Hand work, brain work: Learn things while doing chores

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I really love mindless work because it allows me to learn while being productive. It also frees me up to pursue rabbit trails of self-education, for I’m still getting my to-do list accomplished.

It always bothered me that there were so many things I wanted to learn, and yet by the time I got all my ‘mindless work’ done, it was too late and I was too tired to pursue them. Those dishes don’t care if my mind is improved or not: all they know is, they’re dirty and they want to be washed.

If you want to educate yourself, use every spare second for learning. 

I’ve listened to lectures off and on for years; it wasn’t anything new to me. I’ve been on kicks where I’ll listen to five hours of lectures in a day. But that’s not normal; on the average day, I hardly listened to one.

I don’t remember what changed, or even when it changed. But I have started becoming more and more intentional about learning, about redeeming the time, about using every spare second to do something productive. I don’t always succeed– I find myself staring at my Facebook feed more often than I care to admit. But I’m learning. I’m learning that life is short and that all these things I want to know and do in my life won’t happen without my working intentionally towards them.

Here’s some of the ways that I’m mixing hand work with learning:

  • Listening to online radio shows while tidying my room and making my bed in the morning
  • Watching videos while I’m ironing
  • Listening to podcasts when I’m editing photos
  • Reading a few pages while my computer is processing something/while I’m waiting for a page to load/when I restart my computer
  • Working on my handiwork (knitting, sewing, etc) while riding in the car/sitting and socializing with people
  • Turning on educational material while I’m organizing or cleaning
  • Learning hymns or memorizing Scripture while I wash dishes
  • Reading online articles when I’m chatting with friends (instead of browsing the internet between sending and receiving a message)

I am learning how to learn. It’s a process, and I’m just beginning it. But today I listened to the podcast “How To Become A Learning Machine“, and I’ve got some new inspiration as well as a more focused strategy for redeeming the moments and educating myself. I’ve been kind of jumping all over the place, researching everything from culinary arts to camera aperture to hemming jeans to interior design…. and it’s not effective. Sean’s tip that things must be studied in seasons, and that you should focus on one subject at a time, was helpful. I’ll be looking at my ‘currently learning’ list and prioritizing it to decide what I’m going to focus in on first.

So. Are you going to start educating yourself?

 

“I don’t know enough to write”

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NotebooksThat was something that stopped me from blogging in the first place. I could post pictures of my work— but write? I don’t have anything to write about! I don’t know enough about any given topic to suppose that I can teach people!

So I didn’t write.

What was my problem? First, the issue of pride— I was once again assuming that something isn’t worth doing until I can do it perfectly. (I wrote an article about that).

Second, it’s not true that I don’t know anything about enough subjects to write– I know more than someone who’s just starting out in those areas, and I can write to the person who is one step behind me. If I’ve been doing something for a day, I’ll still know enough to help along the person who started 24 hours later. See how that works?

Lastly– I should write because that’s how you learn. You can’t master something you don’t practice. And you can’t practice something if you aren’t willing to be bad at it for a while in order to learn how to be good at it.

Figure out what’s stopping you from writing. It’s probably not as logical as it seems at first. And then go write.

Set aside 10 minutes a day to write. Figure out what environment you thrive in. Maybe you write best when you open Word on your laptop and just type stream of consciousness (don’t stop to check your grammar or the sentence structure!). Maybe you need to step away from digital devices entirely, go sit on your bed, and write on a notebook with a nice sharp pencil (it’s amazing how inspiring a clean sheet of paper and a sharp pencil is. Really.)

Need some motivation? This video from Sean McCabe was very helpful in giving me perspective.

So go write something. Put it out there. Don’t pay any mind to what other people think. There are those who wish they had the guts to do what you’re doing. Show them how.

To the Perfectionist Procrastinator

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Friend: *sends me a meme about procrastination because he found it funny*

Me: I keep meaning to write a blog post about procrastination, but I keep putting it off.

Friend: Really?!

Me: Quite really.

It’s true. It’s altogether too true. I’m a procrastinator, and a perfectionist. And I think I’m a procrastinator because I am a perfectionist. After all, why would you do something if you can’t do it perfectly?

Problem is… if you aren’t willing to be really bad at something for a while, you’ll never progress to be good at it. No one woke up one morning a master at their craft. The most talented artist and musician have spent countless hours making mistakes and practicing before they got to the level that you admire now.

Are you comparing your first day with someone else’s 20th year? Are you comparing your fifth attempt (or twentieth or thirtieth) with someone else’s work that they’ve been practicing every day for half their life?

The practice isn’t glamorous. You won’t see a million likes on Facebook or two thousand repins on Pinterest for your everyday work. You just won’t. Not now. Not yet.

And, by the way, if you’re trying to perfect your craft just so you can get those likes and pins and accolades, I’d recommend you quit right now and go do something useful with your life.

But for those of you who are serious– I’m writing to you. Right now you need to stop procrastinating. Prioritize your schedule. What on your to-do list is really important right now? Sure, it’s probably useful. But is it useful for your goals right now? Can you put that on your ‘to tackle later’ list?

It’s not that you don’t have time. That’s not why you’re procrastinating. You’re procrastinating because you are afraid that you won’t be perfect right away.

A friend said something to me once, that has stuck with me over the years. I was talking about why I didn’t want to work on a particular project, and he said to me “So you’re too proud to be bad at this for a while in order to get good at it.”

Um. Well, I wouldn’t have put it that way. But….yeah, you’re right.

” ‘Talent’ is too often a myth invented by lazy men,” he continued later.

Too lazy, and too proud. Maybe you’re too proud to let anyone see your imperfection. You want to hide away from the world, to one day burst upon it in a blaze of bright color and perfection. Perfection! Nothing but perfection. And we will die with that dream, because it has never, is never, will never be reality.

This is why I rarely blog. It’s too much work: and even when I do put my mind to the task to do it, I am always disheartened. I come up with a billion criticisms for why I should never hit ‘post’. I compare myself to the eloquent and inspiring authors I see around the internet and book world.

It’s not comfortable. I like to be secure. I like to be happy and confident in where I am, and when I do new things and practice that which I’m not a master of, I don’t have that confidence. I feel unstable. I don’t like that. So I give myself excuses to not do it.

I’m guessing you’re not so different from me.

Tomorrow

He was going to be all that a mortal should be
Tomorrow.
No one should be kinder or braver than he
Tomorrow.
A friend who was troubled and weary he knew,
Who’d be glad of a lift and who needed it, too;
On him he would call and see what he could do
Tomorrow.

Each morning he stacked up the letters he’d write
Tomorrow.
And thought of the folks he would fill with delight
Tomorrow.
It was too bad, indeed, he was busy today,
And hadn’t a minute to stop on his way;
More time he would have to give others, he’d say
Tomorrow.

The greatest of workers this man would have been
Tomorrow.
The world would have known him, had he ever seen
Tomorrow.
But the fact is he died and he faded from view,
And all that he left here when living was through
Was a mountain of things he intended to do
Tomorrow.

Edgar Guest

 

So I’m going to work on this. One of my areas of procrastination is writing. Now– it’s on my daily to-do list to write for ten minutes every day. Just ten minutes. It seems like a lot, but once you sit down and start writing, it’s not. Especially when you aren’t being hyper critical of your work.

Just do it.

The process of a portrait

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So, some of you know that I draw illustrated portraits.

This particular one was made for a couple who have been married over twenty years. It’s so beautiful to see his tender, protective love for his wife, and her faithful care for him and their children.

I’m going to give you a peek into my process of creating this portrait.IMG_9512.JPG

The first thing I did was to gather a number of photos of Mr. C. and Mrs. J. from different angles and lighting. I wanted to see their physical characteristics as well as their mannerisms (I already knew them in person, so I didn’t have to interview the client about their personalities– otherwise I would have spent some time getting a feel for that aspect of this couple as well).

I then took some time to sketch out a basic idea of how I wanted the couple posed, and what colors I wanted to use in their clothing/hair color/accessories.

I chose bright, happy colors for Mrs. J. because she’s an animated lady who doesn’t let much stop her. The colors I sorted through for Mr. C. were more quiet and subdue, to reflect his strong but quiet character. As you can see in the image, I played around with different color combinations before I finally settled on the theme of primary colors.

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I then started drawing the portrait on my watercolor paper. I tried to make sure my lines were dark enough to see, but not so dark that I couldn’t erase them entirely– because in this stage of the portrait, there is a lot of erasing and fixing and re-drawing until it’s just right.

This is the hardest (and longest) stage.

Once I’d gotten the sketch to a point where I was satisfied, I started adding color.

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(often working by the light of a desk lamp. Good for seeing details: bad for taking pictures. Oh well.)

More color was added: then shading. I used watercolor paints, which I’m still learning to use. They’re fun, though. I’m going to have a hard time returning to watercolor pencils.

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Finally, I worked out the border. I did several test-borders before settling on this one. I chose colors that harmonized with the portrait, as well as ones that held significance (the strongest being red to symbolize their love in marriage, and yellow to symbolize their friendship).

And that’s that. I actually forgot to sign the piece before I shipped it off. But oh well. I was happy with it.

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An adventure in piggery

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I was lying awake a few nights ago, and I had this idea….

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For a book….

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about a pig.

Now, a book isn’t made in a week. So this is only the very seed of a long adventure, if indeed this proves to be an adventure worth taking.

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But hey.

Right now I’m having fun drawing pigs.

Pruning and propagating basil

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basil pinI have a little window-garden indoors. I love greenery, so this allows me to have plants growing and being pretty even in the winter! I love growing my own herbs for food and family use.

I started out with a couple pots of basil. Recently I pruned them and put the cuttings in water to grow roots so I can plant them in a third pot later. I found some helpful tutorials online, so I took the information I learned from those and took a pair of shears to my little herbs.  Continue reading

Allergy Free Oatmeal-Carrot Cookies

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Over on my other blog (where I post mostly allergy-free recipes), you can get this warm and comforting recipe for ‘everything free’ oatmeal cookies.

You know. When you tell people all your food allergies, they get wide-eyed and say “Can’t you eat ANYTHING?”

Yes. I can. See?

{Click here for the recipe}

A Saturday Scribble: the Bridge Bunch

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Doodled with colored pencil

I had the honor of meeting Pastor Bob Beeman in Nashville a few weeks ago. He’s an incredible man who has multiple ministries to the homeless and other inner-city people through Sanctuary International. He runs a ministry under the Jefferson Street bridge in Nashville with a group of Christians called The Bridge Bunch. They provide nurturing through food and providing other things to the homeless (like Mylar bags to keep them from freezing in the bitter cold at night). Continue reading