Making Things

I really enjoy making things. That goes for creating intangible things like written works and computer programs, but I really find it satisfying to make something tangible with my hands. So I’ve picked up a number of crafting skills over the years, some more in-depth than others. I tend to cycle through them over a long enough period that I end up having to re-learn things when I return to them, but I also pick up skills fairly quickly so it works out fine.

Lately I’ve been focused on crochet; earlier this month I made a pair of fingerless gloves for an old friend I’ve gotten back in touch with, and another pair for my husband. I just started getting back into chainmail crafting as well. I’ve mostly made chainmail jewelry in the past, but I’m working on a new dice bag now, since I’ve also gotten back into playing Dungeons & Dragons on a regular basis.

Both chainmail and crochet can be very soothing, with repetitive patterns and attractive materials that I enjoy working with. They also both create textures that I find very pleasing to look at and touch. The pouch I’m making is formed as a widening circle, and the rings are small enough to form a dense weave that is essentially a flexible metal fabric. (They may not be the most efficient size to use, but I really like the effect.) The light glinting off the rings is also very soothing; my eyes keep getting drawn back to where it is sitting on the table, waiting for me to add to it.

At various times I’ve also enjoyed wood burning, leather working, metal stamping, and various types of jewelry making. I used to sell some of my jewelry on Etsy, but didn’t really put a lot of effort into marketing it. I’m actually thinking about reopening that shop soon, and expanding it to include examples of the different types of crafts I enjoy, as well as different themes that interest me. There’s nothing in there now, but I’ll share a link when it’s open. I’m calling it “Incurably Eclectic.” 🙂

Flat circle made up of interwoven stainless steel rings

 

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Caught Up In Other Modes

I’ve been mostly in absorption mode lately; I’ve been reading a lot, internalizing information and perspectives that point toward some intriguing connections that still need time to simmer. In addition to that, most of my writing efforts have been directed toward updating and editing a novel I wrote several years ago, and I find that when I’m in editing mode it’s harder to generate new material. So it’s been tough to decide what to blog about lately. The thoughts that have been sparked by my reading aren’t quite ready to put together in a coherent way, and with most of my creative energy directed at the novel, it’s hard to pull my head out of that to write something else.

I could write a bit about the novel, I suppose, but as I think I’ve mentioned earlier, I don’t really like to talk about works in progress. I will say this, though, which amused me when I re-read it last month: I had decided to revisit this story to see if it would work with a clearly-identified autistic main character. What I found was that the only thing lacking was the “clearly-identified” part—this character was already so autistic that I had to laugh. I wrote her long before I started learning about autism and my own identity as autistic, but clearly I had put enough of my own tendencies into her that yes, the story would work with an autistic woman at the center. It already had one.

What Are My Interests?

I never know how to answer that question. Granted, I dislike open-ended questions in general, but I find I particularly freeze up at that one. And when it comes in a context related to autism, I feel doubly awkward about it, because I find people expect me to have a narrow range of obsessive “special interests,” but I’m just not like that. As the name of this blog implies, I’m…eclectic.

At the highest level, I’d say that I like to learn things, and I like to create things. A look at my shelves will show numerous books related to:

  • psychology and sociology;
  • history;
  • politics;
  • religion and spirituality;
  • martial arts;
  • mythology;
  • nature: birds, mammals, insects, trees, minerals, climate, astronomy, and more;
  • technology and programming;
  • arts & crafts;
  • gender;
  • physics;
  • and of course, autism.

Considering that many of those are umbrella categories, in which I have multiple sub-interests, that’s really just scratching the surface.  And that’s not counting the science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, poetry, and comic books I enjoy.

My creative endeavors end up spread out all over the place, so even I forget about some of them. I recently wrote down a list, though, because I was brainstorming how I could bring all of my creations together, and where I might do that. The list includes:

  • writing fiction, poetry and essays;
  • photography;
  • increasingly, videography as well;
  • making jewelry, mostly chainmail and beads;
  • crochet, including amigurumi;
  • drawing (still rather rudimentary, but improving);
  • making music;
  • programming;
  • cooking increasingly delicious meals;
  • and miscellaneous crafts (leatherworking and woodburning, for example)

So what are my interests? How can I possibly answer that question?

Managing Project Overwhelm

Some days I have lots of time to work on projects, but I get completely overwhelmed by choices. I have a lot of different interests, after all — I could write (but on which project?), I could work on an app (but which one is closest to being ready?), I could read (but which book?), I could crochet, I could draw, I could get outside with my camera. And this is after I have already let go of several things that weren’t holding my attention anymore.

Then there is the fact that some of my projects are BIG. They feel daunting, and I know that they will take prolonged effort over many days or months. Just thinking about working on those can cause my brain to fuzz out, so I can’t even think of the next step for any of them.

I happened to run across this article on Twitter today, though, and it helped me come back to earth a little: Approaches for breaking down big tasks. It reminded me of some of the things I learned in previous jobs, and from reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done. So I picked one of my app projects and started making a checklist of what else needs to be done on it. This helped me not only decide on next steps, it helped me identify what information I needed to learn first, and find a resource that would help me do that.

I’ve learned that trouble making decisions is an aspect of autism related to executive functioning, as is difficulty with organizing one’s thoughts. I have always relied on lists and notes to keep myself on track — and it worked so well that at first I thought I was really good at those things, instead of struggling with them! But as I’ve gotten older, some of these issues have gotten more pronounced, so it is good to have reminders now and then that I have tools and techniques for managing them.

Of Errands and Kingfishers

Today was a weird mix. I had to go out and run errands in the middle of the day, and that was draining — and a bit frustrating, as one of the stores I wanted to go to was closed because of the holiday. (I had known that was a possibility, but even so, I do not like having The Plan change.) Those errands did include picking up some new notebooks and a whiteboard that I am hoping will help me organize my various creative projects, so that made the outing a great success in the grand scheme of things.

Then I also had a lot of time today for some of that creative work itself, including some writing on a novel that is still in the formative stages, and some practice drawing. I’ve been wanting to get better at drawing, as it’s something I’ve always found difficult (and therefore always thought I sucked at). I started sitting outside and drawing things in nature back in November, but as the weather has gotten colder that is a lot less appealing. So today I decided to draw something based on a photograph of a belted kingfisher (a type of bird) that I took back in June.

My biggest problem with drawing is perfectionism. If I’m looking at the thing I’m drawing, then looking at my sketch, I’m disappointed. I’m not capturing every detail perfectly, I’m clumsy with the pencil, I’m inadvertently smudging things with my hand. But when I go back and look at my drawings later, I think they’re not half bad.

I’ve also always drawn with too heavy a hand; elementary school art teachers tried to teach me how to sketch the initial lines lightly, but I never got it. Maybe it’s because I often find that my fingers don’t do exactly what I want them to do unless I am pressing down a little harder.  Since learning I’m Autistic, I have wondered if this and my related difficulty with handwriting (I still have to concentrate in order to make Bs and 3s correctly) have to do with the fine motor skill issues that often go along with autism. This is something I’m trying to stay aware of now.

So here is my kingfisher. I thought about including the original photo for comparison, but given that comparison with reality is exactly where my insecurity and perfectionism about my drawing lies, I’m not going to. 🙂Pencil drawing of a belted kingfisher (bird) on a branch.

New Year’s Template

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions. I do set goals for things I want to accomplish, but that goal-setting isn’t always tied to the turning of a calendar page. (I also don’t have any particular affinity with January 1st as the beginning of the new year. I note it for the sake of writing the correct date on things, but otherwise I kind of already marked the turning of  a new year back on the Winter Solstice.)

But what I decided to do today was to spend the day doing some of the things related to my current goals and projects. So I started a new crochet project this morning (which, with luck, will be a hunter-green vest, my first real clothing project other than hats and scarves). I also spent some time outdoors with my camera on this gorgeous winter day, in a combination of body movement and spiritual contemplation. And I finally got back to an iOS app I’ve been working on, and got it working again after some of the code had gotten broken in the changeover to Swift 3 last fall.

I still have a number of other pursuits I wasn’t able to incorporate into my day — I’ve got some writing projects in the works, for example, and I’m trying to learn how to draw — but I do hope to find a little time for some reading this evening. Plus there’s still another day of my weekend, so there should be room to work a few more things in. The nice thing is, the day still felt relaxed and unhurried, and getting back into programming felt good (although finding those last few bugs definitely left me fried). And I got to spend the day with my husband and dog, which was especially nice.

So instead of making resolutions, I’ve been reflecting on my goals for projects like these. And I guess what I’m hoping is that this weekend will set a template for the calendar year to come. Have a great 2017. 🙂

Snowy brook in the woods