Dec 31, 2009

In the final hours of 2009, Silver stands alone

Ah, December 31. Day of blog posts that sum up the year or anticipate the coming year; day of writing and sharing and tweeting and talking about the past and future, what was and what's to be.

You won't find any of that here this year. I'm blogging — briefly — about the present.

New Year's Eve is an extremely personal holiday for me. For me, as for many others, it's a time for introspection and reflection — two things I've always held dear, as part of my core self and as among the most useful tools in my personal bag of tricks. That self-identification with quiet inward thought is why I have nothing to share here about what I'll be doing next year, and nothing to share on how I felt about 2009. Tomorrow, perhaps, I will have something to say to those outside my head about what was and what and where I'd like to be. Or maybe it will take a few weeks. Maybe it won't be until my birthday in January that I post here what others are posting now; or heck! Maybe I'll wait until the Chinese new year (I am half Chinese, after all).

New Year's Eve is a time of meditation, peace, and self-acceptance for me, in which I begin the process of digesting and understanding where and how to lead myself in the coming year. It's a little like hibernation — but even more like the chrysalis stage of a caterpillar-turning-butterfly's life cycle. It looks like I'm doing nothing, but invisibly, on the inside, things are moving, reshaping themselves, transforming. When I emerge on the other side of the year-change, there will be change inside me, too; but unlike with the butterfly, my transformation will remain invisible. And I'll have the rest of a fresh new year to bring those changes into the light, where others can see them.

And I'm not much different from anyone else in the basics of the holiday; we're all thinking about change, progress, making things greater and better and more wonderful.

So happy transforming, dear butterflies. Let there be peace on Earth and in everyone's hearts, for as long as it takes to gather the strength for the future. See you on the other side.


Dec 28, 2009

Business success with the Blonde Chicken

Tara at Blonde Chicken Boutique did a teleconference today for crafty small-business owners, in which she talks about how she quit her day job, how she organizes her business and finances, where she got her experience, the rise of Blonde Chicken Boutique, branding her business, designing a product line, books and software that help her run things smoothly, friendly marketing ... and tons of other stuff. Seriously valuable information for people who own their own crafty business or who are considering starting one, straight from someone who's grown her own successful crafty business from scratch.

You can still go download the recording for free ... Why not? It's full of sensible advice and, you know. It's free. ;)

S&C gets a little greener with the 350 Challenge

treelookingupCheck out that freshly-placed button over there in the right column — you know, the one that reads "My Blog Fights Climate Change." That means this little captain's blog here is responsible for offsetting 350 pounds of carbon, in cooperation with the kindly Brighter Planet and campaigns. According to Brighter Planet, "that's like flicking off 100 light bulbs for a day, or going two full weeks without your car."

If you're not sure what a carbon offset is, the technical definition is clogged with legalese, but at the root, it means someone out there is running a project meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and if you've purchased or otherwise spawned a carbon offset, you've decreased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the Earth's atmosphere.

Whether you believe global warming is a problem isn't the issue, either. We humans are fallible, with limitations to our understanding of how we impact the world and the people around us. The world is a complicated place. But it's a reasonable, logical, testable idea that if we change something, it will bring about change elsewhere. And the global increase in carbon emissions as cultures across the world adopt new technologies is definitely a change.

So until we do understand exactly how our carbon emissions are affecting the world we live in, it makes sense to minimize them.

If you want to help, you can visit the 350 Challenge and get your own badge, and your own carbon offsets. All you need is a blog and a little willingness to contribute to positive forward motion and thoughtfulness.

Dec 22, 2009

Emergency creative unsticking (4 ways to escape a rut)

This morning appears to be full of what Debby (of Starbaby Readings and Gems) would call serendipity. Maybe the world is sending me a message, or maybe my internal whinging has finally activated my info-magnetic powers. The theme this morning: Unstick yourself, so you can go out and do great things.

First I came across Fabeku Fatunmise's free sacred sound download, which he entertainingly calls "From ack! to awesome in less than 10 minutes." The mere act of listening to his free-but-not-skimpy sound clips is supposed to make events MOVE again, and they're free, and I could use a little forward motion, so what the hey — I'll give it a go, and I'll post here with my results. (It's actually a little scary imagining that listening to drumming would loosen the giant mess of stuck that I currently live in. If it really were that easy, that would be mind-boggling.) That's Unsticking Method #1: Listen to good music.

Not half an hour later, I found the Destuckification Station through Victoria Brouhard's latest blog post, on how it's not good to do things just because they're "good for you" (with which I completely agree, on principle and also because I know better but maddeningly keep doing things for the wrong reasons anyway).

Normally, I'm turned off by the "big long Web page of why you should buy this more than $50 product" marketing tactic that Destuckification uses ... but! Ms. Brouhard credits them with preventing "major freakouts"; their pitch isn't 10 pages long; the sales copy is written sensibly and is well-edited; the Web design is pleasant-looking; and there's a buy-back guarantee. No, I haven't bought the package, but I'm seriously considering buying it as a gift for someone who could use rescuing from some serious freaking out. ;) (I assume that "If you don't love it, I'll buy it back" would apply in the case of "He loves it so little he isn't using it at all.") That's Unsticking Method #2: Spend time in good, unstuck company.

The above two links popped up while my boyfriend and first-mate-in-business was writing his "morning pages" — three pages of stream-of-consciousness to get the crap out of his head and into a place where he can start to sort things out that don't normally want to come to light. It's part of the creativity-growing process outlined in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way — a book about unsticking yourself if ever there was one, although it's about powerful results rather than instantaneous ones. The "morning pages" technique, by itself, seems like it would go a long way toward bringing a stuck person closer to becoming a sane person, and it takes maybe an hour a day, which is a small investment for a big payoff, if it works for you. So that's Unsticking Method #3: Write your heart out, and don't worry about getting it "right," being appropriate, or being coherent.

And while I was writing this post, my Twitter stream kindly tossed me a 90-second clarity exercise from Gaiam, meant to help us become more comfortable with our uncomfortable feelings by accepting them as real, valid parts of our lives — part of the experience of being human. So that's Unsticking Method #4: Accept yourself and your situation, so you can have room to breathe.

So okay. I wanted to get a lot done this morning. Instead, I just might be building my toolkit for getting a lot done in the next weeks, months, year — years?

If things continue like this, I may even start an Unstick-Along. You know, like a knitalong, but in the end, instead of having a nice, fuzzy, handknit object, you have a nice, fuzzy, warm feeling of empowerment and creativity. ;D

Dec 21, 2009

Help us win a grant, and you could win $250!

(Possible) money for everybody this holiday season! ;)

Here's the deal: Help us win a $5,000 small business grant, and you could win a $250 Visa gift card. Is that cool, or what?

The rules for the "Love a Local Business Holiday Challenge" are so:

1. Nominate a small business for the grant. (Okay, you don't have to nominate us — you can nominate any business you like! We'd like it if you help us out, but we won't be mad if you don't. ;))
2. E-mail the business with a link to the Love a Local Business contest page and let them know you nominated them — and don't forget to CC Intuit on the e-mail.
3. You'll get a confirmation message from Intuit letting you know you're entered.

Pretty easy! So head on over to Intuit and make your nomination! If you do help us out, search for Star and Crossbones in Palm Harbor, FL. We won't show up on the Google map since we don't have a physical store (...yet?), but we're in there!

The Holiday Challenge ends on December 31, so you might as well go over right now while you're thinking about it, right? ;)

Hollywood creativity needs an upgrade (part one)

Today, some commentary on the interesting brand of creativity that Hollywood and the big-budget entertainment producers send out into the world. This is part one; I have another link to blather about, but it didn't seem to fit here, so I'm saving it for another post.

First, there's a thoughtful review of Avatar on io9 that says the movie’s plot is basically the old “enlightened white people selflessly sacrifice popularity in their own culture to save the natives whose culture they’re destroying and become popular in the other culture” cliché — with the novel addition of “in SPACE!” ;) You may want to avoid the review if you're a spoiler Nazi who hasn’t seen the movie yet, though most of the "spoilers" are pretty darn general plot descriptions that should come as no shock to people familiar with American speculative fiction and adventure movies. Anyway, it's worth checking out.

Although I haven’t seen the movie yet, the review points up the fact that even as Hollywood tries to push the known boundaries of technology, methodology, and special effects, they tend to get into plot and idea ruts.

The article is interesting to me on several counts: I studied anthropology in college, I have an interest in diversity, and I’m half of non-Western descent. I’m also interested in creativity, whether it’s the creativity of famous directors, yet-unknown indie business owners, or amateur artists who never intend on showing their work outside their home.

If the review is as correct as I think it is, it makes some pretty important points. For fans of diversity and fans of creativity, both, it’s worth noting that Hollywood could use a fresh infusion of cultural awareness … and since the super-visible mainstream has been taking a lot of cues from the indie world lately, there’s a niche to be filled here, people! Go forth and be culturally diverse, create a multiplicity of perspectives, and market them well, so when the big-budget companies catch on, you can proudly point to your work and say, “I did it first!” ;)

Also, this is probably a good time to bring up Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea novels, in which Le Guin has outright said racial diversity is a crucial element. The Slate article linked in the previous sentence talks about the bizarre white-ifying of her main character in the Sci-Fi Channel Earthsea miniseries, but more importantly, it talks about successes and lost battles in trying to get the entertainment industry (in which I'm including books) to stop being afraid of non-white characters. Her experiences support the idea that there is a real tendency in American filmmakers and entertainment marketers to try to cater to an audience that supposedly won't understand the world unless it's framed by a white person's perspective.

Not that white people's perspective is valueless — but it's pretty ludicrous to let one perspective dominate our entertainment choices in what’s supposed to be a “melting pot” country.

And come on, entertainment industry. There's no lack of money available to big Hollywood producers and directors, and there's a lot of complete drivel out there to show that you're willing to throw money away. Why not go ahead and invest in something that really deserves buzz words and phrases like "bold," "daring" and "like nothing you've ever seen before"?

There are probably some good movies, books, TV shows, etc., out there already that show a genuinely non-white perspective, too, with non-white main characters moving through a plot that isn’t based on “one culture destroys another” (or the ever-popular “look how different we are but we’re really the same” theme). Recommendations, anyone?

Part two of "Hollywood creativity needs an upgrade" coming soon in another blog post. In that one, I'll write about the strange, creative vision Hollywood has of the human body.

ARTpool art/craft/vintage show + yarn + a preview

Here's what the sky looked like as we drove to the ARTpool art/craft/vintage show on Saturday morning:

On the way to the show

The day was forecast to be rather cool for this area, but it turned out as wishy-washy as the weather in St. Pete usually is: It alternated cloudy/cool and sunny/warm. The turnout for the show was pretty good, compared to the other shows we've done this year, and we made lots of contacts and new friends, including Jennifer Wunderlich of iWunder on Etsy. Alas, your dear captain was too enchanted by the pottery booth across the way, the discontinued fabric sample books, and the other sparklies and pretties at the show to remember to take any pictures. Doh. Suffice to say it was a really fun show, and we hope to do a bunch more shows with ARTpool in the future, if they'll have us!

I did spin most of the singles that turned into this yarn while I was at the show, too:

Handspun yarn: Sunset

And while we're talking about fluffies, here's a preview of the fiber that will turn into the yarn that will turn into the magical wristwarmers pattern I posted about here a couple weeks ago:

Another sparklywool photo

Tune in again soon for more babbling on creativity. I've got a few future posts bubbling in the back of my head (and in still-in-progress Word documents).

Dec 14, 2009

To save the world, create

The latest installment of Holly Lisle's TalysMana, a novel draft that she's writing "live" and sending out to subscribers, made me laugh because it mentions fandom, although not by that name. I've wanted to do that in a piece of non-fanfiction since shortly after I learned what fanfiction is, so ... good on Holly for doing yet another thing I've been wanting to do. ;) Aside from writing and publishing books, TalysMana itself is a bit like an idea I've had knocking around in my head for a while — but, you know, it exists. I just had some vague notion of combining writing and jewelrymaking, but she and her daughter are actually doing it. (And soon I'll be launching my knitting+fiction project, which has a similar bent, but that's for another post. While I'm on a tangent, though, go visit TalysMana and subscribe. It's just getting juicy and you have six chapters to enjoy while waiting for the next.)

The main reason I'm writing this post is that in the latest chapter of TalysMana, the talented Ms. Lisle also touches on an idea I once supported (or at least considered reasonable) — but until tonight I'd forgotten why I ever thought the idea made sense. The idea: The universe is locked in a forever battle between entropy and creation, and generally speaking, as creatures of life, for us, entropy = bad.

I know why I forgot how to believe in that idea; I forgot to believe in it because I started thinking of entropy as a purely scientific concept, or more specifically, a thermodynamic concept. Entropy is involved in the melting of ice, to use Wikipedia's example, and ice melting isn't exactly a villainous act. So I forgot why entropy had ever = bad, and the concept started to seem completely melodramatic.

But tonight, Holly Lisle's novel-in-progress reminded me that what we create is part of reality — quite literally. What you think in your head, what you write in your journal ... Those things may be private, but they still exist, and if you think about all the negativity that people nurture in themselves, in others, even in private ... It does start to seem like there must be an enormous amount of negativity out there. Now, if you believe that every act of imagination is contributing to the current reality, then self-help starts to seem like a bigger deal — "Your focus determines your reality" turns into "Your focus helps determine everyone's reality," and goshdarnit if creativity doesn't start to seem like a power to wield with responsibility.

The idea of collective mood isn't that far-fetched, either — MoodViews tracks Livejournal moods and creates a collective mood report, and I seem to recall a collective mood widget for the Mac OS Dashboard, that took the form of a strangely mesmerizing, color-changing glowing dot...

Anyway. Tonight I re-realized that entropy = bad is really the flip side of creativity = good. Creativity, if you mean it in a certain sense, contributes to collective positivity. It adds something good to reality. It makes the world a brighter place. Even if no one sees what you do, your creativity still exists, and if you believe in a higher power of any kind, or if you believe in the Whole in a sort of Zen way, your creativity matters because it's visible from a distance as a building block in the Grand Scheme of Things. If enough people choose to create, then the universe is a more creative place. If enough people choose to destroy, the universe becomes a more destructive place. Heck, don't stop at the universe — all of Existence is built of these wee molecular structures, and to a large extent, you can choose what your addition to the Whole looks like.

So there's a good reason to go ahead and create, even if someone else has been there before you; even if you don't think anyone will care; even if you know no one will ever see it.

Create because it is good. Create because you are giving life to something positive. Create because you choose to give the gift of something beautiful, or meaningful, or fun, to the whole of reality. Create because you live, and your life needs to be spent in some fashion, and when it comes down to it, would you rather have spent it negatively? Or would you rather be able to look back and say, "I brought something good to this place, in my own way, as best I could"?

That's what it means when people say "Only you, of all the people in creation, can do what you do."

You can create, or you can destroy. We all do a little of each, but when you have a chance to shape your little part of the Whole, which one will you choose to do?

Dec 13, 2009

By the power of blogging...

...I am He-Man?

Okay, I'm not, but I am joining Connie Ragen Green's 30-Day Power-Blogging Challenge. The challenge: to write at least 30 blog posts between December 7 and January 7.

This will hopefully assuage my grumbling ego, which is annoyed that I wrote a measly one day during this year's NaNoWriMo. (Seriously. Sailing through NaNoWriMo the first year has been really bad for my subsequent NaNoWriMo productivity.)

One of the requirements for the blogging challenge is that only posts of 100+ words count toward the goal of 30. This is having an odd effect on me, as I don't want to cheat, so I'm actually editing words out of my sentences to avoid feeling like I'm padding them.

Similarly, I'm pretty sure completely fluffy posts fall outside the intended scope of the challenge, so I may be less inclined now to post completely random, spastic content. You're welcome?

By the way, today is the last day to vote in the poll over there on the top right. Feel free to go click a couple of times and give me some valuable insight into you, my very important visitor. You matter, because the collective "you" now pay my paycheck. Vote!

Dec 12, 2009

Looking for gamers to get free stuff!

Are you a gamer? Would you like some free stuff? We need one intrepid player of D&D, or any other game that involves rolling dice to get character stats, to volunteer their character information ... and in exchange, you'll get a completely one-of-a-kind knit object or accessory. Still not sure? You get to help us decide what kind of knitthing you get.

Come on. You know you want it. You know you're curious. You KNOW YOU WANT IT!

Okay, maybe not. But if you want even a smidge of a chance at a nifty free thingie designed just for you, hop on over to the Star and Crossbones Facebook fan page and leave us a comment or a wall post. Or, if you absolutely must use the e-mail, then drop us a line at crystal (at thingie here)

Come to the knit side ... We have warm fuzzies...

The importance of limitlessness

I came across an article on SparkPeople today that points out something that's been a personal peeve of mine for years — since before it even applied to me, even. I've seen adults doing it since before I officially counted as one, and it bothered me as much then as now: We encourage kids' seemingly limitless potential but neglect to recognize our own. It's as if we believe that as we get closer to dying, we become narrower people. (That's a funny thing to believe simultaneously to "The older I get, the wiser I am than those kids are" alongside "Kids have innate wisdom," but humans are nothing if not contradictory ... Anyway, I digress.)

Dickinson writes in her article that one possible reason behind this self-limiting attitude is our corner-of-the-eye awareness that we have responsibilities and duties — which kids don't have yet, so they're free to dream of anything while we're shackled to reality. Sound familiar? It should, because I hear it all the time, from virtually everyone, mid-life crisis sufferers excepted: You gotta do what you gotta do. If I didn't have a wife and kids, I'd be out there following my dreams. Today the money has to go to bills; maybe tomorrow there will be some for living.

It's the creed of the modern adult, although some people manage to escape it.

And that's what ties this all in to creativity and small business. I started Star and Crossbones, I even named it for pirates and an age-old symbol of dreams-as-in-goals, as a way to remind myself that I am in control of my own destiny, that I have the potential to do anything I choose to do, that I shouldn't let myself be shackled by the weight of responsibility and duty and social or moral expectation. No, I never meant "Screw ethics and morals, I'll do what I want." A pirate can follow his own moral code; but he writes it for himself, and be damned to anyone who doesn't understand it or see it. No one else has to see it for it to be real.

That's what I've been missing for the past two years — or few years; I may even have been missing it from the moment I chose to go to the college my father wanted me to go to, the moment I chose to stay close to home rather than leap into the risky unknown (unknown except that even my father knew the far-away place was perfect for me. I wonder, if I had gotten into Yale, would he have said that, too, was too expensive?). Maybe I was even missing it before then, too; but I remember having it at some point — the feeling that I have potential and it's not just my right but my primary duty to chase that potential down. For the past few years, but especially in the two that I let myself be chained to a soul-eatingly irrational office job, I've been missing that feeling, that I can do things greater than what I'm doing now, and that in those things lies the ultimate pursuit of happiness.

I've even been missing it in the past few months, since I quit the aforementioned ill-fated office job. I left that place with the intention of seeking out and finding all the spirit I'd lost, and life has done its darnedest to throw negativity and obstacles in my way — emotional ones rather than monetary ones so far, but the dreams I'm really chasing in this return-to-self/return-to-creativity business are emotional, not financial or physical. And I've let those obstacles drag me back down into the feeling that I have to deal with my responsibilities first, even if it means once more delaying my happiness and fire-hearted dream-chasing.

What a shame and a waste! writes Dickinson.

Yes. It is a shame and waste.

And I am not, of all things, built to be either shamed or wasteful.

If we were limited to the gifts and talents we developed as children, many of us would never discover the wonderful things in store for us, Dickinson continues. During the next few weeks I challenge you to break that pattern of self-destruction.

I can't, as she suggests, use my children as inspiration; I don't have any. But I want to take her up on her challenge — I need to meet it. I need to break my own self-imposed limits. I need to explore the world again, and feel like my exploration matters for the sheer positivity that exploration embodies. And I need to start as soon as I can — no waiting for the mythical "right moment," no waiting for just a little more inspiration to hit.

So. If I go crazy, if I throw out erratic, creative, artistic, non-businesslike ideas and run around like a chicken with a paintbrush, if I disappear for weeks on end and then re-emerge with a fully-grown, certifiably gargantuan project in my hands, and ignore all my carefully-laid business plans for the sake of being me again and learning to dream again, recognize that for what it is, and maybe take a little of the crazy home to roost with you.

Because even if it's unbusinesslike, my personal creed and the force that drove me to start this business in the first place both demand that I take the time to be a little nuts — or a lot nuts. An elephant-sized mound of nuts. Because when it comes down to it, if in the end I fail — at making a living, at having a successful business, at becoming rich and famous, at being financially solvent and having a big house with a room for every craft — I'd rather fail because I was busy following my heart than fail because I was too miserably busy to listen to it.

Get this ship ready to sail; we're going a-pirating.

Dec 10, 2009

Vote on our next big project!

For those of you who are on Facebook, there's a new poll up on our fan page that will help me decide what structure to give the fiction + knitting project idea that's knocking around in my head right now. If all goes as planned, it should be released in January — and your vote will tell me what I need to do with the project to make you guys happy! Check out the poll on the fan page's wall.

For those of you who aren't on Facebook or who just don't feel like heading over there, there's a version of the poll at the top of the right sidebar, over here ---->.

Now goooo ... Vooooote ... ;) ::swings yarn ball back and forth hypnotically::

Dec 8, 2009

The Moody Crafter Gets Out Her Problem-Solving Brain

Artists and other creative types are notorious for being moody. (Okay, so humans in general can be moody, but creative people seem to get the stereotype, for some reason … Probably because they honestly express their feelings in their art or craft. Don’t you love it when honesty kinda backfires? ;)) A couple of people on a mailing list mentioned how crafting can be both their source of positivity — when they do it — and their source of frustration and a reason to get depressed, when they don’t create.

One person said the only way she can escape the cycle is to just work on something, after which her enthusiasm returns and she wants to work on everything!

Me, I tend to get down on myself when I stop creating for a few days, but it doesn’t really start nagging at me until I see other business owners creating and selling their awesome stuff successfully. Then I start to question the value of my own contribution. Why am I even trying to sell my crafts when I can’t even make myself do them consistently? There are plenty of other people out there to fill the public appetite for fun, creative and beautiful things. (Good thing I don’t think this all the time — I would never have bothered even trying to sell my stuff.)

Like my fellow mailing list member, I can only get out of this unproductive cycle by getting off my butt and forcing myself to work on things — although sometimes I don’t start to feel better until I’ve worked my way through several projects. That to-do list doesn’t get any smaller while I’m whinging to myself, after all. ;)

And breaking the cycle is more complicated now that business is involved. Crafting isn’t purely for personal satisfaction any more; it’s also part of my livelihood. (I think this way even though crafting isn’t currently supporting me financially, because I need to take it seriously enough to have it support me someday.)

When I was just crafting for myself, the moodiness could be cured like this:

Negative feelings: Why aren’t you crafting, you slacker?
Me: Look — I am crafting! ::waves knitting needles with partial sweater attached:: I vanquish you, so shut up already!
NF: Noooooooo! ::poof::

But now that I have a business to run, it goes more like this:

Negative feelings: Why aren’t you crafting, you slacker?
Me: Look, I am! Shut up already!
NF: That’s not for selling. That’s someone else’s pattern!
Me: Yeah, but it’s practice!
NF: Why don’t you practice knitting your own patterns?
Me: I will! Once I finish writing one.
NF: See? You can’t even finish that!
Me: DUDE, that takes time. I only have a certain amount of time, and right now I’m trying to be productive by practicing. Okay? Leave me alone!
NF: Excuses, excuses. Excuses won’t get you through THAT! ::points to long to-do list::
Me: Ugh. Now I feel like I should be doing something else. I don’t even want to finish this sweater, now. It’ll take so long, and I have SO MUCH TO DO!!!

Which probably makes me sound like a neurotic freak, but, uh … ::points to artist stereotype:: I’m supposed to be! ;P

Anyway, theoretically, owning my own craft business is supposed to free me from being weighed down by other people’s negativity, not give me an excuse to feel negative about myself. ;) Since the endless to-do list is a reality that can’t be instantly vanquished, though, I have to add another weapon to my arsenal to make the negative vibes shut up.

Solution: Write down the crap I can’t deal with right away, along with suggested ways to handle said crap once I get to it on the list.


Whiny problem: I’m not producing enough every day to stay visible on Etsy/with customers.
Quickly brainstormed ideas that might help:
  • Reward myself for making items and listing them
  • Set up a regular schedule of brainstorming and production
  • Use a theme or themes for regular inspiration
  • Spend more time making crazy items that I love, but that I don’t necessarily know if anyone else will love (this will at least make me produce! And people will probably like it more than I feel they will)

Then I might take the brainstorms and expand them into a series of steps to follow, to keep myself in line — or really, to keep myself from starting to work on something and then going, “Wait, I lost my train of thought/inspiration. What do I do next?” and wandering off. ;)

Potential solution #1 (The Disciplined Solution):
  1. Get a notebook and designate it the production notebook.
  2. In the notebook, list items that can be made in under an hour; put stars beside the ones that sound like the most fun to make.
  3. Gather the materials for these items where I can easily find them, but where they won’t be in the way; place production notebook in the same place.
  4. Every day, make one item off the list, in addition to anything else I might be working on for the business. This can happen at any point if I’m inspired, or if I’m not inspired by a designated time in the day, then at that time, I will sit down and make something off the list.
  5. Write down the materials, colors, and at least two other descriptive words (.e.g, “bright,” “elegant”) that describe each item in my production notebook right away.
  6. Reward myself by letting myself read for 15 minutes for each small item I’ve created that day.
  7. Every two days, gather what I’ve made so far, and photograph it — if I can’t get outside to photograph, I can still photograph against my mini-white-backdrop.
  8. List anything made so far. Use the notes in the production notebook to write item descriptions; spend no more than 15 minutes writing each description (to keep from getting stuck writing and rewriting so much I get tired of it).

If I start to feel twitchy about the first solution I come up with, well, I can come up with another!

Potential solution #2 (The Crazy Artist Solution):
  • Designate a production notebook, as above.
  • Every day, as soon as I wake up, write down the most fun thing I can think of that I can make in under an hour with the materials immediately on hand. (If there are a lot of things immediately on hand and confusion starts to set in, grab four random items and use those.)
  • Write down the items being used in the production notebook.
  • Set a timer for one hour and make something before the timer goes off.
  • Immediately write down three descriptive words inspired by the item.
  • Immediately after this, photograph the item and write a blog post about it, even if the post is one paragraph long with one photo.
  • If one is available, look at the item I produced this way yesterday. Decide if I want to put it into the Etsy shop. If so, list it. If not, no worries; the blog post about it will help keep me visible at least in my customers’ eyes (and will also prove to me that I’m producing and brainstorming).

Then I can use either one of those strategies, or another one I think of later, to try to keep myself producing and visible — and even before I start using the solutions, that problem can stop bothering me and making me feel negative, because now I feel equipped to defeat the evil problem.

I can also use the brainstorm-and-expand technique to set up a plan for dealing with anything: a disorganized craft room, not knowing what products to focus on making, etc. Every problem will need a different solution, but that’s good, in a way — doing the planning forces me to think and be creative.

Which is usually a reinforcing cycle of its own, but in a positive way. ;D

Sooooo … For you intrepid souls who are still with me, what do YOU do to beat down the negative feelings? Not everybody is like me, and I’m sure there are tons of other ways to deal with feeling depressed and uncreative. Go on, share already!

Dec 7, 2009

Wristwarmer waffling: opinions needed!

Edited 8:12 p.m. Eastern on December 7: Now with new pictures! (You know, it's hard to photograph my own wrist at a non-funky angle when the camera needs to be on a tripod for stability...) Also, since they seem to show up brown on some people's screens, these are actually gray.

Here's a sneak peek at some wristwarmers I'm designing. (This will be one of my first publicly published knit patterns ... If I can convince myself to finish it! Writing fiction was never this waffle-inducing.)

Wristwarmers, worn

Wristwarmers, worn

Wristwarmer in progress

Wristwarmer in progress

What I want to know: What's your gut reaction to their appearance? Do you look at them and go "Eh" or do you go "Hmm, that looks pretty decent"? Or do you go "DUDE I WANT THOSE"? I doubt that last one, but hey! Anything is possible.

Also let me know what your normal style of knitting is, so I have some context. I don't really expect people who love the look of smooth stockinette knit in silk yarn to like these, but that doesn't mean I don't want your opinion. I just, you know, should understand where you're coming from.

I wanted to make these a relatively quick knit, but I didn't want them to be overly simple — a little contradictory, but not as much as it might seem ;) — so they're done in worsted-weight yarn but they have a kind of stupid amount of texture. I should have knitted the test in a lighter color to show the texture better, but I used what I had on hand, and now I'm wondering if I should reknit this exact design in a lighter color, or if I should tweak the design first and then reknit in a lighter color.

That's why I need your opinions. If the design isn't appealing enough as-is, then I'll rework it before I reknit it. What do you think?
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