Incremental January: Week 3

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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De-cluttering continues. Clothes, books, shoes, and yarn have been sorted and rearranged. There are bags of stuff sitting by the door just waiting to be donated or traded-in. I’ve even cleaned out my car. Still, there’s a lot to do and the work continues.

This week, I’m still going to be focusing on the space around me but I’m also going to work on cleaning up the digital space. This week isn’t just about freeing up space on my hard drive. This week is about getting back my time, cutting out distractions, and saving my attention for the things that really need it. The 10+ emails in my inbox every morning trying to sell me stuff are not worth my time. So, this week I am going to:

  • Edit account settings to reduce the amount of email various sites send me every day.
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters that I’m just not excited about anymore.
  • Clean up my RSS feeds. Blogs and comics that don’t hold my attention? Gone. Sites that post more 3-5 times a day? Bye-bye. Etsy shops I’m not fond of anymore? (Yes, Etsy shops have RSS feeds).  Deleted. My wallet is already sighing with relief. 
  • Stop emails from social networks saying that someone has commented/pinned/tagged whatever I’ve posted. It‘s just distracting and hides the important stuff in my inbox. I’m already going to the site whether I get an email or not. 
  • Delete bookmarks to sites that are no longer relevant or dead.
  • Delete blurry and unusable photos. Must make room for the good ones. 
  • Uninstall programs that I will never use and forgot about because I found something better.

Now if I could just stop checking my email or Ravelry or Reddit every time I get bored, I’d have a lot more time on my hands.

 

Incremental January

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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After taking a break through December and enjoying the holidays, I’m ready to get back to work. There are things to do, butts to kick, and yarn that won’t knit it itself. 2013 has arrived and I’m going to make it a year to remember. In order to do that, I need to start now and make daily, regular process. None of this waiting to the last minute stuff or running around like a headless chicken. 

The Too Long, Didn’t Read Version: Start now. Finish stuff. Be awesome. 

My theme for 2013 was to approach life with bold enthusiasm and there are a few things I need to clear up first to make that easier. Okay, make that a multitude of things. January's Incremental Project is to de-clutter and clean up my own little space in the world. It’s not really a skill - like spinning yarn or sketching - but it will make those things and daily life easier. If everything has a place, I won’t have to wander the house looking for a pair of scissors or spend 10 minutes trying to find my favorite shirt. That whole “Bold Enthusiasm” thing is much easier when I don’t waste my energy trying to find random object x. 

Yesterday, there was cleaning and scrubbing and vacuuming. This week there will be sorting, bagging, and dropping off/trading in all that stuff I don’t have a place for anymore. I might even tackle a closet but I’ll probably put that off until next week. Wish me luck.

Incremental 5K: Week 9 & December

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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How is it December already? My internal clock says it should still be October or the beginning of November at the latest. It seems like I should be just starting my 5K training instead of in Week 9 and not having all that much to show for it. Last week, I should have gone out running 3 days a week. The weather was wonderful and the park nearby but I spent the entire week sick. Again. My lungs were trying to climb up out of my chest any way they could. Didn’t succeed though. So, here it is, week 9 of my training, the supposed end date, and I’m no where close to being able to run a 5K. Am I frustrated? Yes. Am I giving up? No. Assuming the weather cooperates this week and leaves my lungs alone, I’m going back to my laps. 

I’m going to keep pounding the pavement and working towards running a 5K in December but not as an Incremental Project. It’ll be a nice goal to keep running in the background but I have a larger goal in sight. January 2013 really isn’t as far away as it seems and there’s a lot I want to take care of before the year is out. So, my Incremental Project for December is to finish projects, tie up loose ends, and start planning for next year. Weekly posting on this topic will probably be slim but, rest assured, I’ll be hard at work. 2013 is going to be awesome and I want to be ready for it. 

Incremental 5K: Week 8

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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Simply put, last week’s 5k training was golden. The weather saw fit to be warm and sunny. The park wasn’t too crowded and I made good time. I saw this really weird looking spider. The fact that I only noticed him because he mysteriously appeared on my hand isn’t important. I followed all the prompts from my training app without too much grumbling. Plus, my headphones managed to stay in my ears most of the time. The best part though was that I finally noticed some progress. After spending 3 miles walking/running, I was sore and thirsty but not completely winded. All the cardio seems to be paying off. Let’s hope the trend continues this week.

Incremental 5K: Week 7

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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Last week there was daily stretching, regular workouts, and a fair bit of walking. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much in the way of running. At least, I’ve managed to establish a nice baseline of things to do whether I run or not. It’ll probably be a really solid routine if I ever swing a kettle bell into the mix. Maybe next year, which isn’t as far off as I’d like to think.

This morning I woke up, got dressed, and was out to the park before I could talk myself out of the whole thing. There were a few warm-up laps before I started the 5K app counting and then got down to business. I didn’t skip any of the prompts or cut out early. 15 laps later, I’d managed to cover 3 miles in 35 minutes which isn’t my best time but I’m happy with it all the same. It’s a good start.

Finished and back home, I was sweaty, thirsty, and just a tiny bit sore but I was happy I’d forced myself out for a run. Happiness and excitement is much better than the grumbly attitude I had waking up this morning. That joyful little boost is enough for me to look forward to Wednesday and even Friday. You should probably remind me of this Wednesday morning though so I’ll get my butt out the door.

Incremental 5K: Week 6

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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Last week the weather was cold, windy, cloudy, and occasionally wet. So, I slept in and morning runs just didn’t happen. Neither did afternoon runs despite my best intentions. I’m blaming the rain. Now that the excuses are out of the way, I can say that the week wasn’t a total waste of training since there’s more to running than just running. There’s also stretching.

Back during September and my walk everyday challenge, I got into the habit of regular, daily stretching. At first, I just worked over my thighs, hamstrings, calves, and ankles. Couldn’t walk or run if I pulled something after all. Over the past months, the routine has expanded to start with my neck, end with my ankles, and cover everything in between. My flexibility has increased dramatically and I’m more relaxed sitting in front of a computer or during long knitting sessions. Tense shoulders are detrimental to both of those activities and worth preventing. Half the time, the stretching turns into a mini-workout for my arms and abs even if I don’t make it the track. I’m not a total slacker.

This week’s goal is to keep up the stretching and get back to running again. The weather looks pretty decent so I won’t be able to use that as an excuse. Just need to find a really annoying alarm clock now.

Incremental 5K: The Denver Edition

Last week was a great adventure. On Wednesday the Bearded One and I took a plane to Denver, CO and spent 4 days exploring the city. There was an aquarium, awesome buildings, shopping, tea, great bookshops, yarn (more on that later), and walking. So much walking. The first real day I had in the city, I covered 10 miles on foot. The next day, I figured out the bus schedule. All totaled in Google Maps, I walked about 20 miles wandering the city. My legs hated me at the time but now we’re back on friendly terms.

Now that I’m back on my home turf, it’s time to start 5K training again. My ankle feels great, my legs are cooperating, and I’m back to my normal oxygen levels. I could do without the ever present humidity though. Walking 20 miles around Denver, even if I was just shuffling down the sidewalk, let me know what just what I’m capable of and that my ankle is back in working order. Time to stop making excuses, feeling sorry for myself, and just starting running.

Incremental 5K: Week 4

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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Another week, another post, and the routine continues unabated. Wish I could say the same thing about 5K training. Two weeks ago, I went for an impromptu run without enough of a warm up and now my ankle doesn’t like flexing. I tried ignoring it at first but decided that was a horrible idea. So, this past week, I didn’t try to run or even go for daily walks. Just the usual day to day jaunts, a hike through Bankhead National Forest, and lots and lots of stretching. 

My ankle is much better this week and I hope it’s ready to tromp all over the city of Denver. The 5K training is still on hiatus this week but I’m not giving up. When I asked for advice about running a few weeks ago, I heard “Don’t Wimp Out,” and from SillyLittleLady, “It might not always feel good during the run, but you’ll always feel good after it!” I’m taking those both to heart and, when my ankle feels like cooperating, I’ll be ready and willing to start from scratch.

Incremental 5K: Week 3

Last week was full of the usual routines - walking, trying to run, knit night, wasting time on the internet, etc - and one brand new thing. Bright and early on Saturday morning, I headed into Birmingham for the Komen Race for the Cure 5K.

Transient

I joined Team Boobapalooza with a few friends from knit night and it was the first time I’ve walked in any kind of organized 5K. Wasn’t really sure what to expect but the place was packed and covered in pink. I arrived early enough to find a parking space which meant I spent a lot of time waiting for the walk to start. Thankfully, Team Boobapalooza was pleasant company.

To be honest, I’ve never really understood the whole “let’s walk in a big circle to support X” concept until now. How is my walking going to cure breast cancer, or stop ALS, or fund a library? It wasn’t until  I was walking down 20th and saw the thousands of people ahead of me and the thousands behind me that I began to understand. There is strength in numbers and power in a common cause. Walking isn’t medical research or the cure for breast cancer but it shows strength, camaraderie, and influence.  It is a celebration of the people who are still with us and a remembrance of those that we’ve lost. When people join together there is hope and movement towards a better future where people don’t die from cancer.

Incremental 5K: Week 2

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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Last week I was all gung-ho about starting training for some far off 5K. Then I got sick and just standing up made me tired and wobbly. So, walking was out and tiny amounts of running was definitely out. So, the goodness that is 5K training starts this week instead.

I might be even more psyched out to start running this week than I was last week because I really wanted to start last Monday. I have a new pair of toe shoes and a Couch to 5K app on my iPod. Plus, once I was feeling better, I went to a festival and indulged my love of meat on a stick and funnel cake. I’m ready to get moving. 

Anyone have any tips about what you would have loved to know when you first started running?

Incremental 5K: Week 1

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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Ever since I decided I wanted to able to run a 5K, it seems like races have been popping up out of no where. Just this weekend I saw posters for three different races scheduled during the next few weeks. Not that I’m going to participate but I still think it’s funny that I’m hearing about all of them now. The logical answer to this phenomenon is that I’ve started looking for races instead of just skimming over the news boards. It’s probably not all that different from my ability to pick out yarn shops from 30 paces once I started knitting.

As for the actual running and training part of Couch to 5K, that didn’t really happen last week. I only managed to walk on 2 days due to a perfect storm of timing and laziness. Mostly it was the laziness but Sunday’s walk through 50° temps re-motivated me for some strange reason. Let the training begin in earnest!...just as soon I get over this cold.

September Walking and Incremental October

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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In the beginning of the September it took me 20 minutes to walk 1 mile around my neighborhood while dodging cars, avoiding dogs, and climbing hills. I eventually switched to a park near my house and started walking 2 miles a day. There were no cars, the dogs were friendly, and I walked a mile in about 17 minutes. I kept going to the park and started walking 3 miles the next week. The last week had a bit of a locational transition but I found two new parks and got back to walking. Now, I am so close to being able to walk a mile in 10 minutes. Just have to shave off that last 30 - 40 seconds. 

All totaled, I managed to walk about 30 miles in September and I want to keep going. If only I wasn’t wearing the soles off my 5 year old shoes. 

FiveFingersAfter.jpg

So, walking in September was a success. It got off to a slow start but I quickly found my groove and started enjoying my daily walks so much that I made the time to go every day. No excuses. Even on the days I took to rest, I wanted to go out and add a few more miles to my tally. My legs are really happy I didn’t. Going for a walk let me get some exercise but I was also able to blow off steam, day dream, plan my to-do list, and keep motivated. I recommend it.

I’ve been thinking about October’s Incremental project for the last week. Should I focus on the holiday crafting? Should I learn to spin yarn on a rented wheel from the fiber guild? Should I focus on designing and getting all these knitting patterns out of my head? I wasn’t really sure until I started typing this paragraph but October’s goal (and November’s too) will be the Couch to 5K program. 9 weeks to start running 5 kilometers (or 3.1 miles) at a time. I’m ready and I’ve got a new pair of shoes. 

Walking: Week 4

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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The last week of September is finally here and so is my last week of walking as a September project. I’d be sad to see it go if I didn’t know for sure that I was going to keep this daily goal going. After walking 6 days a week for the 3 past weeks, I’ve rather come to enjoy the process. I don’t have to bargain with myself or promise sugary goodness to rack up a few more miles. I just make the time, put on my shoes, stretch, and start walking. 

Unfortunately, unexpected schedule changes throw me for a loop on occasion. Last Wednesday, for example, going for a long walk just wasn’t in the cards. I made up for it the next day by walking 3 miles and making that my new daily goal. 3 miles is doable but a challenge if I keep a brisk pace. Plus, it’s fun. Never thought I’d see myself type that out.

Walking all those miles will give me time to contemplate my next incremental project. Something crafty or Couch to 5K? Both?

Incremental Walking: Week 3

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started.

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I have a new favorite spot at a local park but I don’t stay there for very long. The new spot is a few hundred feet of serpentine asphalt surrounded my trees, cool air, shade, and tweeting birds. If I look to my right all I can see is a wall of green and, when it’s quiet, I can pretend there aren’t 3 baseball fields to my left. What might be best of all is the complete lack of snarling dogs. Or it might be the pocket of crisp, extra - oxygenated air. I haven’t decided. 

Last week’s walks have all been taken in the afternoon so that cool, little pocket of air is much appreciated since it’s still in the 70’s and technically summer. Hurry up, Fall Equinox. The first week I walked a mile. The second week I walked 2 miles. This week I’m going to push for 3 and maybe there will be a little jogging if I go in the morning. Plus, I’m going to try to get my time down closer to a 10 minute mile. Wish me luck. I’ll see you after the third lap.

P.S. My to-do list still quakes in fear when I walk up.

Walking: Week 2

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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I’m going to spare you the pseudo-inspirational picture of the view from my front door this morning and get straight to the point. Now that I’m back on my home turf, September’s walking project is going strong. I’m waking up earlier than I have in months to go for a walk in the cool morning air. My legs have gone from outright rebellion to only occasional complaining. My lungs don’t hate the hills as much either. I want to push myself farther, take side trips off the beaten path, add more milage, and go exploring. The lovely, cool weather just encourages me to go further though I could do without the barking, growling dogs that follow.

What’s surprised me most about the past few days of walking wasn’t the improved physical strength,  or even the barking dogs (those I remember from previous walks), but how energized and prepared I’d be for the rest of the day. When I get back home, I’m ready to crush my to-do list. It’s a completely different mindset than when I just wake up, make tea, and sit on the computer all morning. These morning walks are doing more for me than that cup of morning tea ever has.

August and September Incremental

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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So, August’s Incremental Project was supposed to be about drawing, sketching, and leveling up my rendering skills. I was going to draw everyday and make amazing progress to be proud of. I bought some pencils and a sketchpad and did pretty well the first 2 weeks but I didn’t feel like I was making any  progress. Commence laziness. Then I bought a book and worked a few more sketches. Even when I decided to buckle down last week, the pencil did not touch the paper. 

What do I have to show for my 2 and a half weeks of effort? New drawing supplies, another addition to the library, 15 sketches, and a little understanding. I didn’t make amazing progress or even come close to leveling up but I’m not giving up. I still want to draw. I’m still inspired by art. I still want to mark up the page. So, it didn’t happen right now but it will. 

You know what the funny part is? Now that I’m not feeling obligated to draw everyday, I feel like picking up the sketchpad and working through a few exercises. Maybe drawing should have been September’s goal. Ah well. 

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Will the Incremental Project keep going?

Yes, even though it didn’t get off to such a great start in August. Can’t begin everything with a bang. Sometimes, you need to build a little momentum first. When I first dreamed up the Incremental Project, I wanted to focus on a wide range of things. It wasn’t supposed to be just about knitting, spinning, or creative goodness but also fitness, cooking, photo editing, or learning code. Whatever grabs my interest at the time. 

In September, my goal is to walk everyday.  By the end of the month, it might be jogging or running. There’s no real end goal but I know want to start with walking 1 mile a day. One day a week, I’ll push my limits and see how far my feet take me. On another day, I’ll rest. As for the days I’m walking, I have a plan with bullet points. Bullet points make everything official. 

  • Wake up in the morning when the air is still cool.
  • Get dressed and pull on my trusted Five Fingers.
  • Head out the door and start walking the neighborhood or the local park.
  • Get back home, stretch, and drink lots of water. Also, breakfast.

I’ve been adventuring this weekend but I’m pretty sure I walked around Ikea yesterday for at least a mile. Today’s looking like a day of rest. I hope you’re enjoying your Monday too whether you observe Labor Day or not.

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Drawing Incrementally: Week 4

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started.


I can only take some many “artful” photos of sketchbooks, erasers, and pencils to cover up a lack of progress on the sketching front. Last week I sketched exactly one thing, a self portait, and didn’t pick up the pencils again. Thankfully, August is has 31 days and I’ve got one more week to accomplish something. Let’s see if I can pull this off.

Any hints and tips to keep me motivated during the home stretch?

Drawing Incrementally: Week 3

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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How many weeks do you have to do something for it to become a habit? I’m voting for 3 since, at 2, this would become the day I’d have to fess up for not making my daily goals. Last week, I owned up to doing all my sketches at the last moment. I waited because I wanted to learn something and get better instead of just filling up my sketchbook. In 14 drawings, there was no progress but I wanted to keep going. So, what happened last week? Nothing. Didn’t even flip open my sketchpad or sharpen a pencil, however, I did do some research and added something new to my toolkit.

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It’s not new pencils or a kneaded eraser even though I did buy both of those things. It’s a workbook called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. The reviews were good, the results look amazing, and the book is in its second edition. What convinced me to try this book though was how straightforward the author was about learning to draw:

“Drawing is always the same task, requiring the same five perceptual skills that, with practice, become integrated into the whole skill - called a “global skill - drawing.” - Betty Edwards

I’ve always had “the practice.” I’d sit down in front of an object with my pencils and paper and start sketching. The finished drawing looked like what was in front of me but wasn’t quite right. The proportions were off or the shading blurred out the detail or the perspective was jumbled. I thought it I just practiced enough I could solve those problems. Learning to draw isn’t just practice, practice, practice but knowing what to practice and focus on. Seems simple but the simple things can easily be over looked.

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So I’m starting at the beginning of the book with the 3 drawings meant to gauge future progress and skills. I managed an okay drawing of my hand and the corner of a room. Haven’t gotten to the self portrait yet but I will. It won’t be amazing and I’ll probably just embarrass myself but it’s a start.

Drawing Incrementally: Week 2

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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What do a spaghetti fork, a fork, a bottle of italian seasoning, a straw dispenser, an olive oil pitcher, and a jar of preserves have in a common?

The answer, I drew all of them last night and at the last minute. So much for drawing everyday.

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At least I managed to pick up the slack. The only sketch I managed to do close to on time was “Monday’s” sketch of a knife block that I actually drew on Tuesday afternoon. Why the shirking of daily drawings. I could caulk it up to waiting till the end of the night only to decide I’m too tired. What really happened was that I didn’t feel like I was learning anything or getting an better. Where’s the progress that’s supposed to keep me motived? I just wasn’t seeing it. So, I slacked off and drew 6 things at the last minute because I said I’d draw 7 things from my kitchen. Accountability, what would I do without you? 

Why keep drawing if I’m not seeing any progress? One, two weeks of sketching isn’t going to make me a master. I need time and I need practice. Lots and lots of practice. Two, I’ve got to start somewhere. Three, I’ve wanted to be able to sketch and render and doodle for as long as I can remember. I want to record what’s important, tell stories, and make art. Four, I’m inspired. In Reader, I have an Art folder which follows the blogs several artists. I see their work and want to develop my own style to tell my own stories. A few of my favorites in no particular order:

  • Yuko Ota - I’ve followed her work for a few years and her art manages to be both cute and badass at the same time. Also, Johnny Wander rocks.
  • Donovan Beeson - She posts regular sketches/journal combos to The Intangible Blog. The images are wonderful, almost daily snapshots of her interests and adventures.
  • Abigail Halpin - Cute, whimsical, and fun. Her work makes me smile.
  • Lucy Knisley - Comics! about food and travel and daily life. The occasional Harry Potter reference doesn’t hurt either. 
  • Marc Taro Holmes - His blog is a combination of watercolor and sketches that focuses on documenting the spirit of place.
  • Kate Bingaman Burt - Simple, biographical drawings of her daily purchases. I like to wonder at the stories behind her spending. 
  • Genine D. Zlatkis - Fun, colorful, and expressive watercolors, paintings, and sketches. Also, really awesome hand carved stamps.

Drawing Incrementally: Week 1

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental.Read up on how it all got started.

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It’s officially Monday and I have sketched 5 different objects. On Day 1, I waited until there were 8 minutes left in the day before finally putting pencil to paper. I kept putting it off because it had been so long since I’d tried to draw anything and I was pretty sure I’d screw it up. Plus, what in the whole wide world was I going to draw. In those last few minutes, I just picked something on my desk and got started. If it was horrible, it would just have to be horrible. Half an hour later, I finished. Did it suck? Well, it wasn’t great.

Sketch1.jpg

Here’s the thing I have grudgingly come to terms with, nothing I do will ever be perfect the first time or after a long bit of inactivity. Constant practice and refinement is absolutely required. I will not be amazingly talented and skilled at every single little thing I try my hand at. Doesn’t matter how much I wish it were true. The truth is that I will make mistakes and I will have to practice and both of those things are totally okay. It’s fine to make mistakes in the beginning so long as you learn and improve because of them. Don't give up because the first attempt wasn't everything you thought it would be. 

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And that whole question of what to draw? I picked a theme. Last week the theme was: Stuff On My Desk. I know, original, but it got the job done. I drew my glass of water, then my mouse, my favorite pen, my hard drive, and my phone charger. This week’s theme: Stuff In The Kitchen. Maybe I’ll start with the knife block or the pots I use most. Drawing a whisk sounds fun too. I’ll probably still wait until the last minute but one problem at a time. I’ll let you know how it goes next Monday.