Making the Bed, 10,000 Steps, and 750 Words


I was pondering being obsessive about certain habits recently and whether or not they were really doing me any good. I was wondering if I was using those habits as a proxy for actual good in my life and wondering if I was being kind of a dork about being so insistent on following through on them.

Making the Bed

I make my bed every morning. Mostly, this is because my mother had me and my brother make our beds every morning when we were children. I went through a period of not doing it, but to be honest, it takes very little time and makes the room look 80% neater, even if all you do is pull the darn comforter and sheets straight. Which, to be honest, is really about as far as I tend to go with making the bed.

This habit spills over a bit. It means I’m more likely to tidy my room more frequently. I mean, right now, I have some wool sweaters I intend to wash this week on the dresser, as well as some knit socks I hand-washed and have drying on my desk, but other than that, the room is clean. (There are days when I wonder why I have a desk. I am sitting in an overstuffed chair with my feet on an ottoman at the moment. This is my writin’ chair).

But, anyway, making the bed means I’m more likely to put dirty clothes in the hamper and put away clean ones more quickly. So, is this a habit that is good for me? Why yes!

10,000 Steps

This is not yet a habit, but I am wanting it to be. This is my baseline activity, even though I do go for a swim a few mornings a week. I figure if I get my steps in, I’m not too sedentary for words, and might even get out for a walk every now and then. Though I freely admit I do pace the house to get those steps in.

The way I figure it, that baseline for steps is good for general activity. The swimming? I do better with some HARD activity every now and then. Also, I’m a middle-aged woman. Osteoporosis is not particularly common in my family. I *think* Mom said a reference to Neandertal man was made when she got a bone scan because she had such good bone density. However, Mom does a lot of pretty physically demanding work maintaining her yard and garden. She’s always lifting wheelbarrows of compost and digging holes and stuff. So, she gets that higher-impact stuff for building bone density. I don’t. Swimming is the most physical hobby I have, and it doesn’t do diddly for bone density. But getting in a decent baseline of walking does. So, that works for me. Besides, getting in 10,000 steps isn’t particularly intrusive.

750 Words

I wobble on this one. To write well, you need to write. However, I do wonder if just sitting down and doing a word-vomit really does a thing for you past a certain point. While someone sedentary who starts taking some slow walks is likely going to see some improvements in fitness markers, those same slow walks don’t do much to improve the fitness of an athlete. Regarding writing, I’m not exactly a beginner. These 750 Words aren’t really focused practice.


After I have been doing these exercises for awhile, they do stop being a word vomit and do start to become actual essays with topics, structured arguments, and real conclusions. I start thinking about real things to talk about and try to structure them in a coherent way.

Never mind that what I really need to do is practice fiction. Most especially, I need to practice plotting a story with a real beginning, working to a climax and settling on a denouement. Maybe once a week my 750 Word session should be an attempt as a short-short story to learn this. I feel like I’m not as good at it as I could be. Worldbuilding? I do that pretty well. Characterization? I’m decent at it, though I could be better. Dialog? I dunno. I write like I think they talk, but I know you can fool yourself about this. Criticism of George Lucas’ dialog in Star Wars is a perfect example.

So, while maybe these daily practices seem kind of retentive and obsessive on the surface, I look at what they give me and realize that, yes, while they do take a certain amount of time out of my day, what they give back is worth it.

Focus and Flow

I like playing on

It’s cute and silly. The basic concept is that you gamify habits you want to create and keep. You can join a party and do quests to defeat monsters. You “attack” by staying on habit.

What I’m really using it for now, rather than specific habits in specific areas, is balance.

I keep my house clean. I work out regularly. My diet is as good as it needs to be.

What I am having a problem with is obsessiveness with one activity to the exclusion of others. While it’s okay to have a Major Focus, I don’t think it’s okay to let everything slide in the face of that.

A skill I’d like to develop now, and one I haven’t before, is the ability to hyperfocus not based on what seems shiny at the moment, but what needs to be done.

I knit well because I got obsessed with it for a while then went on to another thing. Same with my sewing abilities, or my skill with spreadsheets and various other things. For the most part, I think that’s okay. Obsessions can be fun and useful, and the hyperfocus I apply to them has netted me a wide range of skills over the years.

What I don’t like is when I’m focused on knitting, I don’t want it to be hard to think about swimming, or when I’m focused on weight training, I don’t want it to be hard to focus on teaching, and so on.

The skill I want to develop now is that of being able to choose to pay attention rather than randomly focusing on what seems like most fun at the time.

What, you mean like actual grown-up self-discipline?

Yeah, pretty much. I can do it a little. I’d like to be able to do it nearly on-demand. Yes, this article is part of that — writing my 750 words every day!

The problem is that I feel like my time is so often chopped into little pieces. I’m fine with context switching from time to time, but it’s really hard to get into that flow state if the phone is ringing or someone is asking for my attention or help. Creation becomes hard that way. I am sure that at least in part, my focus on knitting had to do with the fact the projects I choose are easily picked up and put down. Same with my sewing.

I am also sure that’s part of why I love swimming so much, and why I resist certain types of training. That flow state is easier in the pool when you’re just swimming those long, slow distances. You swim and while you’re thinking about your stroke and balance and what have you but after a awhile, your mind grows quiet and your body just takes over and you go.

Writing is also like that when you get a large swathe of time. You write, letting your thoughts flow out into the computer. Your surroundings disappear and it’s only what you want to communicate and convey that becomes the whole of the Universe.

I adore that feeling.

It has been postulated, and I think with some justification, that women are socialized to make flow states difficult. We must have some part of our attention out for others. We cannot do anything or dive into anything that allows us to ignore the demands of others. Even when we try to break out of this, our socialization will slam back pretty hard.

Can we simply announce, “Hey I want some time to myself” and then get it?

I can.

But the ground state presumption is that I’m available mentally and emotionally for interaction.

I sometimes wonder if that is why I tend to guard my solitude so very carefully. When I am able to be fully and utterly alone is when I can do and create better. Certainly that’s why swimming holds such an attraction to me, and why the idea of training on a team holds almost none.

It’s not that I won’t get better/faster doing intervals and watching the clock and interacting with other members of the team and coaches to get feedback. Totally will. There’s no doubt at all about that. And for things I really want to do, I do need to get better/faster.

But that means it would be one more aspect of my life where the opportunity for flow is taken away.

And that does more than irritate me. It actually scares me a little.

What if Happiness Isn't an Emotion?

I’ve often talked about love not being an emotion, but a set of behaviors, a commitment, and a way of interacting. That’s true. Sure, sure, emotions are included in that, but it is not the sum total of what love is.

One thing I’ve often pondered, chewed on and driven myself crazy with is the idea that happiness is an emotion and there’s something wrong because I don’t often feel it.

What if happiness (as in a state of being with one’s life) is like love, and actually an emotion, but a state of being over time that has to do less with actual emotion and more to do with life and choices in relationship to it?

(I know this is weird, but stay with me here. I just asked this question about thirty seconds ago when my To-do Beepy Reminder went off to tell me it was time to get some writing done. This is not a planned-out essay.)

There is some background to this. I am always looking at systems for things. It’s just kind of the way I am built. If there’s an underlying logic or method to doing or being, I’m going to run in that direction. It’s just the way I am, and in general, I like it that way.

So, I was feeling kind of upset and depressed and frustrated about things a few months ago when I downloaded a mood monitoring app for my smartphone. (How Are You mood tracker. You can get it on Google Play, I know).

You’re asked to rate your mood on several criteria — how determined and ready to act you feel, how frustrated you feel, etc. You get a beepy reminder to do this three or so times a day, and the results were kind of interesting to me.

No, more than interesting. They were an uncomfortable revelation.

My mood was pretty consistently above 70% on the scale as an average. Oh, sure, it dipped from time to time, but overall, my mood as I was self-rating in the moment was generally pretty damn high. You’re asked if you’re feeling: Alert, Hostile, Friendly, Determined, Active, and a couple of other things I forget. It’s nine different questions, anyway. You have this circle slider where you drag to estimate how much of each of the different states of being you’re feeling at that moment.

I just took the test and it had my mood at 86%. Now, I’ve been pondering Life, the Universe and Everything most of the morning, and it’s a gray day, so I wouldn’t have said I’m all that happy at the moment.

But, maybe I’m tagging the wrong state of being as happy. I mean, the test could be a load of crap, but I’m wondering if my point of view is really what’s been messed up. I’m wondering if I’m mapping joyful to happy, and happy is a quieter thing. Seriously. To me, happy is being on a boat on the ocean or being at the beach or swimming or finishing writing a novel or teaching a class or knitting something or being with my family.

Maybe those things are better than happy. Maybe those things are joyful. Which is cool, ’cause I get a lot of joyful stuff in my life, and that’s pretty awesome.

But if happy is really more about some ratio of Attentiveness, Determination, Active, and Inspired over Upset, Hostile, Nervous, Afraid, Ashamed (yes, I looked it up rather than guessed), Determination, Attentiveness and Inspiration are almost always pretty strongly present in my mental landscape. They’re gonna be there whether or not I am feeling what *I* would call a positive mood in the moment. That means, I’m going to be rated as “happy” by this scale more often than not.

While I’d never really considered myself a particularly positive person, I’m beginning to wonder. Maybe I kinda am, and while I’m moody as hell, that may have less to do with my overall state of being than once I thought. Maybe it’s like waves, you know? They knock you down, or you dive under them, but if you know how to swim, and pay attention to the push and pull of the water, you generally can cope and even have fun with them.

Maybe it’s like my view of love, and happiness isn’t entirely an emotion, but a amalgam of many sometimes conflicting things, just like swimming in the ocean can be.

Whether or not it’s true, it kind of makes me feel better about Life, the Universe and Everything.

Does Clutter Create Decision Fatigue?

I was reading another article on the Konmari method, and I am struck with something. It’s yet another article about going through your clothes closet.

Friends, this method is about more than your clothes. Yes, that’s a great way to start, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not the point of what you do when you’re decluttering using this method.

The idea, and this can be overwhelming, is to physically handle every single thing you own and make a decision about which of those items you want to keep.

Maybe that seems a bit overwhelming for a Huffpost Puff Piece. For that matter, maybe plenty of people do this just with their clothes and decide they’ve done as much as makes them happy.

And ya know what? That’s cool. Your house, your decision how you want to do things, and you’ll never hear me argue with that. I don’t live in your house, so I’m not allowed to make that call *grin*.

But the whole method is about a lot more than that and it does take time, which may be why we’re not seeing as many blog posts about the whole process, and a bunch of pictures about closets. Yeah, that’s cool, but the process is about the whole house. And you’re going to get your real results if you decide to do the whole house.

Is it tiring? There were times when it was more tiring than I expected, yes! I’m also pretty happy with the results.

I’ve been trying to puzzle out why. I know that when I come home from work and walk into the kitchen, I sigh in relief at the counters empty of everything but a few appliances. I know when I get up in the morning and look around a room with the Solitaire poster that makes me smile, and put my feet on the bare carpet (instead of kicking aside dirty clothes) it feels nice. I know that opening my underwear drawer and knowing exactly how much I have at a glance (thus telling me when Laundry Day should be) is really nice instead of having it hard to estimate makes me happy.

But I think it is more than that.

Are you familiar with the term “decision fatigue?” Basically every decision comes with a cognitive cost. We’re inundated with choices in our lives, and we’re surrounded with the opportunity to makes choices. A cluttered home requires more choices than the neat home. No, seriously. Even when you’re accepting Piles o’ Stuff is the way you live and prefer to live (which is fine, no kidding) you have to make more decisions. You hunt through a pile to find a particular thing. You have to make multi-leveled evaluations when you are doing a chore because you need to find the equipment for that chore. Putting things away needs to be a conscious decision because you need to play a little game of Tetris every time you put something away, never mind the fact you do decide whether or not to put that thing away each time.

Again, it’s not that it’s a wrong way to live, but I’ve discovered something about myself. I am not smart enough, nor do I have the willpower to make those decisions on a daily basis and still be effective in other parts of my life. I’ll start to zone out after a while. I’d rather zone out when I am putting away the dishes than when I am doing my taxes, just sayin’.

In her book, Marie Kondo repeatedly comments that she is inherently lazy and that she is easily confused and distracted. That sounds really disingenuous coming from a professional neat freak, but you know what? I totally get it. Yes, I too, am lazy. If there is an easy way to do something, that’s the way I am going to do it. Fortunately, I read The Man too Lazy to Fail as a youngster, so I got the point that you can totally make laziness work for you. I am also easily distracted. Wanna ensure I don’t get what I need to done? Put me in chaotic surroundings. If you think the noisy binging and quick disorientation of theme parks don’t make you buy more… Well, you get my point.

I’d like to see more articles that focus on life post-Konmari. What changed, if anything? Did new habits stick? Are there any insights? The cute little testimonials Kondo writes about in her books about people starting businesses or chucking relationships they didn’t need are cool, but I’d rather see what happened when people finish the process on their own and self-report what they did.

And I’d also like to see what Marie Kondo’s graduation rate was for her course. Because from all the closet pics I’m seeing on blogs, I’m guessing she had a high drop-out rate.

Habit and Possessions Tetris

I’m looking around my still-neat house.

Clutter? None. Bed made, drawers from which I pulled my clothing, neat. I see that I have three more pair of underwear left and I’m going to be working tomorrow, so I grab my laundry basket from the bathroom and take it downstairs to put on a load of laundry. I have this enormous washing machine, so what would be two in another situation is one for me.

I go downstairs. The kitchen has no clutter on the counters. Dirty dishes are in the dish washer. The few dishes we hand-wash that had been drying in the rack (air drying dishes is cleaner) were put away. I am assuming my husband did that before he made coffee this morning.

My laptop is on my little writing desk where I charge it. I grab it and my laptop desk to lounge in my writing chair to write this little essay. On the way, I notice a receipt that had flutter to the floor. I grab it, record it in my household account application on my phone and toss it. Then I prop my feet up to write.

When I do so, I look at my little to-do checklist that I’ve kept for ten years or so to try to keep me on track keeping the household neat. Some of the stuff is truly a to-do list rather than reminders to make my bed and stuff. Other stuff? I don’t do it that way any more.

  • Clear hot spotsHot Spots are a FlyLady thing — places where clutter tends to accumulate like counters and bare tables. *head scratch* I don’t have any. I have a place for everything. No kidding, I mean everything. I put it away when I’m done using it, whether it’s a pen, pair of scissors, or a laptop.
  • Declutter downstairs
    I used to spend ten minutes or so putting away stuff before going to bed. Don’t do that any more either. That place for everything? I put stuff away after I finish using it. Before I go to bed, I might put my laptop back in its place to charge and put my current knitting project back in its basket before going up to bed, if I were knitting or screwing around on the Internet before bed. We’re talking two minutes, tops. My phone lives in my pocket unless it’s on the charging station overnight, so that goes up with me.
  • Make Bed
    I used to think I needed a beepy reminder for this. The last couple of months, I’d turned off the reminder even though I left it on the checklist. *shrugs* Bed still gets made every morning. No, not to military bounce-a-quarter perfection, but I kinda don’t care, so I don’t bother.


If you don’t care about a neat house, you probably shouldn’t bother, either. I do this because I like it better and the ease of it has been a happy thing for me. What really is amazing me is that once you get the house reset, once you pare down your possessions to the point where you don’t have overflowing storage, maintaining it takes no noticeable time. I’m sure if we actually timed how long it takes to put each item away after its use, we’d be looking at a good ten total minutes scattered throughout the day, mind. But I don’t notice it.

What’s also interesting to me is that the easy storage also makes it easy for other people in the house to put things away. A good example of this would be our linens and cloth napkins.* We stored them in a drawer in the dining room hutch, but it was frankly overstuffed. Once we decluttered the storage areas and started storing the the items folded and stored vertically, even my husband, who tends not to be particular about storage, found it a simple thing to fold the same way and file them.

That’s a lot of why this is working. There’s no fancy or complex method here. Storage is not visually cluttered, and it is simple and obvious where everything should go. I guess that’s the whole “ask your house where things should go” part of the Konmari method, but I freely admit that I did not ask. When I started putting things away, because I didn’t have to play Possessions Tetris, it really was that simple.

I think I need to re-assess habits and routines and what they should look like, because I lot of the work I used to do has just been eliminated.

My mother’s method of keeping things tidy is, indeed, to just put it away when you’re done using it.  She doesn’t really use serious schedules, either.  When she sees it needs attention, she attends to it. I used to boggle at that.  But at a certainly level of tidy, I think I get the point.

* Some friends in Portland just use them casually as a daily thing to reduce waste. I was so impressed with the simple obviousness of it that I started imitating it.

Housekeeping Systems and Crab Bucket Behavior

I read up on housekeeping systems a lot. I was an extremely messy child, and over the years have learned to be neat. I suppose it could be considered to be a foolish and trivial thing to learn to do well, but in my defense, I’ve developed other skills, too. My focus on learning neatness ain’t as shallow as all that. It’s meant to serve other things in my life.

In reading up on various systems or routines, I notice a theme in the criticisms that bugs me a lot. Some facet of the system doesn’t work for the writer, so they then say the entire system is junk.

That strikes me as uncreative when I’m feeling charitable. When I’m not feeling charitable, the image of a bucket of crabs all pulling each other back leaps irresistibly to mind.

So, I wanna look at some criticisms of some of the methods and rules around housekeeping systems, talk about what I do and what I don’t and why.

Flylady first. She wants you to dress to the shoes in the morning. I actually did this for a while. The idea behind it is that if you get dressed and put on your shoes first thing in the morning, you’re putting your mind in “work mode.” Many freelancers will tell you that you’re only going to go so long working in your jammies before you get sick of the lack of boundaries between your work and your personal life and start getting dressed to work.

In my own experience as a homemaker and a freelancer, I think she’s right. I am certainly less likely to procrastinate Getting Stuff Done when I get dressed.

The shoes part?

I don’t do this. I don’t need it. I hate shoes.

Does this mean that FlyLady’s system is full of it? Of course not. For that matter, I am sure there are plenty of freelancers who get lots and lots of work done who do it in their jammies, too. I’m just not one of them.

The point is to try the system in good faith to see what works well for you or not.

The Konmari method has elements like this. She encourages people to empty their bags every night, and store the empty bags/purses only to fill them in the morning when they’re going out for the day.

I do this with my purse and it works quite well. My purse doesn’t accumulate crap like it used to, which is awesome and since I store my daily work things in a specific, easily-accesible place, it’s a matter of a minute to pack my purse for work.

My gym bag for my morning swims?

Not so much. I learned this the hard way. If I pack the gym bag in the morning instead of the night before, it is guaranteed I will forget something. Yesterday, I forgot my turbitowel for my hair. Not so big a deal, as I can use my bath towel to dry my hair as I am getting dressed. My hair just isn’t as dry when I go to put it up. This morning was a different story. I forgot my underwear. I wear a bathing suit under my clothes to the gym, since I am getting in the pool right away. This gives me the option of going braless and commando, or putting on clothes over a wet suit. I chose commando and a towel over my shoulders to hide my braless state.

But that’s two for two here. So, I found something in the system that doesn’t work for me. I pack my gym bag the night before.

Does this mean I won’t empty the bag every day when I get back from the pool? Nope. Leaving your stuff in a wet bag all day is a great way to get moldy goggles, towels, bathing suit and cap. I’m all good with emptying the wet crap out of the bag and letting the bag dry out during the day. But I clearly need to pack it the night before.

I could, of course, latch on to that one thing as a reason that the Konmari method isn’t a good one. The reality is that 90% of it does work well for me. (I don’t greet my house or thank my stuff for a good job, either). I picked what worked well for me, which I think is the core of the method — getting rid of a lot of your stuff, especially the stuff you don’t love and then designating an easy home for it, is a good one that works well.

I think that if one is going to criticize a method, it needs to be more thorough than targeting one little item in it and look at whether or not the structure of it works or not. Which most criticisms of housekeeping methods do not do and I have an uncharitable opinion why.

More reporting on the KonMari Method

I was wondering if I was going to keep up with the KonMari method and even if I was going to finish the whole process. I started, figuring that in reality there was no real downside even if all I did was declutter a few things and then lose interest.

Yeah, I’m sticking with it, and am almost done. I only have a couple of places to declutter, then the sentimental category to sort through and I’ll be done.

So, what’s changed and what hasn’t since I started doing this?


  1. I put everything away right away. This has never really been a habit with me. I knew it should be, but I never really got the hang of it. Now I figured out why. I had so much stuff in drawers and cabinets, and that were stores a bit illogically that I couldn’t really just open a drawer and drop it into its proper place. Now that I’ve gotten rid of so much stuff (about 35 lawn bags between trash, recycling, and donation) drawers open easily, there is space to put things away properly and the storage has been reorganized so that things I use frequently are easy to get to and put away. I’m no less lazy than I ever was, but now, it’s easy to do.
  2. Empty spaces highlight what needs doing. I have a box on my mostly empty kitchen counter that needs to go to the post office. I’ll take a walk there this morning and drop it off.I tend to procrastinate stuff like this. I can’t find the packing tape, there’s so much stuff on the counter that I am distracted from things I need to take care of, the mess is screaming for me to take care of it first before I go on to other things. I get so overwhelmed I just figure it’s easier to mess around on the Internet than take care of what I need to do.
  3. My husband is on board with this method. Decluttering has been known to make him uneasy. He’s afraid he’s going to be pressured to get rid of things he values. Since the Konmari method requires that I not touch his stuff and that he keeps what sparks joy, it’s easy for him to go through things. He knows that the only thing I am going to ask is, “Does this really spark joy?” If the answer is yes, he knows I am not saying another word.
  4. I am spending more time on things I enjoy. I don’t feel guilty about sitting down and writing this puff piece on home organization. The house is clean, and I don’t have anything I haven’t taken care of nagging at me. I am knitting more as I’ve cleaned up my knitting and sewing stuff so that it is easy to get to, and easy to put away. And I do put it away when I am not working on it. But I don’t have this constant, low-level background guilt that there are other things I should be doing instead of writing or knitting or playing a video game.

Things that have not changed

  1. I am not doing everything recommended in the Konmari Method. I tried storing my shampoo and soap and stuff outside of the tub in my bathroom. I did it for about three days and decided I didn’t like it. Now, I did get rid of excess, but shampoo, conditioner, and soap live in the tub. I did some decluttering by location instead of classification of item as well, most notably the kitchen. It worked for me and while it was kinda overwhelming to confront, I am very happy with the results.
  2. I already had some habits I liked. I already made my bed, swish-n-swiped my bathroom and shined my kitchen sink every day. Still, do it and I’m fine with that.
  3. I will never be a true minimalist. I thought I wanted to be a minimalist and have a house as severely uncluttered as the pictures of the old samurai homes. It turns out I really don’t want that. I felt the click that said, “Just right” about how the house looked and my belongings long before I got to that level of being decluttered. I have my dragons in their lighted alcove on a bookshelf in the living room. I have a far larger collection of books than Marie Kondo would recommend. I am also in one of the professions that she lists as someone who probably needs a lot of books, but that’s neither here nor there. I kept the ones that brought me joy and that’s all that is necessary. There are pictures on walls, and my display of china and my Mrs. Potts toy tea set makes me quite happy, even if it isn’t as uncluttered as all that.

Creation and Re-Creation

Yet another 750 Words.

I have this challenge going with myself in terms of daily practice. I’m trying to write 750 words a day every day for a year. I may or may not wind up doing it, but I figure if I fail, I will still have regularly and consistently practiced my writing more than if I had not set this little goal for myself. So, there’s no real down-side to it.

However, a year is way the heck too much to face. I’m breaking it down month by month, and the site I use to track my words makes it very easy with monthly challenges. Each month you can sign up or not for it. If you do it, you get your name on the Wall of Awesomeness. If you fail, you have your name put on the Wall of Shame.

My name has been on both walls before 🙂

As an additional little spur, when you sign up, you can set a reward and a punishment for it. Mine for this month:

•    If I succeed, I will… treat myself to a new bathing suit

•    If I miss a day or more, I will… swim 4000 yards in one session.

In retrospect the failure one is a little dumb. My next Really Long Swim is probably going to be 4,000 yards whether I succeed in writing every day this month or not. And the reward is also kinda silly. I own one good workout bathing suit and I really should own two — just to switch out between workouts and make them last longer, ya know.

I am very happy with how I spent yesterday evening. I spent about an hour knitting. It was wonderful.

So, all this doing, doing, and doing I’m doing. Goodness me, why is this such a big deal?

I think it is at least in part because I’ve become more keenly aware that I am not immortal. For all that I take pleasure in video games, I’d rather leave behind a sweater and written material than I would hours of playing a video game.

It’s not that I think pleasure doesn’t count or have its place. I do. My general make-up is probably more pleasure seeking than most (You guys do realize I swim because it’s one of the few exercises I find fun, yes?) and I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. But I think that, for me at least, when the pleasure intersects with the productive, it seems like a better way to spend a limited life.

Productive is a funny thing, though. Think of the term “recreation.” You break down that term and it’s re-creation. You’re re-creating something (probably your physical and emotional center) and if you don’t do that, you’re not maintaining your SELF very well.

In thinking about it, I wonder if “fun” is even a good term for when I am actually joyfully in the moment. I find those moments when I am teaching a class, or writing a piece, or when I get a new client as much as when I am knitting a sweater, swimming or sitting on the deck of a cruise ship watching the sun come up.

And except for when I am sitting on my butt staring out over big water (something I do love to do immensely) most of what I’m talking about is less about re-creating than about creating. I’m sure if I were a fictional character, that my fondness for creating and my pleasure in sunrises would be some sort of metaphor the author would use to indicate character traits.

Speaking of doing and creating, I have a busy day today. Need to get all dressed up to see a client, do some shopping, and write some articles for another blog I do. But, of course, I need to get in those seven hundred fifty words, and I’m still about a hundred words short.

Word count, I think, might be great for getting you to sit your butt down and write substantial work, but I also think that trying to hit word count can make you write a fair amount of drivel as well. Then again, the drivel can be edited out, and you can’t edit unwritten words. So writing volume has to count as well. Right?

How do you re-create? Does it involve creating something? Or does re-creation for you require stillness? I expect my frantic need to be doing and making would be the despair of a Zen master!

Knitting and Daily Words

wctpsocksAgain, to write my words.

I am wearing a pair of socks that I knit almost two years ago. And dammit, they’re slipping down my legs because I am losing weight, so they don’t quite fit right any more. This makes me a little sad because they’re some amazing socks. Skulls of my Enemies, they’re called, and based on a pattern called We Call Them Pirates.

Now, of course, the cool thing about being able to knit well is that I can make these socks again any time I care to, no matter how much smaller or larger my body gets. I like that skill, though these socks do take a long time to knit.

I am also thinking I need another sweater. I’m currently working on a pair of socks that I may wind up giving to someone, as they’re really pretty, a sweater for my son, and a scarf for one of my oldest friends.

I had forgotten, but she reminded me this Christmas that she actually had a scarf that I’d knitted for her back in high school. (I didn’t get seriously into knitting until I was in my thirties, but Mom taught me the garter stitch when I was a kid. That scarf has long since gone where good scarves go, so I agreed to make her another one. This will be a much, MUCH better scarf, as I’m a considerably more skilled knitter. I’m taking the idea from the Big Bad Baby Blanket and using a seed stitch border so that the stockingette body doesn’t curl. But, that’s about as fancy as it will get. Much fancier than the garter stitch scarf I made for her when I was in my teens, but a simple knit for me now.

My son’s sweater is going to be a golden yellow raglan knit in the round with hemmed sleeves and bottom. It’s an incredibly simple knit, but it’s his favorite style. He likes simple, I think.

After that, I think I am going to knit something for myself. I think it’s been at least two years since I’ve knit a sweater for myself and my sweater collection is getting a little ragged. I have sweaters I’d knitted for myself in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and I think I’ve about worn them to death. Not that they’re not still good for warmth, but as far as something “nice” I’d wear to work, these have passed their time for that. Also, they were knit with Lion Brand Wool-ease and that just doesn’t hold up to frequent wear (I live in Northern New England and it’s COLD up here) the way that a 100% wool sweater does.

I have a couple of ideas. I’d like an Aran, but standard Arans are a bit bulky for me. I have a round, deep body (always will!) and need something with a bit more drape. I was thinking maybe a finer gauge and sport weight rather than worsted weight yarn should give me about what I want. I’m going to have to dig out my book of cable patterns and see what I can come up with for that. I think I’m going to want smaller and more graceful cables with possibly something more intricate down the center. That actually works pretty well. I knitted a sweater for my father like that for Christmas and it suits him.

But there is also another sweater I’ve wanted for YEARS that I am just going to have to suck it up and make. You know those Norwegian sweaters with the silver clasps and the red neckband? I want to make one, though I freely admit steeking scares the bajesus out of me. But the one I want to make is so outrageously awesome that I am just going to have to suck it up. It’ll be the classic black and white, but it’ll incorporate the We Call Them Pirates skull pattern. I love stuff like that, ’cause it looks all normal, then you blink and realize that the person is wearing something quirky.

In fact, I am wearing a pair of earrings like that right now. They look like sparkly silver earrings, then you blink and realize they’re Mickey Mouse.

So, yeah, lots of knitting plans. The thing is, I have more knitting planned than I have knitting time. I have been screwing around and not getting in good knitting time when I am on my lunch break or am at work. I mean, these 750 word entries don’t write themselves, and I am dedicating a lot of time to swimming.

But the beauty of knitting is how it fills in the little minutes you have to spare, then you come out with this big body of work that seems all impressive, and no-one knows you were just filling in time on the bus, or watching a TV show.

Another Jelly Bean

This is totally going to be a rambling piece to get my words in.

I was reading an interesting article about training for an event. The metaphor the author use was a jelly bean and a jar. Each workout, each training session, no matter how good, bad, short, long, successful or not, was one jelly bean. The idea was that to be prepared to participate in an event, you needed to put a certain number of jelly beans in the jar.

I am definitely doing that swimming. Sure, sure, I have my epic swims like last weekend, and oh my word was it fun, but the more usual swim is the 5:30 am one where the most exciting thing I can say was that it was done. And that’s cool.

I think it also applies to other endeavors. We love flow when we are working on something we enjoy or want to improve, yes. We love to get into that zone where the words are flowing, or the sculpture we’re creating just soars. And those moments are wonderful and godlike. But unless we come to the practice of what we are doing often enough to fill our jelly bean jars, we’re not going to invite flow, nor are we going to improve.

It comes to me very strongly as I am writing these words. Honestly, I had intended to write some drivel about housework, my swimming and how I love my new coffee maker. And I was going to be a little contemptuous of it.

My practice of writing a certain amount each day as a free-write is no more worthy of contempt, though, than any swim I do, no matter how clumsy or awkward I feel as I am doing it. Both are a jelly bean in the jar — another practice session that needs to be done that not only helps to refine technique or skill, but also is another opportunity to invite flow.

So, as I am doing this free-write, I am now stuck for more to fill in those words. I hate running out of gas or running out of an idea before I hit those seven hundred fifty words, and yet it does happen a lot.

What I want to write and want to do is fill in this space with something really profound and interesting. It suits the vanity better. It’s hard to remember that to keep writing has a value in and of itself. Just like keeping swimming does when I am working out.

I think we get the idea that working out is like a Rocky or Karate Kid training montage. Those movies are fun, exciting and even inspiring, which is cool. They’re also misleading about what daily practice, the really IMPORTANT stuff, looks like. That jelly bean in the jar might very well be licorice, just saying. But it’s a jelly bean nonetheless and it takes up its proper space in the jar just as well as the orange. (Yeah, I like the citrus-flavored jelly beans best. You got me)

I’m slowly learning that dailyness might not look brilliant in the experience, but it is that very dailyness of effort or creation that does make for a body of work that looks awfully impressive when taken over time.

*grin* My husband and I are watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy this week. One of the things we sometimes do is joke during walking sequences about how it reminds us of a Dexter’s Laboratory cartoon where the ditzy sister DeeDee is the Dungeonmaster and is constantly telling the characters, “We’re walking; we’re walking; we’re walking.”

And yet, that’s exactly how Frodo got to Mount Doom. Walking, walking, walking. Walking, step by step, not always making brilliant progress, but always making at least some, and never stopping. Each day brought the Ring closer to its destruction, even though the process was hardly glorious or exciting.

And that’s something I like about what I’m doing. No, my days are not gloriously impressive. That’s not the point. The point is to keep going. The point is to make some progress, even a little. Because each time one makes progress, it’s another jelly bean for the jar.

I’m halfway tempted to buy a jar and each time I do a swim, put a jelly bean in it. *Grin* then I’ll EAT those jelly beans as part of my feeds for a long swim. Swimmers eat jelly-like candy on long swims all the time, so it would be appropriate.

The idea is oddly appealing and happy.