Archives for posts with tag: Creating
I won NaNoWriMo!

I won NaNoWriMo!

Wow, does my arthritic finger ever hurt.  I’ve been pounding away at the keyboard for about 2 hours a night for the last 29 days, with a final push of over 6000 words in a single day today.  But it was worth it: I reached the goal of 50,000 words, going over by about 3600 extra words and with one day to spare!  And without coffee.  Awesome.

It has been a month of incredible highs and lows. Mostly the lows were because of lack of sleep.  I’ve had a lot of work to do this month, so all my noveling has been done in the late evenings or early mornings.  (I’m proud to say I didn’t write a single word of my novel at work!)  My eyes are burnt out from looking at the screen, and my shoulders are killing me.  But I slogged through the bad days and got it done, and when I was having a good moment I really felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants.  In a good way.

I noticed that when I have a good moment, I’m typing so fast that I’m leaning over to the right, screwing up my face in the same tongue-sticking-out-in-concentration expression that I first remember noting, with some surprise, as I suddenly realized that I could see my reflection in our black lacquered Yamaha piano as I was practicing a piece.  What a revelation.  I hope no one ever watches me while I’m writing!

On days this month when I was having trouble writing, I was convinced that my novel was the worst thing anyone could ever write.  Now I feel like I’ve done a pretty damn good first draft!  I’m so glad I stuck it out.  I feel like I really achieved something.  I’ve never had a full first draft before!

I’ll be doing a little bit of work on it tomorrow, but then I’ll be setting it aside for two weeks so I can concentrate on other stuff, like all the crafts that have gone by the wayside this month.  I’ll pick it up again during the holidays, to start on the first revision.  For now: WOOHOO!

Pepparkakor

Pepparkakor

On the weekend we went to three different Christmas fairs (plus one other food fair) in one day – and came back with a whole haul of sweets, treats, and other delicious edibles.

We’d gone to the Finnish fair at the Finnish Church in London two years ago, so we knew exactly what we wanted to buy: licorice!  We got a fair amount of that, including some licorice-filled chocolate (surprisingly tasty).  We also got some other great items, which I loved even more for their packaging than for the taste novelty.  European packaging is always so funny!  I guess someone looking at a squeeze bottle of Aunt Jemima might think it was pretty weird too, but I think the teddy bear with the cast on his leg and the sling on his arm on this package of ginger cookies takes the cake.  I also loved the wholesome-looking country girl on our instant porridge box.

Elovena instant porridge

Elovena instant porridge

After purchasing our items we went across the street to where they’d set up a sausage grill, and ate some pretty good, very large hot-dog type sausages with lingonberry sauce.  When we came out the queue for the Finnish fair was even longer than it had been when we’d arrived.  It’s extremely popular – I had no idea there were so many people from Finland or of Finnish descent in London.  Everyone there seemed to be speaking Finnish.

We had a good time at the Norwegian bazaar at the church down the street from there, too.  We’d already filled our backpacks with purchases but we managed to cram in a few more chocolate bars, including Kvikk Lunsj, a KitKat-type confection.  The ladies in the church were wearing beautiful hand-embroidered traditional clothing.  For the second time during the day, I wished I’d brought a camera (the first time was for when a person in a Moomin costume came by the checkout line in the Finnish church.  His costume had no holes for eyes so someone had to be leading him by the hand the whole time!)

By the time we got to the German Christmas fair from Cologne at the South Bank, we were all so tired and full from eating so many treats that we just couldn’t force ourselves to get any of the edibles.  We just walked around and looked at the Christmas decorations and other German handicrafts on offer.

We did manage to eat a pork sandwich and a few other savouries at the Slow Food fair, which was also going on at South Bank.  The Slow Food market is something I love going to for its organic delicacies.  They had a special tent for exhibitors from Romania this time, with lovely rugs and some nice jam.

Four food fairs in one day is too much, though, even for me.  There’s a smorgasbord of candy on our couch and I don’t know where I’m going to put it all!

I’m looking forward to reading Richard Sennett’s book The Craftsman, and was pleased to find an extract of a talk he chaired at the London Literature Festival in the September-October issue of Crafts magazine.  What interests me most is his exploration of the 10,000-hour rule, which is a calculation applicable to all areas of expertise (whether craft-related or not).  It states that generally speaking, a person needs to apply 10,000 hours of study, engagement, and practice to become skilled enough to be called an expert in that area.

My interest in crafts being so broad, this kind of calculation makes me tremble with a mixture of fear and glee.  After having tried so many different art and craft forms and having become quite well-versed in some (I put in about 5,000 hours of dance practice over a period of 20 years) while proving terrible at others (I tried knitting once and couldn’t do it – but maybe I should give it another try), I fear that, in my mid-thirties, I might never become a true expert at any form of art or craft if I don’t pinpoint one specific practice and get my mind firmly entrenched in it.  Then again, with so many forms to choose from – almost all of which appeal to me – I feel giddy at the possibility of continuing to experiment with all of them to a level that brings me from dabbler to accomplished, without necessarily becoming an expert in anything.  Too bad the term ‘Renaissance Woman’ doesn’t mean as much today as it did 500 years ago.

10,000 hours is a long time.  It’s 60 hours a week for 3.5 years, a schedule my husband is following right now as he pursues his PhD in American Poetry, after which he’ll be an expert on Hart Crane, the gay modernist poet who wrote the famous epic ‘The Bridge’.  The same 10,000 hours might be apportioned as 3 hours a day (after work, before bed, or very early in the morning, working around a day job) for 10 years, which seems like a terribly long time.  But if you look at the most expert craftspeople, they’ve spent this much time and more honing their skills developing their talents.

What I like most about this 10,000-hour definition of expertise is that no matter how you divide the time, it is always a slow process.  You can’t attain an expert level of understanding and knowledge quickly, and you can’t call yourself an expert if you happen to do something well the first time you try it.  It’s about a commitment to discovering as much as possible about something, which requires patience and discipline, but also experimentation and risk.  It’s anti-instant-gratification.  It’s also more rewarding.  Like the Slow Food movement, it encourages us to take time over things and do them well.

In his book, Sennett also discusses problem-solving/problem-finding and concentration.  I’m looking forward to reading it.  If you can get your hands on a copy of Crafts magazine, it’s worth reading the extract from his London Literature Festival talk with Grayson Perry, Ian Bostridge and Marina Warner.