Spring is Here (finally)

We had a long winter in my neck of the woods. Long enough that my son had a snow day in early April! Now spring is finally here with its rainy days (we are supposed to have rain everyday this week), and on the days of no rain, bike rides, sidewalk chalk, and other outdoor activities abound.

Spring is known for being a time of renewal, decluttering, and cleaning. I have been trying to take some time to think about these things. This winter, I spent a few months in hibernation. Until we had a few sunny days, I didn’t realize how much I had withdrawn from my own life. Apparently it was a rougher winter than I thought. Now that I am feeling present again it is time to get things done.

Years ago I had to simplify my hobbies. I had too many things I wanted to do, and the end result was that I didn’t get much time to do any of them. These days I focus my limited free time on time with my family, sewing, and writing. If I only have time for only a few hobbies, I need to pick the ones that matter most to me. When I sat down and looked at the long list of crafts, hobbies, and other time sinks I enjoyed, theses were the ones that came out on top. I expect they will change over time, but right now my focus is on finding time for each of these things.

For the last month I’ve made a real effort to exercise. As much as I would love to find time for writing and sewing, I know from experience I need to feel good about myself to be motivated to do much of anything. For me, exercise is the key for feeling good about myself (for me! your mileage may vary). Exercise helps me sleep well at night, keeps me strong enough to play with my kid, and allows me to feel productive. Plus it encourages my love of numbers. Now that I have exercise (both cardio and some basic strength) back into my weekly routine it is time to start adding in other things.

This month I want to focus on writing, with a bit of sewing thrown in. I hope to write twice a week for the rest of the month, and get at least two evenings of sewing. I already know what my projects are going to be! I will finish the Jungle Path quilt top, and write a new short story.

What helps you feel motivated? What hobbies are most important to you?

Camp NaNoWriMo – April 2017

I’ve talked before about Camp NaNoWriMo vs Regular NaNoWriMo before. My preference is for regular NaNoWriMo, but I’m doing Camp in April because a few friends are dragging me along for the ride. I set a fairly low goal of 20k for the month. If I meet me goal, I’ll be back on track for the year for writing.

After a lot of back and forth, I decided to continue my NaNo 2016 Sci-Fi project. It has at least 20k left to get to the end, and it is somewhat fresh in my mind. Of course, it wasn’t as fresh as I thought… I spent the first two days of camp rereading the 50k I wrote in November.

On the days I write, I’m making good progress. I write at least two days worth of words when I get butt in chair time. Of course this would be more impressive if I was writing more than every third day. Ya, you might have noticed that math isn’t adding up well. I am currently caught up to day 7… it’s the 11th. My plan is to write another two days worth tonight and then I’ll only be 2 days behind. This in a nut shell is why camp doesn’t work for me. I’m always behind. In NaNo I’m usually ahead by day 3-4 and never drop below par. When I do camp, I’m ALWAYS behind.

I’m determined to catch up. I’m far from out of the game yet. Are you  doing camp this year? How are you doing at meeting your goals?

Critique Group – Part One – Setup

I’ve been thinking about my critique group and how it fits into my writing lately. Before I post about some of that though, I thought it would be helpful to have some background on the group I’m a part of. Please keep in mind I am far from an expert in critiquing. A few things of note:

  • This is the only group I’ve been a part of, and the only one I’ve started.
  • Everyone in this group had met in real life prior to starting the group.
  • We meet in person, virtually, or a mix of both once per month.

Some background
Last January my friend Cate and I set out to start a critique group. We had both hit the point in our writing where we knew it was time to share, but we weren’t sure of the best way to do that. After reviewing our options, we decided starting our own critique group made the most sense. When we sent out the invitation for people to join our group, we were aiming for a group of four to six people including ourselves.

The group started with five people, but we currently have only three members. We’d love another member or two, but we are an acquired taste in some ways, and I think having now been working together for a while it’s harder to bring in another person.

When we started the group we were very deliberate in setting the tone, structure, and expectations. We talked about what people wanted to get out of the group, and how much time people had to devote to the group. We laid out the ground rules and expectations for members. This really helped when we were getting started and means that going forward we have a plan in place. A few things we discussed/laid out included:

  • How long will submissions be, and what is the max number of submissions the group can handle per month?
  • When will we submit, how often will we meet, and how will we meet (in person or virtual)?
  • What types of writing can be submitted (age and genre), and is there anything someone is not comfortable reviewing?
  • What are our guidelines when doing the critique, and how are we sharing our comments with the writer?
  • How will we handle people who ask to join, or asking people to join?

Are you part of a critique group? What are some of the ground rules your group follows?

March Goals

My goals for February were:

  1. Write 10k – including at least two 500 word postsDone!
  2. Sell, donate, etc at least three bags/boxes/equivalent – Done!
  3. Exercise (bike, DDR, or run) 8 times – Calling it Done!
  4. Quilt the mystery quilt – Done!

I’m going to call this month a win. For writing I wrote more than double my goal, although I didn’t write any 500 word posts. For the biking I did 6/8, but I was sick for the last half week of the month when I would have easily done, and had planned to do, the last two workouts.

My goals for March are:

  1. Workout 10 times (bike, swim, or run)
  2. Write 10k
  3. Clear out at least three boxes/big items from the basement
  4. Use my bullet journal all month

Yearly Update:

  1. Piece at least three quilt tops – 0/3
  2. Finish at least three quilts – 1/3
  3. Write 10k a month – 22k/110k (not including Nov)
  4. Submit to critique group eight times – 1/8
  5. Exercise twice a week – 14/96

Declutter Update: I haven’t done as much this month as I would like. I did go through my clothes and get a pile of my son’s old clothes out of the house. I need to move on to paper and the basement next. If I can clear out the basement I have room to put more things in storage down there.

How did you goals for February go? Are you doing anything new in March?

Asian Dramas – Love Stories

I’ve been watching a lot of Asian romance dramas lately. The first one I watched was ‘Good Morning Call’ by netflix. Because I watched it, I started getting recommendations on netflix for other Asian dramas.

Since I’ve been enjoying them so much, and because I’m a writer, I started thinking about why I’m drawn to these stories. First for those who aren’t familiar with Asian Romance Dramas a few common themes:

  1. Kissing (even touching) between couples is kept to a minimum. For high schoolers and in most Korean Dramas a kiss is nothing more than a press of the lips (held for a silly length of time without moving). My understanding is this is in part because of censorship.
  2. The male half of the couple is almost always handsome, rich, very smart, and/or super talented.
  3. The female half of the couple pretty much always has more than one guy vying for her interest. Often for the first half this doesn’t include the male half of the couple.
  4. Fake dating, oops I tripped and my lips landed on your lips, one of the characters ends up in the hospital, rushing to the airport to catch your love before it’s too late, etc are all common occurrences.
  5. Many of the shows are based on manga.

There are a number of reasons I’m enjoying these shows, but I want to focus on why I’m enjoying the stories themselves.

1.)  Friends don’t try and steal each other’s boyfriends. Female friends seem to have more genuine friendships. This makes it easier for me to relate to the characters. They are supportive of each other and don’t tear each other down. They don’t scheme behind each others backs, unless it is to try and get the main couple together.

2.) I like the predictability and over the top story lines. It sometimes feels a bit like watching a fanfic. It is almost always obvious who the main love pair is from the credits of the show. So far I haven’t hit a show that didn’t get a happily ever after ending.

3.) Because every physical touch is a big deal you really pay attention to body language. I struggle with body language in my writing, and while I’m unlikely to write a romance with so little touch, it has made me more aware of other ways people show they like someone.

4.) They are short. They almost always wrap up in a single season of around thirty 45 mins-1 hour episodes.

There are common trends that bug me, but over I can ignore it in favour of the parts I enjoy.

What are your favourite kind of shows to watch? Have any recommendations for Asian Romances I should watch on Netflix?

2017 Resolutions Update – January

My Goals (resolutions) for the year are:

  1. Piece at least three quilt tops
  2. Finish at least three quilts
  3. Write 10k a month
  4. Submit to critique group at least eight times
  5. Exercise twice a week
  6. Continue to get more out of the house than comes in
  7. Set up the crafting corner in the study

Some of these are easy to quantify. I’ve set up the numbers below for those:

  1. Piece at least three quilt tops – 0/3
  2. Finish at least three quilts – 0/3
  3. Write 10k a month – 0/110,000 (I’m not including Nov in this)
  4. Submit to critique group at least eight times – 0/8
  5. Exercise twice a week – 8/96

Can’t say I’m doing too well so far this year. I must strive to do better.

The last two items I can’t track in terms of numbers though. This makes it tough to report in on, but I do want to keep myself accountable. My plan is to include numbers for the first five in each monthly update and then a small paragraph on the last two if appropriate.

Declutter update:
In January we didn’t bring many new items into the house. My husband found a few pieces of clothing and we’ve bought books for my son. We sent out two boxes and a big bag of stuff in January. The setting up of my craft space is still in the get stuff out of the way phase. I need to target the study specifically for decluttering.

Have you made any progress on your New Years Resolutions? Any great decluttering tips that might help me sort out that craft space?

February Goals

In January my goals were:

  1. Write 10k (does not have to be all the same project) – Nope
  2. Exercise 8 times (bike or DDR) – Done!
  3. Quilt the mystery quilt (more on that in an upcoming post) – Nope
  4. Donate three bags/boxes/equivalent – Done!

I got zero writing done, so goal number one was just a solid fail. For the quilt I did get some sewing done, but it was piecing the first two rows of my son’s jungle path quilt not quilting the mystery quilt. Overall score for the month is: 2/4 goals completed. 😦 Better luck next month.

My goals for February are:

  1. Write 10k – including at least two 500 word posts
  2. Sell, donate, etc at least three bags/boxes/equivalent
  3. Exercise (bike, DDR, or run) 8 times
  4. Quilt the mystery quilt

I was going to include an update on the priorities I set at the beginning of the year, but I have more to say than I want to fit in this post.

How did you do on your goals last month? Are you still keeping track of your ‘New Year’s Resolutions’?

 

Stretching my Skills

I recently stumbled across an old post by Piecemeal Quilts discussing the ‘dumbing down of quilting’. For me the important part of the post wasn’t the discussion on what counts as intermediate, but the idea that we should challenge ourselves instead of relying on the same basic skill set.

I’m pretty good at applying this strategy to my writing. I try and write deeper characters, more relaistic dialogue, or to not give the ending away in the first scene. It doesn’t come easily or naturally and it’s often unsuccessful, but I keep trying.

After reading Piecemeal’s post, I realized I couldn’t say the same for my quilting. I haven’t moved beyond squares, half square triangles, and a few rectangles. Those are all important skills. Those skills are all you need to make beautiful quilts, but there are other things I could be working on. I don’t need to expand my skills. I could continue to make beautiful quilts with those shapes. The more I think about it though, the more I want to expand my skills. I want to stretch my quilting self.

This year I’ve set a goal of finishing three quilt tops, and three quilts. I want at least one of those quilts to include a new to me skill. I’m planning on a quilt for my mother that includes (kind of) flying geese. I have also bookmarked a quilt that includes diamonds and y-seams. My plan is to tackle the flying geese, which should be fairly straight forward, then move on to the diamonds and y-seams.

At this point I don’t plan to ever move onto curved seams, but I won’t rule it out completely. I want to quilt for many years to come, and over those years I’d like to think my skills will improve and maybe I’ll be ready to jump into something that seems crazy to me today. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that I said I wanted to make quilt tops, but not quilt them.

Do you have any skills you’re planning to stretch this year? What writing or quilting projects are you working on?

January Goals

I didn’t really set December goals, so I have nothing to recap this month. I don’t mind. I like the idea of starting fresh for the new year anyway!

My goals for January are:

  1. Write 10k (does not have to be all the same project)
  2. Exercise 8 times (bike or DDR)
  3. Quilt the mystery quilt (more on that in an upcoming post)
  4. Donate three bags/boxes/equivalent

Since I’m trying to stick to my ‘resolutions’ this year, all four of my goals relate to the priorities I set. I really need to refresh my writing spreadsheet for the year, so I’m ready to track my progress each month.

Have you set any goals for this month? Are you sticking to any resolutions you set this year?

New Years Goals (or Resolutions)

I like to set priorities, then goals within those priorities. For some reason this works better for me than trying to set resolutions.

My Priorities this year are:

  • Organizing the house with the top priority being a new crafting space
  • Sewing/Quilting
  • Writing
  • Exercising

My goals within these priorities are:

Organizing the House
The biggest thing on my mind right now is finding a sewing space in the house, and continuing to reduce the amount of clutter and stuff we own. Everytime I visit my mother or inlaws I am reminded that we don’t need as much as we have to get by. We can certainly get by with far less than we have. It will probably even make us happier in the long run. It will certainly make me less anxious.

With that in mind my specific goals are:
– Continue to get more out of the house than comes in, including at birthdays and other special times
– Set up the crafting corner in the study

Sewing/Quilting
I’ve really enjoyed sewing the last few years. I would love to try new sewing projects, but at the same time I’ve felt a real sense of accomplishment from the two quilts I finished. I would love to have several quilts living in my living room and one on each of the beds upstairs (eventually). This year I want to get a start on that goal.

Specific goals:
– Piece at least three quilt tops (this includes already started quilts)
– Finish at least three quilts (this can include any already started quilts)
I actually hope to accomplish more than this, but I don’t want to over commit.

Writing
I don’t always give writing the priority that I should. I enjoy writing new things, and I am learning (slowly) to edit what I’ve written. I was to continue to improve as a writer and that means getting the practice time in. I’m always telling my son he just needs to keep practicing his reading and it will get easier. Time to live by my own words.

Specific Goals:
– Write 10k a month (I was going to go with 3k a week, but my friend is doing this and I like it better)
– Submit to crit group at least eight times

Exercising
I’ll admit the goals I’ve set for this one aren’t enough. I know that, so I’m going to start small and work up through the year. For now my goal is only applicable to Jan and Feb while I find my feet after a far too long hiatus from all exercise.

Specific Goal:
– Exercise twice a week.

Accountability
To keep myself accountable I plan to include how I’m making out on my yearly goals when I do the wrap up of my monthly goals. I hope that the constant reminder will keep these priorities fresh in my mind and prevent me from forgetting about them next month or even next week.

Do you set resolutions each year? Do you ever complete them?