Saturday, April 30, 2011

Questing - the List

So now that I've started the 10 Things I Really Want To Make And How To Find The Necessary Materials Quest in order to tackle my massive Ravelry queue, I should probably make a list of 10 things I really want to make.

Introducing the List!
Masquerade Mask
I loved this cute little mask when I saw it and immediately decided I wanted to make a green one to go with my Green Butterfly ensemble for parties.

The Infamous Hobo Bag
I admire bags with lots of pockets and ways to organize your stuff, but realistically recognize I'm more of a hobo bag type of girl, and this one is darling!

Carnaby Skirt

I love short skirts. Bruce loves me in short skirts. And this is freaking adorable.

Mrs. Lovett's Mitts
Another addition to my Butterfly ensemble, and also a potential gift idea for my lovely ladies at the parties.

July's Socks - pink and green foo-foo (that's it's honest name, and no, I won't be using pink and green, probably just green)
Yet another thing for my Butterfly ensemble. Fishnet is very rave chic because it allows you to add color and flavor but maintain a lot of breath-ability which is crucial when dancing all night in a poorly ventilated venue.

Mushroom Hat
Because I like things with not much shape that will probably make me look silly (no really, I actually do). And because I have a special relationship with mushrooms.

Pence Jug
This little thing is so adorable, I know that even if I don't use it that it would still make a sweet gift.

Sweet Petite Bloomers
This will be an experiment, hopefully they turn out as cute and comfy as they look!

Scarf Necklace I, II, and III
I'm actually just going for number I. It looks like the perfect solution to my hoodie letting in too much cold air even with the hood up. Despite the fact that it's now spring and I probably won't wear it for a while.

Modified Feather and Fan Cloth
I really like the look of these dishcloths and they would make the perfect gift, even though I'm not sure for whom yet.

So there is the list. But that's only 10 patterns out of a current collection of 123 (oops - 124), so once I finish this 10, I'll probably make a list of another 10, and then another 10 and so on! It occurs to me that I could easily be doing this for the rest of my life. If I never add another pattern, and finish 10 patterns in a month, I could be done with the list in just over a year, but it's more likely that I'll just keep doing this forever. Can't wait!

Oh, and in case you haven't seen it, there is now a new tab up top for my quests!

Friday, April 29, 2011

On Editing

I got really frustrated in my classes at school by how many people don't get what editing is. They all treated "editing" or even "revising" as the time that you run spell check, check your punctuation usage, and other grammatical, technical things. Then they'd turn in a perfectly spelled, grammatically correct paper, and be absolutely befuddled as to why they didn't get an A.

Editing is so much more than that. Revision is quite literally Re Vison, to see again. It requires that we look at our writing through new eyes.

All the technical aspects like spelling are of course important, but the most important thing about your writing is your ideas. And it doesn't matter if your ideas are spelled correctly if they are poorly crafted and don't convey the meaning you want them too.

When I write, I always just bang out a first draft without any editorial efforts whatsoever. I just want to get my ideas down on the page before they float away. Then I read it through and write a second draft. Maybe it's almost exactly like the first draft, but things are organized a little differently, phrased a little differently. I keep poking over each idea I want to write about, or each section of the plot if it's fiction, until the words on the page communicate exactly what I had in my head. Sometimes it can take a lot of drafts for that to happen.

My mom writes poetry and when she was working on her first book, she filled up an entire laundry basket with revisions. These days she doesn't print as much to save resources, but if she did, it would probably take two laundry baskets for one book. That's because she won't rest until her work is the best she can make it, and then sometimes she still doesn't rest and we have to convince her that it really is time to let it go out into the world.

But maybe you're not trying to write a book, just a blog, like this one. This is how I edit my posts.
  • First I write a rough draft of my ideas, get the basic structure of the post going.

  • Then I go through each idea presented and make sure that I've said exactly what I want to, that it's not too wordy or vauge. Sometimes I remember something I forgot so I add that in.

  • Next I add in any outside material that further adds to what I want to share, links, videos, photos.

  • Now comes the first technical aspect - layout. Walls of text are not much fun to read, so I make sure that my ideas are broken up in paragraphs. Sometimes I realize that maybe one paragraph needs to be further split into more paragraphs, or even rewritten entirely. Lists are also useful, but only when used in a way that fits the flow of what you're saying.

  • After my post is 99% complete, I hit the preview button and read through it as if it wasn't mine but written by someone else. If I like it, I move onto the final stage. If I don't like it, I go back and re-write any clunky sections and replace repetitive words.

  • Finally, I give it one last read through for spelling and typos. Only then do I finally hit Publish.
Sometimes this process is very quick and I can put up a post in an hour, sometimes a post will stay in draft form for days or even weeks until I can get it into top form. And sometimes a post never gets published at all and I recycle the ideas in either a different post or another work of writing all together.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

On Writing

Bruce got up one morning after I'd already been awake for a few hours and asked me "How do you write so much?"

The simple answer is I get up several hours before he does.

The more complex answer is . . . well, more complex.

I once felt like my day was a run-around of a never ending to-do list. Only sometimes that list didn't actually exist. I love to write and want to publish someday once I've got my ideas rounded up, and I was getting tired of waiting for someday. Bruce is more nocturnal than I, so I was finding myself with hours in the morning of just waiting around for him to get up. I realized that this was the perfect time to harness my writing energy and just write.

So now I get up in the morning, turn on the computer, and spend the next couple of hours reading my favorite blogs, posting on Ravelry, writing for this blog, and collecting ideas for my manuscripts in progress. Sadly my fiction is not really going anywhere, but at least I keep poking it with a stick to keep it alive.

Tangent: treating writer's block is like surviving in the snow. Rescue will come, but in the meantime you cannot just lay down and go to sleep. You have to do something to keep yourself from just slipping away, whether it's build a shelter, keep moving, or find a source of heat. In terms of writing that means writing character profiles, role-playing characters, in-depth descriptions of your setting, jumping ahead a few scenes until you can fill in the blanks . . . it's not about survival of the fittest, but of the most creative. Actually, to be honest, I'm better at giving this sort of advice than taking it, and I think I'm at some risk of frostbite.

But there are other things I do for my writing beside get up early to do it:
  • I read a lot - books, blogs, newspapers, magazines, forum posts, whatever. Reading is a key ingredient to becoming a better writer.
  • Knitting - knitting, or crocheting, is very meditative to me and sometimes I get a lot of great ideas while working on something. I keep my journal nearby to record the ideas as they come to me.
  • Journaling - I don't really keep a diary, but I do write down any interesting thought that passes through my head. Or funny conversations I've had (or overheard), other ideas people share with me, random observations of things that catch my notice. You never know where a good idea will come from, so I make it a policy to capture as many ideas as I can.
  • I don't edit too much. I have a lot to say on the subject of editing, but it boils down to the fact that I don't edit at all until I get all my ideas down. I don't worry about technical aspects like spelling, and I don't worry about tone or content until I get the majority of my ideas out and on the paper. Sometimes we edit ourselves so severely that we psych ourselves out of writing anything at all. So to avoid that, I simply turn off the inner editor until I actually need it (sometimes easier said than done, but well worth it).
  • I write even more - even if the particular manuscript I'm working on has come to a complete standstill, I still find ways to write creatively by posting on Ravelry or thoughtfully commenting on blogs - that one can sometimes be hard. Sometimes I read a blog post and my first response is "Oh, that's nice!" But I strive to reach for something more meaningful. If you keep writing the same things over and over, even if it's just comments, it's going to start affecting your larger works as well and they will sound like the same thing over and over.
Another tangent: it's kind of like the girls in my past ballet classes that never took barre exercises very seriously. They could not wait to get out into the center and work on "real" dancing. But because they didn't commit to the warm-ups, their technique suffered and they struggled with the "real" dancing. I made my biggest improvements when I realized that the best dancer in the class was already dripping in sweat by the time we finished barre. She took those exercises very seriously, and it showed in her overall technique. So I sought to emulate her and began making lots of improvement myself.

And I guess you could say that's exactly what I did with my writing. I started emulating practices of writers I admired, and now I not only feel like a real writer, but other people think of me that way too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

WIPs and Goals, or Lack Thereof

It is, to everyone in the fiber community with an internet connection at least, WIP Wednesday! And what WIP's do I have on the needles/hooks? Um, not much.

I finished the Alice mitts, so yay! I wove in all my dangling ends, so more yay! I set to work on another peace sign granny square, again in yellow. It kind of sucks only having two of my six rainbow colors, but I know that sooner or later the yarn will needed will be found. And I'm getting to work on a coffee cup cozy for my dad. And I've been re-ordering my queue to reflect things that I really want to knit more than the others.

So yeah . . . not much WIPing. Stupid yarn drought. That's not to say I don't have yarn. I do, a slightly overflowing, over stuffed grocery bag. But it's all mostly leftovers from days of not knowing any better. For example, two balls of Lion Brand Homespun. I don't even like working with this stuff, but it was some of the first yarn I ever bought for my first full size project (an afghan that got frogged) so when I bought it, I had no clue that I wouldn't like working with it much. So what to do when you're really broke and don't know how to use your yarn?

And my other dilemma is my Ravelry queue keeps growing! I've been trying to be very diligent about not adding patterns willy-nilly and only to include ones I really do like and think I will actually knit, in addition to honestly deleting any I've changed my mind about. But it's not working. I've gone from 101 patterns queued, to 123. I've added what amounts to about pattern a day since I first noticed how big my queue has grown. Insanity! (But in a good way!)

Well, it seems like when most people have big challenging projects in front of them, they set up some goals.

Not me! Because I'm weird, but also I don't do goals anymore. I think Leo over at Zen Habits said it best - The Best Goal is No Goal.

After reading that, I started thinking really hard, and I realized he's absolutely right. Goals are great to get you jump-started on something, but they can become your whole life and end up limiting you more than enabling you. Every semester I'd start classes fresh, excited, full of goals to get good grades, and by mid-terms I was tired, burnt out, frustrated, and more likely than not, failing. But if I had all these amazing goals, how come I would always crash and burn so easily? Because I was so focused on using goals to achieve what I thought I was supposed to do, and didn't once consider what I really wanted or what would be best for me.

But launching off goal-less to just DO is hard. So I propose an alternative to goals: The Quest

When a hero in a story sets out on a quest, he does so because he wants something - to seek his fortune, to rescue a maiden, to conquer and evil king, whatever. That seems an awful lot like a goal. But it's not, because as the hero continues on his quest, thing come up, get in the way, send him off on side quests. Eventually the hero reaches the end of his quest, and maybe he gets what he wants, or maybe he finds out the mythical dragon to slay for the mythical treasure . . . is just a myth. But he's had an adventure!

Quests, as opposed to goals, are all about adventure. A goal, and any subgoals, give you an exact path to follow. And when things on the path go awry, the whole plan gets thrown off and needs to be re-planned. But on a quest, if a pack of hungry orcs jump out at you brandishing swords . . . well, that's kind of supposed to happen, so you pick up your sword and vanquish them. And then not only are you still on your quest but now you have all this cool orc loot too!

So to bring this back full circle to my knitting, I am starting two new quests. The first is the De-Stash The Yarn I Have No Clue What To Do With Quest. I will be taking each yarn one by one and searching for something to do with it. I could just take it all to Goodwill, but since I'm still broke that would leave me next to nothing to knit with at all. In the end, some yarns may just get donated anyway, but I do plan to give each of them a fair chance. They're sort of like puppies from the pound, I brought them home so now I have to be responsible for them. It's not their fault they are less than ideal. And at least they're housebroken (though I still have my suspicions about that Fun Fur . . .).

The second quest will be the 10 Projects I Really Want To Make And How I Find The Materials Necessary Quest. This idea came in part from this thread here on Ravelry, but since the official quest doesn't begin until July, I figured I'd just get going on it anyway. I'm figuring at the rate I queue things compared to the rate I knit things, I'll still have plenty of patterns to work through if I want to join the official fun in July.

Foreseeable side quests will include continuing work on my peace sign blanket and this blog, and you know, whatever crazy stuff may pop into my head.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Be the Change

So much in my life has changed in the past year, and I find myself living some of the greatest philosophies even without noticing.

A few months ago, my mom went on a rampage about how one of my friends slighted her. I told her that while I was very sympathetic, I couldn't get involved, that this was my friend she was talking about and if she wanted a resolution, she would have to seek it herself - though I would be happy to help facilitate any communication that lead to a positive resolution. My mom's response to that was incredulity that I would keep being friends with "this kind of person". I asked her if her best friend had done something similar, would she respond the same way by cutting her friend out of her life and not giving her another chance? My mom's surprising answer was "Yes, what am I supposed to do, turn the other cheek?" I found myself replying "Well, yeah, weren't you the one raised as a Christian anyway?"

It occurred to me that somewhere along the line, I'd started living the changes that I wanted to see in the world.

I want everyone to live harmoniously and love each other. So I made it a life goal to eliminate all hate, fear, and animosity from my heart and only harbor love and happy feelings.

I think we are too reliant on consumerism and that some products we don't even need, we just think we do. So I stopped washing my hair with commercial products and am letting my scalp readjust from over-producing oils, and letting it get back to a truly natural and healthy state. I also made a long-term goal to slowly replace my entire wardrobe with things I have made, instead of bought already made (with a few exceptions allowed, I certainly can't make decent shoes for one).

And I've been thinking - I can make even more changes with my knitting. I've been thinking about all the yarns and tools I wish I could buy right now, but simply don't have the money for. My yarn stash is dwindling, and I've never had an abundance of needles or tools.

And I really want companies to be held accountable for their practices - they should be environmentally friendly, generous to their employees, and follow Fair Trade policies. So when I've finally scraped together enough pennies to go make a craft related purchase, I'm going to start right off the bat by only purchasing from companies that live up to my standards.

Eventually I want all my money that is spent (not just on yarn crafting) to go to only companies of the highest standards, but this is probably going to be a slow transition. It's going to take a lot of research to find out who's record is as clean as they claim (gas for the car is going to be a nightmare - but hey, more incentive to re-fit my engine for home-made bio-fuel!). And if I can't find anyone selling what I need, then I'm just going to have to make it (like the bio-fuel).

Obviously this is going to be a very long-term project, but I'll be starting off with yarn and knitting supplies, and I'll be sure to blog about the challenges and my successes. It seems I'm not the only one with these ideas . . . it seems we really can be the change we wish to see.

Monday, April 25, 2011

In Dedication . .

A suggestion was made on Ravelry to make today a day to dedicate our blogs to someone or something special. The thread is located here. I have several dedications I would like to make.

Today is the Mass for my second cousin. He had a knee replacement surgery that seemed to have been fine, but very obviously did not go fine. He is in my thoughts today.

His daughter and her two brothers, whom I've unfortunately grown away from but remember very fondly from when I was little, have sadly lost both their parents now. They are in my thoughts today.

It's almost May, and that means one of my dearest friends (code name Hunter S. Thomson) will be leaving for the military soon. None of us want him to go, but we're all determined to give him an amazing couple of weeks before he leaves. He is in my thoughts today.

My friend Apollo has been going through some stressful times lately. His self-made business is not as strong as it used to be and he's looking for fresh ideas. He is in my thoughts today.

Apollo's girlfriend (code name Moonflower) is an amazing woman who works way too hard to take care of Apollo and her two daughters. She is in my thoughts today.

My poor Bruce is still sick today and probably will stay in bed for much of the day. Even though we've only been together not quite six months, he has been a force that has changed my life in so many ways for only the better. I love you darling, you are most certainly in my thoughts today.

And finally, today is Free Love Day, a day to recognize depression as the leading cause of suicide and also a day to advocate a lifestyle of love. Draw a heart on your wrist to symbolize wearing your heart on your sleeve, and take today to spread a little love where it might be needed. I have hearts drawn on both wrists.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bunnies = Smiles

Happy Easter, Happy Bunny/Chocolate Day, Happy Zombie Jesus Day, Happy Pirated Pagan Holiday . . . whichever pleases you most!

As I can't yet show pictures of our sweet rabbit, the Danish Prime Minister aka Scooter aka Mr. Buns aka Bunny-bun-bun, may I share with you these rabbits instead?

My day is supposed to be spent at my parent's house, but if this weird stomachache doesn't go away, I might have to disappoint my parents and make it up to them sometime this week. I feel bad being a flake, especially since a relative passed away just recently and the Mass is tomorrow. He was only a second cousin to me but his daughter is very close to my age and we used to play at all the family reunions, and I feel very upset for her sake because she has now lost both her parents.

But enough sadness for the moment. Hopefully everyone else's Sunday (whether you celebrate Easter or not) is as lovely as I wanted mine to be. Off to make some tea for the tummyache and to look at some more bunnies.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How I wish I was spending Saturday

I'm spending most of my energy today taking care of Bruce who is a little under the weather. I'm feeling a little bored and restless, so I'm taking a little imaginary vacation. Want to come?

First, breakfast on the beach.

Next, some shopping at the magical yarn store where we're allowed to pay in smiles and laughter.

Then I'm thinking a nice hike through the woods, and maybe we'll even see fairies! Or at least some cute animals.

Lunch is a nice picnic under a tree. Nature knitting circle anyone?

At sunset I'm going to take off with Bruce for a lovely dinner . . .

But help yourselves to the dessert bar!