The Ups And Downs Of A Creative Life

Hello dear reader,

it has been a week of strange motivations. I took a few days off work to recharge and spend some amazing time with my lady Emma, I spent that time playing games and doing absolutely nothing productive at all, even though, in the back of my mind I intended to and secretly wish I had.

I go through long periods of wanting to be better and I tell myself that I got to work, that I need time to myself, that I love playing games; repeating all those things that you tell yourself when you’re putting things off, without even intending to or understanding the reasons why you’re putting them off in the first place.

Deep down I think I know and the feeling scares me a little bit. Deep down there is a little creeping fear that everything I’m doing and all the time I’m spending will never come to anything, that all the effort will be wasted, nobody will ever get to see my writings or the products of my work.

I hate that feeling, so I think I distract myself by making the conscious decision to not try, or to make excuses why I couldn’t try in that moment, then I feel the existential guilt that only a creative can feel when another day has ticked by without actually having made any strides towards the endeavours that make you love being creative in the first place.

How do I navigate around this strange catch-22 that I have pretty much always found myself in? Do I just let the feeling take me and do whatever the hell I want, even if it will take ten years to finish a project? Or do I push myself to finish something and then try my best to get it out there?

The trouble is I don’t know…and I feel like I don’t have the time, knowledge or motivation to get involved in a creative community that might allow me to get my work out there.

How do you know where to best put your time to get your work done, get it out into the world and to keep yourself sane?

I think I’ll be asking that question forever, but maybe one day I’ll find an answer. The important point is that I’m not going to stop. I can’t stop, and if you’re ever tempted to stop, know that in all your unsure and nervous attitude about whether your work is worthy, well it always will be, we need new ideas; all of them.

Keep going, and I will too.

Topic Tuesday: Failure and Mistakes

Failure, mistakes, trial and error. All ways of expressing the same thing, opportunities to learn, but heard to understand them as such in the moment.
I’m a planner, I love to plan, to come up with game plans and schedules. But rarely, RARELY, do we implement them for very long. There’s pleasure and accomplishment in the making of lists, in figuring out a good looking schedule but following comes with little of the same rewards. Once one thing slips, the whole plan feels useless.
We came up with the plan for getting content on to the site, for getting me to learn and to climb out of a lull but as I tried to research I realised that it wasn’t going to work. My brain just doesn’t take in information, reading and comprehension are just beyond me at this point. I wanted to prepare myself for writing, I wanted to have a good foundation but right now I just need to write, I need to get stories out of me and to get the words down. A good editor can help me with the things I don’t understand. So Topic Tuesdays are going to be a little different and more relaxed than I envisioned, but hopefully more fun to both write and read.
I focus on the thing that I’m not doing right now, example, I’m writing this and thinking about cross stitch. Another, last night I was desperate to design more cross stitch but all I could think about was my fantasy world. Another, I wanted to do exercise this morning so I focused on thinking about climbing a mountain, while John looked it up and I sat on the couch not doing anything. Urg!
Each cycle that I go through, each time I fail, I’m learning, and that’s what I’m choosing to focus on. Each time I get a little closer to who I want to be.
I have the time. Many people would kill for the time and the space that I have and I’m pissing it away worrying and stopping myself, but no more! (Well probably still some bumps in the road but I’m gonna try!!)
If you’ve failed, try again, change what doesn’t work and keep trying. Failure isn’t the end, it isn’t, it’s just the beginning!

Thoughtful Thursday – The Nagging Itch – On Games, Creativity and Procrastination

Hello dear reader.

Being a creative is horrible sometimes. At least I’m assuming the feeling I’m going to write about is to do with being a creative.

The long and short of the matter is that I spent a large portion of yesterday trying to find a computer game to play, which I do from time to time; I open up Steam and spend literally hours scouring through hundreds of games, trying to find the “right” one. I’ll then buy one or two and play them for a few hours before never touching them again.

I’ve been doing this for years and I know my wife, Smidge, suffers from a similar malady; though it expresses itself in less expensive ways. I have no idea why I do this; I love the idea of playing games and when I find one that does scratch that itch, it feels great, but most of the time I end up spending money that I shouldn’t have spent, on games I don’t play.

I’m quite an introspective beast, so it’s not as if I haven’t tried to find the route cause to this feeling, and honestly I think it’s guilt. I desire to do something with my life, and every time I feel like I want to just relax with a game, I feel like I’m not really “doing” anything towards my goals. The games I want to play are strategic and complex, like the games I want to design, but I push myself into a corner and feel like I should be playing a multi-player game because that experience will in some way feel more meaningful; I’ve played every single MMORPG you could name because the persistence inherent to them engenders a feeling of accomplishment…a false feeling of accomplishment.

The reason I’m writing this article is, more and more, I’m learning that my real projects; those linked with this website, are the ones that give me a real and tangible sense of accomplishment. Maybe when I make real progress on something I value, something real, I’ll be able to give myself a break and just enjoy a “meaningless” experience.

At the end of the day, it’s all just a push and pull between short-term pleasure and long-term accomplishment that represents a common modern struggle; there’s so much in the world that appears to be fun and in the moment, worth doing, but when inside you’re striving to do something more you will never be able to get away from the feeling that you’re not supposed to be wasting your time on short-term fun, at the expense of a project or endeavour you’re “meant” to be working on.

So what have I learned from the last day or so?

Do what you know in your heart you should be doing before trying to distract yourself and put it off because it takes a little longer to get there. Such times as that build motivation if you can find a way to not give in to the urge to procrastinate.

Thank you for listening to me ramble. Good luck in all your endeavours.

Topic Tuesday: Beginning

What better place to start than the beginning. For this, the first Topic Tuesday, we will be discussing a word; a nice easy word to ease me into this researching and learning malarky. And an easy word it is!

Beginning – The point in time and space at which something begins.

The origin is (like a lot of our words) Germanic, and is very similar to the German and Dutch word-beginnen. I have to admit I do like the sound of most German words, I keep trying to learn but I struggle with the speaking portion. Anyhoo, that’s beside the point of this post.

Beginning can be a noun, a verb or an adjective.

Noun: Start at the beginning.
Verb: We are beginning our journey.
Adjective: At the beginning leg of the journey.

Synonyms
Start
Creation
Inception
Onset
Opening
Dawn

The beginning of something is often the hardest part but easily forgotten once you’re further down the path. The beginning of a novel or story is key into setting up the atmosphere and getting the reader hooked into the story. The beginning of a project is an exciting time, it can be addictive to keep starting things instead of sticking through the hard times and finishing something.

I know that for many reading this that all of the above is something that they learnt many a year ago, but for some reason this kind of stuff refuses to stick in my mind. I’m hoping that through researching and putting what I find into my own words I can make my writing better. There’s always something to learn.

If you have any requests for Topic Tuesdays, leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do. I think for next Tuesday I’m going to begin to look at tenses, perhaps past as the first one.

Have a wonderful day and we’ll see you tomorrow for Wildlife Wednesday!

Thoughtful Thursday: Schedule and the Future

Changes are afoot!

For a little while we’ve been struggling with this site and the content going up has been sporadic. But no more! We’ve worked together and come up with ideas and a plan to share our lives and passions in a better way!

Our schedule:

Modelling Monday – On Monday’s John will post a picture about a Warhammer 40k model (or group) and tell you a little about it. Perhaps in the future I, too, will share some of my Skaven troops.

Topic Tuesday – I’m tired of only having a passing knowledge of my interests. In order to combat this I’m going to be picking a topic and attempting to learn all I can about the things I love, then I’ll report back on the next Tuesday! We can take a learning trip together. Things to expect: history of cross stitch, components of writing (tenses, sentence structure, words, etc.) and interesting facts.

Wildlife Wednesday – This will most often just be a picture from one of our nature walks, but occasionally we’ll post something about the photo.

Thoughtful Thursday – A day for updates, random thoughts, stories, anything we fancy!

Photo Friday – A photo from our week that we want to share.

Sneak Peek Saturday – A sneaky look at something upcoming, whether it’s a photo or a few words.

Sleepy Sunday – A day off (in spirit, John still has to work his day job).

So that’s what we’ve come up with and what we’ll be trying for the foreseeable future. It’ll be a more interesting array of content. In the background I’m going to be working on my fantasy world and my fantasy detective series and John will be working on the games he is developing. If you want more cross stitch content I suggest following my smidgemakes Instagram/Twitter where I’ll be posting pictures and updates of progress.
For a little life update, while we’re here, things are going well! I’ve pulled back on my artist pursuits in order to focus on writing and cross stitch. I’m more than ready to give my passions the time they need. We are still getting healthy, and going on more walks and I’m having little dance parties to get more movement in!

That’s it for the first Thoughtful Thursday. Have a wonderful day!

Cross Stitch Corner: Experiments

At the start of this year I made it a goal of mine to make my own cross stitch patterns. I thought that it would be many months before I gained the knowledge, experience and whatnot to be able to do such a thing. But cross stitch is a wonderful thing and it’s so easy to create things. Using an app on my iPad called StitchSketch I can turn my drawings into cross stitch!

the corner of a screen shot of a cross stitch chart
A sliver of my design.

Eventually I want to sell the digital charts, if people are interested, but first I have to figure out how to make a pdf look nice and all that pavlova.
In order to test the app and to make sure that I was doing things right I used a simple pattern and the colours I had on hand. When I use this chart (are they patterns or charts? I get so confused since I’ve done many crafts) again I’ll use a lighter blue for the sky and a white for the cloud.

Progress
Finished!
Felt to cover the back

I had a lot of fun with this one, even stitching that felt on the back was interesting. I need more practise at finishing and I would stitch up the aida a different way next time but for my first original project it’s pretty great!

I’m pleased to say that the app worked and my cross stitch came out better than I imagined. The app is a little tough to use (I’m used to the ease of Procreate) but I’m sure I’ll get to grips with it. I can only use it for short periods as it only has a “dark mode” and the white writing on a black background gives me headaches and makes my eyes all funny! But I will be creating many more charts and projects.

So that’s my practise and I’m excited for many more to come! Have a wonderful day.

January Update

The sun has set on January (at least where I am) and I’m checking in with myself and you.
I’m very grateful that this year I’ve taken up bullet journaling, it makes looking back and keeping things in perspective really easy. I’ve managed to accomplish quite a bit, and much more than I thought from the top of my head.
For ten minutes or so each day I’ve been doing full body stretching and I’ve found that my back is much less painful, I recommend it!
Though the month has been overall good, there are things that I definitely need to work on in the coming months. Getting up early, getting out of the flat and more reading are the biggest things.
Posting more regularly is something I want as well, the problem with that is I’ve been working on world building, which I can’t really show, and my other projects are taking quite a while. I will have some cross stitch content coming up in the next few days but after that I’m not sure.
I’m in the midst of soul searching, trying to figure out what I like, what I want and how I want to present myself. For so long I’ve been a shallow person, somewhat of a shadow person and I’m ready to be a full, solid, colourful person. So for a little bit I may be a bit short of content, but I’m never too far away!
That’s it for my little end of the month update, in short, all is well and I’ve had a good start to the year. I hope that it is the same for you. Good luck for February.

The Crier and the Shopkeeper

The following is a short moment set in my universe. It is a fantasy world and this is set near the end of winter.

.

The sun gazed dimly down upon a blanket of cloud, unable to see through it to the white world below. If you listened closely perhaps you could hear a far off sigh.
Far below, nestled at the foot of the tallest mountain, sat a city; an old city who some say was the first.
“The Dark Days are approaching!” The crier’s voice rang through an old market square, escaping and echoing down the alley ways between buildings. Bouncing from stone to stone.
In one of the buildings a shopkeeper looked forlornly around her empty shop. A narrow building, dark for lack of windows, but filled with a wonderfully enticing smell. A few bags were displayed, filled with the colourful and tempting sweets, but the bulk of the stock was safe behind the counter. Ella and her assistant Bes had learnt the hard way that people sometimes get too tempted by her wares.
“Be ready for the dark days!” The voice rang out, closer this time, heard through the slightly ajar front door.
“He’s getting closer.” Bes remarked, in a bored sort of way, as she fiddled with a ribbon around a small woven bag.
Ella noted the bell that accompanied the shouting.
“I have an idea.” She swept out from behind the counter and off to the front door.
Ella poked her head out of her shop doorway, eyes scanning to find the source of the proclamation.
“The Dark Days will be here soon!” The bell clanged along with his heavy tread.
“Aha!” Ella stepped a foot out into the the street, thought better of it a moment and went back inside to grab her cloak. “I’ll be back shortly, Bes, keep the shop running.”
Once outside, she struggled to find the crier again,so many people filled the narrow street. She walked in the direction she had last seen him, dodging shoppers. And there he was, walking towards her, a very short man with the largest beard she’d ever seen, it was a deep brown with a variety of metals and stones decorating it. He wore an emerald green woollen hat and tunic. The golden bell was gripped tightly in his hand.
“Good morn, fair crier!” Ella called out to the man, she raised a hand in part greeting and part beckoning.
He stopped and turned to look at Ella.
“And a good morn to you.” He nodded his head to her.
She took a step to close the gap between them, and was almost knocked over by a woman carrying an overflowing basket.
“Watch where you’re going!” The woman bellowed in Ella’s face before she pushed passed and on down the street.
Ella felt her face flush, her hand clenched.
“Never mind her.” Said the crier. “The dark days can bring out the worst in people.” He patted her elbow and they stood off to the side of the pathway.
“Was there something that you needed from me?” He squinted up at her, and she saw a glint in his dark green eyes.
Ella pulled back her shoulders and nodded.
“I have a proposition for you.”
The crier’s eyebrow rose but he didn’t say anything.
“I have a shop. An empty shop, and I wish that it were not.”
“And I can help with that?”
“I’m certain of it.” She pulled from a cloak pocket a bag of her wares. “Whether they realise it or not, everyone listens to you when you shout.”
“I wouldn’t just do this for fun.” The crier’s moustache twitched and his eyes twinkled.
“Hmm, I have met people who do like the sound of their own voice.”
He chuckled and waved his hand for her to continue.
“Well, people need to know what they need, what would make the dark days a little more bearable.” She swung the little bag back and forth.
“Is that something that will help?” He nodded to the little bag.
“It is. A succulent morsel, which will sweeten the long dark hours.” She passed over the bag. “Have a taste, I’m sure you will agree.”
The crier tore open the ribbon and removed a buttercup yellow oval sweet. He placed it in his mouth and pocketed the rest.
“Mmm.” He finished the sweet. “Very nice. An nut in sugar?”
“Yes.” Ella, was impressed. “I visited the great city a number of years ago and encountered this wonderful sweet maker, he taught me a few things. No-one else makes them here.”
“And yet your shop is empty.”
“It’s a busy time, people are getting other things ready, worrying about keeping safe and having family around.”
“Perhaps they should be worrying about bringing over a sweet treat for a special time, hmm?” The crier winked at her.
“Exactly.”
“What’s in it for me?” He eyed the pouch at her waist.
Ella shifted her stance, her cloak fell, covering her money purse.
“For each sale, I’ll give you a penny.”
He narrowed his eyes as he looked up at her. “I think you could do a better than that, hmm?”
“Two pennies?” She asked, not holding on to much hope.
He chuckled. “Five pennies and a few more bags of sweets, I think my family might enjoy them. And five pennies upfront.”
Ella thought for a moment, she sold each bag for ten pennies, losing half was almost too much. But on the other hand if she didn’t sell any she would be much worse off. Looking up into the sky she noticed the lightening, and realised that it would soon by turning to the second half of the day.
“Better hurry, not much light left.” The crier jangled his bell.
“A deal, then.” She stuck out her hand, the crier grasped hers in a firm, warm grip.
She dug into her purse, pulled out five pennies and passed them over to her new business partner.
She told him where her shop was and a few details about her sweets and left. She was excited by this idea, but her expectations were low, it was like nothing else she had ever tried before.
She returned to her shop, the enclosed space was slightly oppressive after the brisk air of the streets. But the sugary smell was a comfort.
“Where did you run off to?” Bes demanded, as she bundled up a selection of sweets, the white confections made a satisfying sound as they tumbled together in the bag.
“To carry out my idea, we shall soon see if it bears fruit.” Ella joined Bes behind the counter once she had removed her cloak.
Outside they could hear the crier, Ella smiled.
“Stock up on your sweet nuts, take a gift of sweets to your dark day sanctuary!”
Bes stopped in her wrapping as she heard the crier’s words.
“You didn’t?” She turned to Ella who was now by her side.
“Maybe.”
They laughed as the door opened and a couple of new customers walked in.

A Peek in our Window

I’ve just got in from the weekly shop for food. Well, that’s a bit of a lie, I’ve been home for awhile, but I was spending time with John. He’s not well again and he’s having to go into work, so I feel guilty. Since I can’t work (anxiety) or even claim benefits (anxiety again, whoot) it means that John is solely responsible for our income. I know that he doesn’t mind but when it comes to being ill, it makes it hard for him to take time off work since we lose a fair amount of money. But that’s not what I wanted to ramble about. I’m sure it’s not interesting to hear me worry.
I don’t really have a point to the post, though, I just wanted to have a bit of a check in now that we are almost at the end of the second week of the year. I’ve been doing rather well with goals, however, I was slightly less productive this week, causing me to feel a little low, but I didn’t let it stop me and that in itself is a victory.
How is your year so far? If you think you’re falling behind with what you have planned, take a step back and see if you are achieving other things, habits that are making a better life or little victories that will make the whole plan easier. You can do this, I believe in you!
Maxi (our bearded dragon) is doing well, yesterday he had a great day, hunting for worms and having fun evading us as we try to keep him warm. Today he’s a bit calmer but no less cute.
I’ve been doing some experimentation with cross stitch, trying to find how much thread I use per stitch and I think I finally have the number, well for 14-count aida. Each time I try something new I will note it down. It’s all for the goal of creating my own patterns and to allow me to better anticipate how much thread I’ll be using. I get a bit nervous when I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing, is that clear yet 🙂
Today, I’m going to do some world building, I’m working on it constantly but I’m putting it on the computer in order to have a better grip on my ideas and to have it more accessible when I’m writing. With each pass it changes a little but gets better.
What are you up to this weekend? Whatever it is, I hope that it is great!

Bullet Journal – The First Seven Days

The first week of the year was a pretty uneventful one, however it was productive and enjoyable. I’m waiting until we get further in the year to get too proud of my habits, but so far so good.
Now this post is specifically about my foray into bullet journaling so that is what we will talk about.

Purple hippo dingbats notebook
Dingbats purple hippo dotted notebook

I’ve been interested in the concept for over a year, but due to the limited availability of dotted notebooks near me and nervousness about trying new things, it wasn’t until the end of 2019 (seeing people set up their 2020 journals) that I decided to give it a go.
I struggled with finding the right notebook, I wanted to be able to use what pens and supplies that I had on hand, rather than having to get specialist items or deal with the pens showing through the pages. It’s fair to say that I got myself in a bit of a tizzy. With no way to test or see them before investing I was a little apprehensive. But after watching a fair few videos I settled on a Dingbats notebook, I would have liked to get one of the A4+ sizes but I wanted the purple hippo. And it is really nice to write in, and my pens only very faintly show through to the other side.

I didn’t get it until rather close to New Year’s, which resulted in a sprint to set it up, causing me some lingering pain in my wrist. But I managed to get what I wanted set up, just in time.

The cover page for 2020 and the first page in the notebook
The key for the symbols I will use throughout the bullet journal.
A log for my cross stitch and the cover page for January

I’ve been using the journal everyday so far and it’s been very helpful. I think that I still need to find the perfect way for me to write my work tasks, but for now it is going well. The habit tracker (not shown, for privacy) has been especially revealing. I enjoy having a colourful and filled in chart, which is meaning that I want to do the activity in order to have the reward of filling in the little box with a block of colour.
I would suggest giving it a go if you need a little motivation to do something everyday.

The second week of January layout. Inspired by the plant based bride (on Youtube)

So now we are on to the second week (I realise now that I forgot to photograph the first week, I must get better at that!) and I’m still excited to use the book, I want to work and I want to put in the effort to make this year a good one.

I would highly recommend giving bullet journaling a go, you don’t need anything fancy, you don’t need a dotted notebook. A pen and a standard notebook would do. I have a bad habit of thinking that I need the “perfect” equipment in order to start something. But I’m slowly learning that getting started and earning some experience will do you better than any expensive set of pens.

I think my next update will be at the end of January, but feel free to let me know if you’d like more updates.