say three things that happened to them that day. Two of them must be true and one should be a lie. Everyone else then picks which thing they think is the lie.

The kids love this one! The trick is to make the lie believable enough that no one identifies it – or else pick a true thing that seems outrageous. The family gets quite creative trying to outsmart each other, but it’s also a good way to get some details of your children’s days, particularly if they’re the sort that says “all right” when you ask how school was.

The Sentence Game

I read about this on Joshilyn Jackson’s blog recently. You need a sheet of paper and a pen. The first player writes a sentence at the top of the page – the more oddball the better. Then they fold that sentence out of sight and pass the paper to the next player, who reads it then attempts to draw a picture representing the sentence. This gets passed to the next player, who can only see the drawing, not the original sentence. They then have to write a sentence that represents the drawing, and pass it to the next player who draws their sentence and so on.

So with our family of five, we get sentence-drawing-sentence-drawing-sentence. Depending on whose turn it is to draw, the final sentence can closely resemble the first one, or have nothing at all to do with it.

Let me give you an example.

Demon Duck wrote: “The Neanderthal came alive out of the painting” and passed it to Baby Duck.

He did a real cracker of a drawing, with lots of careful details:

So the sentence I wrote was quite close to the original: “The caveman jumped out of the painting and came to life.”

Then we came unstuck. It was the Carnivore’s turn to draw:

 Not too bad, but he lost Drama Duck completely. Her sentence?

“The cave painting of the goat and the sheep(?) and the early human sent an arrow of super powers to the caveman nearby.”

Okay, now it’s your turn. Baby Duck gave me a sentence and this is what I drew. What sentence would you write to describe this drawing?

 
 

Creativity just for fun

Ever get that feeling that you have too many things you have to do? Too many responsible and grown-up tasks grinding you down? That feeling can be death to the creative urge.

That’s when you need to bust out and do something completely pointless, just for fun. I found just such a thing on Lynn Viehl’s blog recently: the instructions to make a cute little “journal” of eight tiny pages from a single sheet of A4 paper.

So for a couple of hours I gave the to-do list the flick and played with pen and watercolours instead, decorating some of my favourite quotes.

 

You can see how little it is.

 

 

 

This was the perfect-sized project for an underdeveloped attention span like mine – quick enough to finish before I got bored and chucked it in the pile with the fifty bajillion other unfinished projects I have.

 

And here’s a photo of the whole thing opened out again.

 

 

 

You could make copies of it this way if you wished. Pretty neat, huh? Or you could do the whole thing on the computer in the first place, and insert photos and/or text, as Lynn did in her example. Lots of possibilities for creative play!

Follow the spark

Once upon a time, a writer wrote a book full of twists and surprises, about dragons and werewolves, mothers and lost children, loves and betrayals. The first draft was completed in the rush of blood called NaNoWriMo, and for once the writer was so pleased with her story that she stuck with it and started the laborious process of revising and beautifying.

The plan was to finish this process loooong before Nano rolled around again the following November, which would leave her plenty of time to plan the next novel, which would be a continuation of this exciting story.

Can you guess what happened next? Or rather, didn’t happen?

Yes, that’s right, I didn’t finish the revision. I still have seven scenes to go. As November loomed closer I began pushing myself to plan the next novel while still madly revising – not an impossible task, certainly, but every time I tried I ran up against the same problem. I knew, in very large terms, what needed to happen, but everything I loved about the first book was missing. The twists and mysteries were what made the first book exciting for me, but they’d all been revealed, and the second book would be a much more straightforward “kill the baddies, win the battle” affair.

And I couldn’t think of any way to make it interesting enough that I wanted to write it.

I’m sure, ultimately, I will be able to, but with mere days left in October I knew I couldn’t come up with anything in time. It looked like I’d have to sit Nano out this year.

Then, on the 30th of October (why do I do this to myself?), I thought: Self, don’t be such a piker. Why don’t you just write something else?

Oh, sure. Last year I was so organised. You should have seen me! I had characters, plot twists – scenes planned out on index cards. Me, the ultimate pantster, and I even had an outline! I was so proud of myself. No more flailing around in the dark! And Nano had gone so smoothly as a result.

And now here I was, getting ready to buy a ticket on the express to Flailsville again. What was I thinking?? I didn’t even have an idea. What could I possibly find to write about in one day?

Well, said the little voice, you always said you wanted to write a version of the fairy tale Toads and Diamonds. Even as a kid, though I’d loved it, it seemed to end too soon. But what happened next? Maybe I should write it and find out.

A little spark of excitement flared. Okay, get out a pen and piece of paper, and write down half a dozen different ways you could approach it. Change the sisters to brothers? Set it in an unusual location? Tell the story from the “bad” sister’s point of view?

Soon I had a bunch of ideas and a whole lot more excitement going on, and that’s what decided me. Write the book I felt I should write, or the one I now really wanted to write?

Easy decision. Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re not bursting with excitement at the beginning, the chances of making it to the end aren’t good. When you have two (or more) ideas to choose between, go with the one that sparks for you. 

So that’s how I came to be 13,361 words in to Attack of the Fairy Tales, a novel I had no inkling of a week ago. I’m living in downtown Flailsville again – crazy place, but a lot of fun sometimes.

So there’s my writing tip for the week: follow that spark!

Baby Duck’s art show

Every year Baby Duck’s school puts on an art show. It’s very low-key – no champagne opening  night or sales! Just a couple of afternoons after school when you can wander around the school hall and see what the kids have been up to. Each class has a display, but every year until now they’ve been pretty similar. Oh look, kindergarten’s been doing self-portraits. Year 4’s obviously been learning about collage. Display board after display board full of individual drawings/paintings, of little interest unless it’s your child’s work.

I don’t know what happened this year but wow! Somebody lit a bomb under the art show. So much imagination on display! Lots of 3D artworks, lots of different artistic influences, from giant African masks to modern sculpture. It was a real pleasure to walk around and see something new and interesting at every turn.

Baby Duck’s class presented a giant underwater scene.

I heard lots of complaints about the endless balls of crepe paper they put into making this but one proud little duckling couldn’t wait to show it off.

Of course he had to point out which fish he did himself.

Why am I not surprised that his fish is back to front? Always likes to stand out from the crowd, that child.

The brown paper turtle was clever.

And I loved the coral:

One of the year 6 classes made a gorgeous spray-painted tree and hung it with wire-and-bead birds. So pretty and creative:

One of the kindy classes had made monsters out of tissue boxes, where the opening for the tissues was the mouth, rimmed with suitably ferocious teeth. I didn’t take a photo, but they were adorable!

Year 1 also had a bird theme. Not as delicate as Year 6’s, but very cute:

 

And then there were these feathered beauties:

 

It was a great effort. The teachers and kids should be proud of themselves. I know Baby Duck is!

Happiness is …

Happiness is a pretty rainbow of threads making a bright spot in your day.
I took this photo in the midst of the renovation horrors of last year. I was sitting on my bed in the middle of the kitchen, sewing little birds and resolutely ignoring the chaos all around.
It looks so pretty and serene, doesn’t it? – almost like something out of a magazine. But just out of shot the debris of our lives was piled up in huge, depressing, tottering stacks. I can still see it when I look at this photo.
Sometimes sewing is a real sanity-saver.

Chagall with mangoes

I’ve been attending an art quilting class this term at here.

Oops. I can’t believe that was nearly two years ago! Aaaand it hasn’t got much further along in all that time. I know, you’re shocked. But it now has a red leaf and is ready to quilt, so hey – progress! Glacial, but progress.

So, given the fact that I work so much better with a deadline (ah, Grasshopper, self-knowledge is a wonderful thing), I decided to join the marvellous Kathy again for art quilting classes.

Our first month the assignment was a still life. Not the most exciting of things to me, having watched Mum paint half a bazillion of them over the years, but oh well. I dutifully flipped through some art books for inspiration – artists love still lifes – and gathered my fabrics to take to class.

When we arrived Kathy had some all-white objects to set up against a white backdrop, her point being that colour would distract us. If everything was white we could really concentrate on the shapes and the relationships between them. You can see Kathy’s account of the class

I love Chagall’s blues! I was picturing this colour scheme, with the window and the bowl on the table in front of it, only with mangoes in the bowl. In my head the contrast of the orange mangoes against the blue room would be delicious. Only problem was I’d forgotten to bring any mangoes with me, so off I trotted in the middle of the class to buy some.

Once I’d done a quick sketch of my mangoes (without looking at the paper – yay for bold free drawing!) and worked out the proportions of my design I got busy with my blue fabrics creating a background. I tried a new-to-me technique for cutting and piecing curved lines, so there are no straight lines in the piece. I like the slight wonkiness of it all.

I completed the background by the end of the class. True to form, I then put off adding the bowl of mangoes till it was almost time for the next month’s class. It felt like it was going to be too hard. Without the motivating power of the deadline I still wouldn’t have done it, but I managed, and it wasn’t as hard as I’d feared.

At first I wasn’t happy. I’d tried to suggest shading by using different fabrics, but it seemed to me that it hadn’t worked until I was doing something on the other side of the room and happened to look back. Then I could see the blending effect and felt better.

I still have to quilt it, of course, but I’m pleased with it so far. For some reason I’m ridiculously happy with the shadow under the bowl, of all things. Mainly just because I thought to add one(!), but also because it’s a scrap from a quilt I made for my Dad many years ago.

Turns out still life was fun after all!