It's hard being a beginner
Knowing takes time
When I placed the order for materials to make paper flowers, I had to wait a week for delivery.
It was disappointing, but I did what I probably wouldn't have done had the materials arrived sooner ... read the book I borrowed from the library (the whole book, not just a chapter here or a passage there, the whole book), watched some videos (thank goodness), and found lots of examples of what's possible with paper flowers. Amazing.
And then the paper arrived.
I waited until the next day to get started, suddenly seized by doubt and overwhelm. The anticipation was over, now it was time to do the work.
It's hard being a beginner
Deep in crepe paper with sticky fingers, glue on my clothes, and scraps of snipped paper all over the place, I found myself mired doubt. This might be too much, I told myself.
And I pouted ... wondering if it really was all too much.
But, after multiple breaks to wash the glue from my fingers, a lot of deep breaths, and three hours of concentration, I had my first flower. A white cosmos.
The finished flower was such an accomplishment. It's given me the incentive to keep going. To keep trying.
Eager to see how well I did, I took the paper flower up the street and nestled it in among the real ones growing on the corner lot.
I'm working on my second flower and feeling the same doubts ... is this worth it? Do I really want to pursue this? I'm not sure, but I do know what I need to do:
Give it time.
It would be easy to give up now. I'm frustrated and want quick results, but I know better.
It's a familiar feeling. The same feeling I get when I start writing ... this newsletter, a letter to a pen pal, and just every other writing project.
It's the feeling I got when I was painting room after room in the house these past few months. And so many other projects.
But I've learned: staying with it matters.
Is there something you're ready to bail on? Would it be better to hang in there a bit longer?
Sometimes, it is good to say, "Nah, I think I'm done." But other times, we just need to dig a little deeper, hang in a little longer.
After all, you never know how things might blossom ...
My second flower, the thistle, is a work in progress. The purple bits are too long, but I'm afraid to cut them. Afraid I'll cut too much and regret it. So I'm leaving it alone for a while. But I'm not giving up ... yet.
A less intimidating approach to journaling
This is my second hand-made journal. The first was the October journal - 10 pages folded in half to make 40 pages. At least one page for every day of the month.
I decided to create my own journal book because big, blank journal books are intimidating. So many pages to fill compounded with the idea that the pages should look good, my handwriting should be at it's best, and what I write should matter.
But I've discovered those things don't matter. With a small, monthly journal, the pressure is off.
Why have a journal?
My goal is to write once a day. To mull over what I'm trying to get done, how it's going, and what I need to do next. To ask questions of myself. Writing helps me work through the tough stuff, make sense of what's baffling, and record my progress...and success. However small.
And I get to create a new cover design each month.
In the front of last month's journal I wrote two goals for the month. To finish my letter writing book and a book about birds and birding.
I accomplished the first. Still working on the second.
To be honest, I forgot that I wrote my goals in the front of the book. When I flipped through the book at the end of the month, it caught me by surprise. The other thing that caught me by surprise was that I wasn't disappointed that I hadn't completed both.
I'm thrilled that I completed my first goal (I'm waiting for the final proof of A Snail Mail Guide to Cursive Writing Practice to arrive in the mail today(!)), and I'm working on the second.
The second book is underway, but far from complete. I think the reason I felt okay about it all was that I've been working on it. Making steady progress.
It's hard to know exactly how long it will take, but I do want to push myself and try to finish it by the end of the month.
What I'm discovering, though, is that working toward something is just as important as finishing it by a certain date. The work is the reward. It makes me feel productive, engaged, and ... just better.
And that's why I wrote, "Just the beginning..." on the cover of this month's journal. Because after I finish the birds and birding book, I've got another idea, and another. And that means beginning ... all over again.
Every day is the beginning of something. Maybe it's because something ended yesterday, maybe it's because we discover a new approach, trick, or method, and we're starting in a new direction.
The key is to keep going. Plugging away at things. It's amazing what can get done.
Every day we begin. We can toss aside a bad habit or distraction and focus on something we deem more important. Or not.
If it doesn't work today because you're tired, or not feeling well, or someone needs something you can't put off, you can begin again tomorrow.
It's up to us to do what we tell ourselves we're going to do. Because in the end that's what matters most. I don't want to disappoint anyone ... but most of all, I don't want to disappoint myself.
What are you beginning?
Flipping for Crossword Puzzles
Nineteen clues and my first symmetrical crossword puzzle.
I'm patting myself on the back, it feels like such an accomplishment!
What's the big deal? The black squares. If you were to flip the puzzle, the placement and number of the black squares on the top half mirror the placement and number of black squares on the bottom half.
Making the blocks symmetrical makes it more difficult to develop clues. Especially where two or three words run alongside or across one another ... like with clues three down, and four and seven across.
I've made word search puzzles and wanted to try the symmetrical crossword, but always gave up before getting too far. My mum loves a crossword puzzle, so this one's for her.
I hope you'll try it. Let me know if do, and I'll make another one.
You can download and print the puzzle (a one page sheet with the clues and answers(!) by clicking on the crossword image above).
A big sigh for DIY
Yesterday I became the reluctant fixer when the hose on the back of the dryer disconnected. I couldn’t get it reconnected and it started a string of lefty-loosey, righty-tighty missteps, YouTube videos, and a trip to the hardware store where a patient and far-more knowledgeable expert put and end to my cycle of frustration.
Are you handy?
Most of the time I would say I am. But truth be told, it depends when you ask.
Yesterday when I was in the middle of trying to attach that hose, I would have answered with a resounding no. Today, basking in the satisfaction of a job well-done (well, done anyway), I’m more likely to say yes.
It’s a truth most of us can relate to. Doing something for the first time comes with unique challenges:
The key of course of course is pushing through.
Though I wanted to give up, and nearly did, I knew it wasn’t an impossible task. Connecting a vent hose requires minimal tools and supplies ... there’s no rewiring of electricity or other element involved that would best be left to a professional. But I couldn't do it alone.
It took seven YouTube videos, two hours of trial and error, and two trips to two different hardware stores before I figured out what was missing and found what I needed:
A missing element and some guidance.
It also meant letting go. Of a quick fix, of all I had planned for the morning, of perfection, and frustration.
Though I won’t been installing dryer vent hoses on a regular basis, it’s a good, and constant, reminder that while there can be a quick fix here and there, it’s not the rule.
We’re better served, it seems, to recognize things will take more time and effort than expected. That frustration is part of the deal, and a little help from an expert goes a long way.
That even though what we’re trying to accomplish may not always be easy or fun, what we’re left is increased confidence, a bit more know-how, and a deep sigh of satisfaction.
The ideas weren't flowing. I was struggling with what to offer in the map entry for the April playbook. I considered making a map of lighthouses in the state, places I had visited, or things I notice in the neighborhood on my morning walks. But none of it clicked.
Setting it all aside for a while gave me the distance and insight I needed.
I don't remember what I was doing, but the idea came to me when I was working on something else: Maine has a surprising number of map resources. Start there.
Rather than a map of a place, I'd make an information map ... of map resources in Maine.
Working small: thumbnail sketches and an eraser
And as I do with most ideas, I started with a thumbnail sketch.
In one of my first graphic design classes, I was taught to make thumbnail sketches. Small-scale drawings of an idea. It's a handy tool for visualizing posters and book covers. It works for professional projects and your hobbies, too. You can sketch and list what you need to get started. You could map out what you've done and where you want to go.
And it prompts new ideas.
My vision for the map is a hand-drawn poster. There's more information to add and I'm still working through the layout and how to connect it all. Dotted lines? Arrows?
I'll post the final version and you can compare the thumbnail with the finished piece.
Do use thumbnail sketches or some other tool to organize your thoughts and ideas?
More entries in This State of Mine. Have you seen them?
Is it time to shuffle off?
I started tap dance lessons last fall, and I’m not sure I want to continue. I do love the shoes, but the lessons? I'm frustrated. The decision now is, how do I move forward? Will I move forward?
Starting a new hobby is an exciting adventure. But it can also be rife with doubt, confusion, and questions.
• What does it cost to get started?
• Are you willing (or able) to make the investment?
• Can (and will) you commit the time it will take to master, create, or perform whatever it is?
And what about that learning curve? Is it relatively low? If it’s steep, will you be able to push through the frustration of being a beginner?
I never dreamed of being a tap dancer, so I was surprised when the listing for “Tap Dance: Beginner” caught my eye. The schedule was good (Saturday mornings from 10:00 - 11:00), and the price was reasonable: $12/lesson for drop-in, less if you sign up for the full eight week session. And shoes. Prices start at $25, though for beginners in the class I was starting, smooth-soled shoes are acceptable.
But I wanted the shoes.
It took three orders on Amazon to get a pair that fit properly and I was ready.
I was dizzy after the first class, excited after the second, and felt doubt creeping in after the third. The fourth was the best. We learned some new steps and the routine at the end brought things together nicely. I felt like I was starting to get it.
And then there was the fifth class.
We start each class with warm-up exercises, a review of steps we’ve already learned, and the introduction of new steps. The second half hour is when it all comes together in a short routine. Or should.
It was tough. The routine was too complex for this beginner. I couldn’t remember the order of the steps, I missed the beat (more than once), and found myself making simple steps just to stay in line with the other dancers. I was discouraged.
And the next class wasn’t much better. Or the next.
So I'm asking myself, "Is tap dance right for me?" I don’t know.
What I do know is that I'm not alone. Starting a new hobby can be frustrating. When things get tough, do we stick it out, or let it go?
The answer, I think, can only be found by asking ourselves the right questions.
Do you have the right tools?
The right teacher?
Have you done the prep or practice that’s required to improve?
Do you care about this enough to keep going?
Is there something else you’d rather be doing?
Is it worth another try?
Is tap dance for me? I don’t know.
I'm trying to answer the questions honestly. Am I practicing enough between classes? No. Is it worth another try? Yes.
I'm not sure if I'm in the right class, so I’ve decided to look for another. I’m also looking at online lessons to boost my practice because I’m not ready to give up.
I really like the shoes.
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