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There should be a muse of boring work.

The creative muse is a fickle little bitch, and I am always at her mercy. I have a list of things I want to do that almost puts me in the running for the 50 things project (which, despite, my saying a long time ago that I didn't really want to do it, I think is a very good thing), and I'm having trouble writing.

No, not here. I'm writing up historical notes and instructions for my patterns. Alas, my muse is cranky, and I'm having a hard time. I'm almost done with the nightcap one, but I still have to write up most of the coif one, then I have to write construction diagrams, and I want to overhaul the coif instructions.

In the meantime, my muse is whining and tugging at my skirts, saying "I wanna make a fur lining for my green coat! I wanna start another embroidered jacket! I wanna knit another pair of socks, and mittens, and make a muff!"

I have things to sort. I have things to draw, and write, and all I want to do is lay out the next jacket, and start a pair of wool socks. I am hopeless.

I've found over the years that the muse can't be forced, but it can be coaxed into doing something it doesn't want to do. Most artists encounter this phenomenon over time - it's rarely all "brain is filled with inspiration! I am leaking art from every pore!", it's more often "I must do this because if I don't. I'll sit on the sofa all day and drink tea". It's done in small amounts; a paragraph of writing, an inch of knitting, a few brush-strokes on the canvas. You work in increments, and reward yourself for doing something, anything, as long as it's a step forward rather than work avoidance.

The things we want most in life are achieved by practice and patient work, not by sudden flashes of serendipity, but that's not a terribly popular idea in a culture that is deeply in love with instant gratification. Why write a letter when you can e-mail? Why e-mail when you can call? Y call whn yu cn txt? Trouble is, when it comes to reaching goals, the goals we really want can't be accessed overnight. Want to play the piano? Practice every day, the same stuff over and over again for ten years, and you'll be passable. Learn to fence? Drill, spar, and slog through all the boring stuff so that your muscles remember it all, and you'll do well.

There are no shortcuts to real success; the odds of winning the lottery are pretty damn small, and the odds of simply walking in off the street and being brilliant at something are smaller still. Y'all may get the impression sometimes that I sprang fully formed and perfect at everything *cough* overnight, but I've got years of art instruction and practice under my belt. I've been sewing since I was five. I've been playing piano since I was seven (and I'm still not very good at it). I've been singing since I was a baby, and I took singing lessons for years. I've still got my fair share of things that really didn't work out terribly well, and I have plenty of off days when I write.

Talent only gets you so far - it has to be backed up by practice and hard work to lead you anywhere good. So, when the muse is whining at me and scuffing her heels over having to do something "boring" when she wants to sew rabbit fur together and play with silk thread, I have to ignore her and get my butt in gear. After all, what's the use of having talent if you quit as soon as it gets dull?

So I'm writing. There will be nightcap patterns. I plan for many more. In the meantime, I'll placate my muse by writing a random list of things I want to do:

A falling band for Bob using a lace similar to this one.
A purse like this one.
Objects from the Gunnister find.
Line my green coat/gown with black fur.
Overhaul my white brocade doublet and petticoat.
Another nightcap for Bob.
A new embroidered jacket (with spangles!).
Stockings! Knitted! Cute!
Another frog purse.
Patterns: Cushions, jackets, partlets and sleeves, shifts, doublets, falling bands, and gloves.
Linen shift.
Silk and velvet gown/coat.
Ruff and supportasse.
Cutwork ruff.
Cutwork falling band and cuffs.
Blackworked ruffs.
Embroidered shift.
Embroidered partlet and sleeves.
Painted trenchers.
Drawnwork tablecloth.
Embroidered bed cover.
Painting of someone (special project).

...and more I can't remember. But first, I have to make it past Holiday Faire with all the things I need to get done before then.

...Muse? ...muse?


( 27 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
Oct. 22nd, 2008 01:09 pm (UTC)
I would love to do the A&S 50, but...wow. I'm struggling to finish three more pieces of garb before our braonial, and the idea of 50 just makes me croggle.

Granted, I'm doing a lot more handwork on my blue tunic than I was planning on, and luckily for me, John doesn't care if I machine fell his fighting garb's seams, but still...

50 projects?
Oct. 22nd, 2008 02:07 pm (UTC)
They don't have to be massive projects. And there's still 7 years left to complete them. Anything you started after May 1, 2007 counts because that's when the A&S 50 was launched.

The neat thing though is that it's *your* challenge and you decide what constitutes a "project".

The main rules are:
1. Make stuff, do stuff, learn stuff.
2. Have fun.
3. If in doubt see rule #2.
4. There is no rule #4.

It's meant to be a fun exercise to (1) get people to try A&S who don't usually do much if any, and (2) to encourage A&S mavens to do new things or improve the quality and authenticity of what they do. If it seems like a huge looming monster, you're doing it wrong!

Edited at 2008-10-22 02:09 pm (UTC)
Oct. 22nd, 2008 02:09 pm (UTC)
LOL! Thanks. I may have to see if I can. It would be a great learning experience, that's for sure! By the end, I should be damn near an expert on Byzantine garb. (AH hahahahahahah!)

Excuse me, reality would like that check cashed now.

Oct. 22nd, 2008 02:11 pm (UTC)
Heh. It doesn't seem like a looming moster, but it is a monster, especially when I think about the fact that I'll have to take a year off for deployment. :-D

However, that would be a good chance to get some handsewing done! (And I'm relatively sure I'm actually taking a sewing machine over with me this time...how weird is *that?*)

It's intriguing, and I think I may have to see if I can.
Oct. 22nd, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
My list of 50 things looks remarkably like my list of "things I want/need in order to complete my persona". So, it's all stuff I was going to do anyway and like hugh_mannity said, I have seven years to do it all. That's seven things a year, plus one more thing. Since I finished handsewing a shirt and knitted a pair of stckings this year, I've already got two!

I'm counting little stuff as part of my fifty. Instead of "One Item -- a pair of bodies" it's "One, drafted a pattern for a pair of bodies. Two, used reed for boning. Three, hand-bound eyelets. Four, made a lucet cord to lace it with. Five, made my own bias tape. Six, wrote a paper about it. Seven, learned about period aiglets and made my own." Or, that's how it will be once I've actually finished the project.

So you see, it can be done. Just think of seven things you want to do before Next year's Baronial and you're on your way!
Oct. 22nd, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC)
*puts on her A&S 50 cheerleading hat*

It doesn't have to be sewing. It doesn't even have to be anything remotely related to fiber. My big project right now is 50 pieces of norse poetry and storytelling. My side project is writing lesson plans for 50 children's classes.

Also, you've got plenty of time. A.S. 50 isn't for another 7 years or so, so if you manage to work on one piece a month, you'll get done in plenty of time. :)

Also, the woman heading up the project has a set of 2 year old twins and a newborn, and she's managing to come along on her stuff just fine. Slowly, but fine. If albreda can manage it, anyone can!

*takes off A&S 50 cheerleading hat*
Oct. 22nd, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC)
LOL! Well, if I finish these three, I'll be four down...wait...five!

That's 10% down. Hrm.

This is actually a cool challenge to get me working on learning more about Byzantine garb. :-D
Oct. 22nd, 2008 04:31 pm (UTC)
There's actually a persona challenge, so if your persona is Byzantine, you'd be all set. :) The persona challenge is to deepen your understanding of your persona, so instead of just knowing what they wore, you'd learn what they wore, what they ate, where they worked, what sorts of cooking utensils were used, what a day in the life looked like.

See? Not that bad. :)
Oct. 22nd, 2008 01:18 pm (UTC)
I am so with you on this one. I have this really cool HMA project that I desperately want to start but I'm having to talk myself into finishing the last boring bits of my current article and rewrites before I can start it. Thankfully I did manage to finish the sewing projects I had in the queue so I could start one that I'm excited about but the list of things I want to do always gets longer right when I'm in the boring parts of what I'm doing. My "resolution" this year was to finish what I started and so far I'm sticking to it. But I still keep prioritzed lists of all the things I want to do. ;)
Oct. 22nd, 2008 01:35 pm (UTC)
You are inside my brain and reading my thoughts! And it terrifies me... ;)

Seriously, you're really speaking my thoughts right now. I had a major pattern deadline today which was ruined by the ink fiasco (RE: recent LJ posts). But even though not having ink doesn't stop me from writing, I couldn't. I'm too distracted. I'm too worried. I'm too busy self-pitying. Everything I do write right now sounds like crap to me. It's paralyzing. I have flashes when I wake up in the morning, but then it's gone in the flood of everything else I have to do.

Writing for a living (which is essential what I do) is not easy. And you don't get a lot of time off.

I take consolation in the fact that PG Wodehouse was one of the most prolific writers of the 20th century, and yet he had to literally lock himself in his office with his typewriter every day and force himself to write.
Oct. 22nd, 2008 03:07 pm (UTC)
Stephen King says the same thing - lock yourself in the office and write. :)

I am always paralyzed when I write that I haven't backed up my information enough, or that I'm maybe giving the wrong information, or that I'm being too in depth, or not in depth enough. Then I have to remind myself (currently) that these are *notes*, not a dissertation (which would increase the cost of the pattern significantly). :)

The instructions scare me, too - *I* know how to sew it together, but saying "...then sew it up" doesn't really work. :)
Oct. 22nd, 2008 03:15 pm (UTC)
I'm currently going through a thing where I announced a couple of new things on the idea that I could pull together some stuff I wrote a while ago and make it jive, repackage it, and give the people what they want. But now I'm saying, "How well have I documented that?" "Don't I need a greater detail illo of that?" "Shouldn't I fly back to Ireland and make sure my notes are correct?" All over a little booklet I was supposed to throw together in a day.

I am making myself CRAZY!!!

If I could just say, "Then sew it up," my life would be a paradise. I hate writing instructions. It is the bane of my existence. And I know only too well that what makes perfect sense to one person is confusing to others. So how do you write instructions that appeal to everyone and confuse no one? I'll call you when I figure that one out...
Oct. 22nd, 2008 03:57 pm (UTC)
You will excuse me if I don't spend all day waiting by my phone. ;)

I plan to use lots of pictures. *sigh*

Oct. 22nd, 2008 08:18 pm (UTC)
Have you tried, after you get your first draft of the instructions, to do a workshop with varyingly experienced people, with a video tape recorder going the whole time, and a few tape recorders in the corners to catch the quiet comments?
(workshop for complicated long projects being defined as trying a simplified version, while sitting around with your friends for two or three hours, with potluck afterwards. Example: coif pieces cut out ahead of time, basted together with small sections of finishing techniques done in "class", and/or stitch samplers done beforehand.)

Or to give out the pattern free to a few intelligent but confused people (they don't know what they are doing, but they know how to ask what they need to know) and let them email questions while they work the pattern?

These can also give you extra examples to photograph, if you need them.

At that point you will only confuse about 10 percent of your customers, and most of them can have a friend look at the instructions and explain them, so you don't get many questions after selling the pattern.

My sister makes patterns for children's projects, and she tries them out on sunday school classes so she doesn't just get crafty kids.

I suspect that someone with unlimited time and a desperate need to be clear could research and write totally separate instructions for left and right brained people and there would only be a 5 percent confused population left, lol.

By the way, my muse only supplies me with long winded suggestions in blogs that should be freely ignored if not helpful, lol.

Oct. 22nd, 2008 05:10 pm (UTC)

"or that I'm being too in depth, "

A writer-friend of mine would give you the advice to just get it all down on the page -- all of it. Every last word. Then, lock it in a drawer and go off to do other things for two or three days. After that time, come back, unlock the drawer, read what you wrote, and edit it.
Oct. 22nd, 2008 01:53 pm (UTC)
"I've found over the years that the muse can't be forced, but it can be coaxed into doing something it doesn't want to do."
Amen! And once you've got momentum going on the writing (or whatever) aspect, best just to keep that momentum going. (Even if you'd really, really rather be painting than slogging through a policy review. For a purely hypothetical example.)

"The things we want most in life are achieved by practice and patient work, not by sudden flashes of serendipity"

"There are no shortcuts to real success; the odds of winning the lottery are pretty damn small, and the odds of simply walking in off the street and being brilliant at something are smaller still."

"Talent only gets you so far - it has to be backed up by practice and hard work to lead you anywhere good."
Amen! (I'm starting to feel like I'm in church, here.) It irks me to no end when people compliment "talent" and fail to recognize the "hard work" aspect of things.
Oct. 22nd, 2008 01:54 pm (UTC)
My father, a fine artist, once said, "There's no such thing as talent. There's hard work. What we call talent is the hard work we don't see. And if you're lucky, you'll get a lot of that work done when you don't realize it's work."

*hangs Daddy's words on the wall surrounded by a pretty ribbon*

I shudder to think of the length of my 'want to do' lists... compared to the miniscule 'actually done' list.
Oct. 22nd, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC)
Your daddy was a very wise man.
Oct. 22nd, 2008 03:41 pm (UTC)
aww, you beat me to it :)

Our Daddy is the greatest :) (Not biased. Nope. Not me!)

When folks ascribe the success of others to "talent" they are also robbing them of the praise due for all the hard work, all the times you slogged through it. The nine-million times you drew a hand in -that- position to get it right. I think all the ephemeral thing we call "talent" really is is an inclination toward enjoying an activity so you don't notice the hard work as much while you're doing it. That doesn't mean you aren't doing the work, though.
Oct. 22nd, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC)
::sigh:: Yes, so many projects and so little time!

I'm with you on the cutwork ruff - though in my case not a ruff but a smock and partlet and coif.

Oh, and a drawn threadwork coif to match my existing partlet (which in itself needs the back done); and the drawn threadwork cuffs I still need to finish (done one of the pair), and a cutwork pair of cuffs for me and...and...and...and.......

I am sure that splitting oneself into multiple clones would be a really good idea. One for work, one for each project, a couple to be standing there whilst the rest fit various bits of costume etc to them, another for sleeping (bags me be that one!). Perhaps a couple more doing different jobs so I could have two to three incomes all coming in!
Oct. 22nd, 2008 03:10 pm (UTC)
I know exactly what you mean- if I want to enter my kingdom's A&S pentathalon next month I need to get my butt in gear and finish creating enough sugarpaste chess piece halves, there won't be enough time for them to dry but life keeps getting in the way (like a move, running gate at our last event, etc., sigh). And that's besides finishing off a couple of the other pieces plus writing up some sort of documentation on them, eep!

I'm also pretty sure that I'm nearly in the running for the 50 Things project as well, but that's definitely not a new thing. ;)
Oct. 22nd, 2008 03:19 pm (UTC)
I am doing the AS 50 but I am not stressing if I do not finish all 50 in 7 years.
I have finished my first card woven belt. My period linen Norse tunic is just about 75% done. I am doing hand sewing so my hands are not happy.
You do not have do 50 massive projects, just 50.
The most important thing is to have fun.
Oct. 22nd, 2008 03:59 pm (UTC)
Oh, I don't do anything but massive projects, which is why I decided it would be a good idea to encourage other people instead. :)

I've reached the point where I like to play with the extreme end of creating things.

On the other hand, I've made at least 50 knitted purses, all different, in the last two years. *evil grin*
Oct. 22nd, 2008 03:48 pm (UTC)
People seriously need to stop publishing books and putting up cool inspirational images on the web without consulting my availablity to deal with them first. I'm just sayin' is all...*grin*

OK, when is someone going to convice Bill Gates that he needs to sponsor a living history research compound and employ all of us as full-time researchers/construction experts/reenactors?

I think that sort of grant may be the only way for us to all get through all the reading/writing and sewing/knitting/etc. projects we have in this lifetime.

*le sigh*
Oct. 22nd, 2008 05:30 pm (UTC)
I did the 50 challenge in 3 months. TRM got gifted with 70 award medallions at their court at our last shire event. So, I not only completed the challenge, but I did something for the kingdom as well!
Oct. 22nd, 2008 05:46 pm (UTC)
A falling band for Bob using a lace similar to this one.

How long will your band be, and how long does it generally take you to do a band like that? Mistress Margot out here in the Outlands is wanting me to do some cuffs and a partlet for her, once I'm done with the sampler I'm working on, and I'm wondering what kind of time frame I can give her for it being done.

That is beautiful and made the muse tell me to get back to work... I was GOING to take my computer to gaming night and do some writing, but I think I'll be taking the lace sampler now instead. :)
Oct. 22nd, 2008 06:11 pm (UTC)
Without reading other comments (time shortage seems widespread!), I've got to say it does seem to me that a *muse* of boring work is an oxymoron. Muses are to inspire, are they not?
And inspiration isn't boring, is it. Usually quite the opposite; usually quite exhilarating.
( 27 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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