Monday, March 14, 2011

Focussing – again

I wrote about focussing just a little more than a month ago, and how I had not been able to finish the post on focussing because I had been focussing on dyeing, preparations for the April market in Erding and making plans.
One part of the unfinished post that had been finished, however, was the retrospective onto the things I had completed last year. That post was originally meant to be posted ‚at the beginning of the year’, the time when one is still in the mood to look back on the last year, but already full of plans for the new year. By now the year is well on its way and definitely not ‚new’ anymore, after all, just about a fifth of it is over.
This is the section I wrote:

I was pretty diligent and productive last year:
  • I entered quilts in several exhibitions and was accepted with at least one quilt in all those I entered except for one.
  • I had one solo exhibition at the German Patchwork Guilds annual patchwork festival, which took place in Dortmund in May,
  • I have two major quilts in Color Improvisations curated by Nancy Crow,
  • I was represented in Birmingham, UK, in August with three big quilts and a little contribution to the German Guild’s Anniversary exhibition „Ein Fitzelchen Silber“,
  • I was present in Alsace in September with four quilts in three different exhibitions spread out all over the town,
  • two of my quilts went to Vicenza, Italy with the German Guild’s selected exhibition in October,
  • and I had another solo exhibition opening in November, which is still on until January 30.

I finally had the guts to go ahead and make real the idea I’ve been harboring for many years
  • to start a little business with my hand-dyed fabrics. I made the first set of preparatory dye charts during a wonderful (hot!) week in July together with my friend Regine,
  • I designed and executed a first version of a website for because my webdesigner was on holiday (she did design the current version, however)
  • I had a postcard printed for advertising
  • and I managed to have 18 orders for the introductory collection in November.
When I look at it I can certainly say: Hey, I got a lot done last year!

That’s how far the section on my accomplishments ran in that unfinished post. I think I had meant to go on about how I needed to do something to celebrate, because celebrating is a way of showing oneself appreciation of what one has accomplished. I don’t think I did celebrate last year’s accomplishment sufficiently, really. Not too late to do that, though. Have to think about that one!

So what does this have to do with focussing? For one thing, listing one’s accomplishments can demonstrate to oneself that one must have been pretty focussed at least part of the time, otherwise these things would not have been finished at all. And it could not only have been good focussing during ‚the last minute’, even if there is that nasty comment  „if it weren’t for the last minute, a lot of things would never get done“. (How about a celebration of /for the last minute?)
So: quite a good amount of focussing went on during the past year, I realize, even if it sometimes did not feel very focussed.

Why was that? There were periods when I thought I had too many things going on, and I sometimes felt that I would never be able to actually finish everything I had planned. And I actually did not manage to do one thing I had wanted to do – I did not enter a quilt in Quilt National, which I had definitely wanted to do. The reason why I did not enter was that the quilt I made for Ste. Marie aux Mines kept taking much  longer than I had planned for in my calendar, so I ran out of time. 
So I miscalculated on time once. But apart from that I can’t think of any other things that did not get completed right now, despite the fact that it all seemed to be quite a lot. (Well – let’s limit that to the quilt part of my life. I’m not talking about my writing desk, or some other things. I am only talking quilts and fabric here.)

One important thing in my personal way of focussing is that I always have several projects going on at once. Sometimes there are several different layers of quilts on my design wall which get switched around when I run into a lull with one of them. (Would be nice to have a second and a third large design wall, and a larger studion, too, of course, but I’m already pretty happy to have that one I can work with.) There are also work-in-progress boxes in my shelves, waiting, or should I say gestating?

Having several projects at once is a means of cheating my brain a little. If I turn my attention away from the one project which just got stuck, and concentrate on another project, I push it into the back of my mind to let it take care of itself for a little while. That is also the mode of development I mentioned in my last post on focussing, which can be achieved by going for a walk or by going to turn on the washing machine (and then returning). After I have worked on the new project for a while I can return to the first project and look at it with new eyes – and some kind of idea may have developed to further it , which I would never had thought of had I been trying to think it through by force.

The real issue is finding out about how many projects one can handle at once. Which is certainly a question that may have to be answered differently depending on the day or the kinds of projects one is working on, or the number of deadlines looming, and certainly on the number of „outside challenges“.
Picking up a five-year-old at kindergarten is nothing that can be put off beyond closing time, so I may have to drop something I am doing at that point, even if it had just entered a good focussed stage. But being able to realize immediately when that five-year-old is playing by himself so nicely that he will be safely occupied for at least a little while, and sitting down to continuing whatever one left off to pick him up, that is part of focussing, too. In fact, it is the same mode of focussing as juggling several quilt projects at once.

I had a handmade calendary for last year, made by Susanne Muus, which I loved to have last year, and found too nice to throw out now that it had served its one-year-turn of being my calendar.

Last year's calendar turned list booklet
 And because I sometimes felt like my brain wasn’t holding up with keeping track of all the things and itsy-bits-item I needed to do, I came up with a new purpose for this handmade calendar: I use the empty spaces in the pages to make lists of what needs to be done, and I cross the items off when they’re done.

crossed out items on to-do-list, some still open...

Having them written down helps me remember all of them (and feeling pretty safe about that, too). Crossing them off gives a certain degree of satisfaction – almost like celebrating (though not quite). And it helps to stay focussed just a little bit better, because if I know I wrote everything down I don’t have to wreck my brain anymore trying to remember what else it was I had told myself to remember to do, such as to whom else I was going to write an e-mail (which will definitely pop up only after I’ve switched off the computer...) or ... And writing them all down in a single book makes it easier than searching for one of the myriad of papers on which I used to make lists before. 
Now all I have to do is keep that booklet at hand...

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