Questing for beauty: social media


I never could figure the whole social media thing out.  I had a business. I sold stuff. Okay. I’m supposed to start a Twitter account? Why? What am I going to do with it? Oh, a Facebook account too? And a Pinterest one? Instagram? Really? I can’t keep up with my personal correspondence, how am I supposed to post on fifteen social media sites every single day?

Well…..yeah. I haven’t figured all that out yet. But I’ve learned a few things.

1. I am a producer. My work is to make things to enrich people’s lives and make their work more valuable. I can’t give if I haven’t received. If I’m not filling my mind with good things and thinking on that which is true and noble and beautiful, I won’t have much to offer others.

2. I don’t have follow the rules.  I am not in a season of life where I can devote my whole workday to art and the promotion of said art. That’s okay. I have important work that can’t be charted by how diligent I am on Twitter.

3. I don’t need to follow everybody to get exposure. Maybe that works…..for other people. But I’m not going to worry about that. This is where the “quality, not quantity” thing comes in. What does 2k followers do for for either me or them if neither of us have anything in common? It’s better to follow a handful of people that inspire you and that share your passions than to follow a million random people. Don’t fish for clients. Attract them.

The bottom line is: don’t kill yourself if you’re not doing everything ‘just right’. I’m not full-time with my illustration (far from it: it’s more of a hobby at this point, not a business), but there are really only a few key rules that I’ve learned from studying this: quality content and consistency. If you can put out your 90% best quality and show up consistently, you don’t need to worry about all the rules that, if you try to follow them all, will run you ragged.

Follow beauty. Seek beauty. Create beauty.

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Beauty or productivity? Or both?

My little moss garden

The past few days I was listening to a talk  called The Joy of Food by Chef Francis Foucachon. I listened to this beautiful, thoughtful presentation while trying to juggle at least five different online ‘projects’ at once. Research this. Post about that. Oh, but first I must look this up! Oh man, I forgot to do that. Did I check this off my list? Oh, I’d better write this down before I forget it. Hey, that’s right, I need to do that too.

In the background of my random, disjointed ‘productivity’, Monsieur Foucachon was talking about the blessing of food and a dedicated meal time for family and friends to gather for an unrushed time to savor food and fellowship.

I paused the DVD and sat silent for a moment. That’s…..that’s honestly beautiful. I thought. I want to live like that. I never wanted to run from one activity to another. As a child I was a member of a slow-paced family (by American standards), but we still did our fair share of rushing to activities a few times a week. Staying at home every day would garner very little protest from me. I love home and building a home-culture— Someday I want to create a  warm, welcoming sanctuary for my family to grow and for us to practice quiet, relationally warm hospitality.

And yet, even in my quiet introvertedness, I feel torn and rushed. I see the unending list of things I would like to learn and accomplish and study and pursue, and I feel as if I am being caught up in a whirlwind and I must sink to the floor and cover my head to hide from it all.

How do I balance it to have the productive life I believe is so important, and yet not be so rushed to be productive that I run past the beauty of life?  Is savoring beauty, after all, a form of productivity? If I lay down a project I’ve set aside an hour to work on to stare in wonder at a sunset shining through the woodlands, setting weeds and vines aglow with a magical brilliance, is it  a good use of my time? I think it is. So I then it would follow that…..

Spending hours on crafting a beautiful meal served on attractive dishes and taking the time to set the table tastefully, even going outside for fifteen minutes to pick leaves and twigs for a centerpiece;

Lying on my bed reading to a small child who interrupted my studies;

Drawing a little scene on an envelope which needs to be mailed that morning;

Organizing the washroom decor to be more symmetrical and tasteful;

Instead of  mindlessly eating  in front of the laptop while I work, sitting down at the table and appreciating my meal– the colors, aroma, flavor, and texture;

These are not ‘distractions’ from my ‘real life’, my ‘productivity’, but rather  crucial elements to creating a life of thankful beauty instead of a life of chaos.

This is a seed-thought. It pleads to be pondered. The subject of beauty itself is something that calls for study. And I mean to study it.

[image: a piece of beauty I created for a friend this week]Madisons Talent_0003

Hand work, brain work: Learn things while doing chores

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”

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

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.


He was going to be all that a mortal should be
No one should be kinder or braver than he
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

Each morning he stacked up the letters he’d write
And thought of the folks he would fill with delight
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

The greatest of workers this man would have been
The world would have known him, had he ever seen
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

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.

Is your workspace ruining your productivity?

img_7617It probably depends on your personality to some degree, but I know that when I have a tidy, organized room and a clean, beautifully decorated workspace, I function.

I didn’t say I function better. I mean I function, period. When my studio is disorganized and the house around me is untidy, my brain shuts down.

I don’t think that this is a problem unique to me. To some degree or another, everyone is affected by their environment. What you are surrounded with will influence you: how you feel, how you think, your productivity, and your decision making. Continue reading “Is your workspace ruining your productivity?”