Thursday, June 13, 2013

Some Things I Learned From a Long Trip - Projects

When we go to Nova Scotia I always bring a number of projects along since I know I'll have hours of uninterrupted time and no pressing outside obligations to attend to.  These projects include crafts, of course, as well as writing and art projects as well.  Berlin was no different.  What was different was the amount of time we had - almost three times as much time.

However, Berlin was different in that we weren't in a rural environment, with few distractions.  We were in a city that not only had things we wanted to do and see but people we met and wanted to hang out with.  What has this taught me about packing projects?

Firstly, let me outline what I brought with me and their status:
  1. Yarn and the incomplete Tourist Sweater - finished
  2. Beginning of and yarn for the Soho Smocked Dress - finished
  3. A crossstitch kit that I'm 3/4 of the way through - didn't touch
  4. The Alabama Chanin dress I started at the workshop last year - made some serious progress
  5. My collection of short stories - shopped around a little as well as submitted individual stories
  6. Drafts of stories and novel - worked on a couple of shorts
  7. Two university classes to design - started thinking about.
That should've been enough, no?  But it was clearly (yes, clearly) unreasonable for me to take a "no new craft materials for a year" pledge.  Besides going to Liberty of London where it would've taken some kind of twisted logic to leave without fabric, there were yarns that I haven't seen in Canada or the US (okay, maybe I wasn't looking for them either, but still), and when taking one of our guests to four different yarn shops (need to write reviews of them), it was too tempting.  In fact, I have a new saying, "If you leave a yarn shop without buying any yarn, a sheep somewhere cries."  (This applies to "cotton sheep" as well.)  I ended up buying four skeins of sock yarn (two to give as souvenirs to friends, one for a holiday present, and one for me), yarn for the Loop Entrelac Tank that I actually finished in Berlin but need to readjust the straps on, yarn for scarves for the ladyfriend and myself (also completed in Berlin), and yarn for the Carnaby skirt I plan to make.  I also (yes, there's more) had some Alabama Chanin fabric brought by a visitor so I could make a skirt and t-shirt that I badly needed.  I wear that skirt like a pair of jeans right now - all the time (photos will follow one day).

But even while I was enjoying my crafting time, I felt like I was being a bad writer, and that the work I wasn't doing was more important than the work I was doing.  Then my friend Artemis sent me the following response to a hand-wringing email I'd sent her:

"If you were to accept your true nature a little better, ms scorpio, it might help you take yourself off the meat hook about the shoulda woulda couldas. By that I mean you gals always pick at yourselves. If you instead used your immense power to compliment yourself and your value to the world and those around you, you might curb some of that famous scorpio internal flagellation. For example, you are a terrific hostess. I bet your new friends just love you! You are a natural magnet for all cool things, and very discerning. Being a worker, writer, crafter, artist, whatever is who you ARE, not what you DO.  Please be nice to my friend Claudia!" 

Okay, in addition to being really flattering (thanks!), I have used it to bring me back to my understanding of my creative practice, which includes all of these things and more (cooking and getting dressed being two other areas).  I've worried about the 'lack of focus/discipline' thing before, but I have to accept that my practice is different from others and that it's not a diluting of one area or another, but that there is only one area - creative.  It may not get my collection of short stories published any faster, but it does give me satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.

But back to the theme - what has this taught me about packing projects?  In the future (like when we leave for Nova Scotia next week), I need to figure for greater time allowances.  Like anything, adding time to one's assessment of how long something might take is key.  There will be times when you don't want to work on that project as there will be times when you have to rip out that project (sigh).  There may be other things added that you hadn't thought of - warm scarves, a skirt, a t-shirt, etc.  And there will be times when you can't really write another submission letter.  So here are three guidelines.
  1. Less is more.  For example, choose a knitting project you want to dedicate a lot of time to and perhaps requires a lot of yarn - say a dress or a coat or a fisherman's sweater - or bring projects that you will utilize in your locale once they're finished, the way I did with the Tourist Sweater and the Soho Smocked Dress.  If you run out of projects, I'm sure you can find more.  As the very least, someone can send you something.
  2. But bring your favoured supplies.  For me that included my Gingher scissors, sewing needles, and a set of interchangeable circular knitting needles. (Even so, I ended up buying some needles - double pointed - which I know I have at home but needed to complete a project.)
  3. Be okay with ignoring a project.  It happens.
  4. Give yourself time and space to just be in your locale. 
Not terribly profound, but it is shaping the way I'm packing for Nova Scotia.  For example, I need to design those classes while I have headspace so I'll be bringing the appropriate books and dedicating some time to that task.  I also know that it's easier to get into a writing groove in NS so I'll be bringing my writing.  I now have the goal of finishing the Alabama Chanin dress before the anniversary of the workshop where I started it (August), and I will want to wear that dress in NS.

Of course there will be a few other projects - I bring my pressure canner (thankfully we drive) because I make lobster stock as well as other things while there.  I will also want to try to get some holiday gifts made so maybe the socks and crossstitch come along.  I'm tempted not to bring an additional knitting project, but I'm not sure.  What's interesting is that there will be more time for these endeavours in the five weeks in Nova Scotia than there was in Berlin.  I don't have a way to calculate the time one will actually have, but it should be based on whether you'll have guests and/or trips (we went to London, Paris, and Morocco while in Berlin).  Then subtract a few hours for those unexpected plans, lethargy, or whatever.  Good luck!

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