On Time and Progress

I’ve fallen into that trap again of not writing anything because I’m concerned that I need to be perfect, having a consistent theme and something of great importance to say before opening my mouth. And I don’t think my writing is good enough, or that the things I want to talk about are worthwhile enough, and I was without a camera for a good majority of the last year so my photography progress has stalled. It’s a common occurrence, one I’ve actually had before during the life cycle of this blog. But as I said back then, and I think bears repeating now,

You don’t know who your audience are – you don’t know their inner thoughts or feelings, you don’t know what makes them tick, you don’t know what they’ll jump on out of interest or shun in distaste. Don’t have the arrogance to presume that you are uninteresting to them, because you can not speak for them.

I had a lovely day out yesterday with a friend who said she enjoyed hearing about my life and my journey to where I am now as she found it inspiring. I was, and still am, extremely flattered by this and she made me feel interesting for once, so I’m just going to get straight back into it.

Recently a theme that’s been cropping up a lot is the passing of time and the lack of consistency in various aspects of my life. For example, yesterday I started a knitting project that I originally thought of doing about two years ago. My parents bought me the yarn the Christmas before last, and I kept planning on doing it ‘soon’. I picked it up this week on a whim – having fortunately received some Amazon vouchers from work, I decided to buy the required knitting needles on next day delivery. Thank you prime trial membership that I forgot to cancel several years ago, you’ve more than paid for yourself by now. And then made a start because… well, just because!

I have a Ravelry account – a sort of social media site for people who knit and crochet where you can find patterns and resources and keep track of your own projects etc. – and when I logged in to find the pattern I am using I saw my list of past projects. The last thing I decided to make was a scarf for my mum, and according to Ravelry I started it in April 2013. It looked like this (finished project about 4-5x as long):

scarf2_medium2

That was three years ago. I remember finishing it and deciding that I wanted to keep going and make something else. So why on earth has it taken me three years to make a start on another project!? I didn’t intend to leave it more than a few weeks, but time moves so fast when you’re not paying attention to it.

For anyone who’s interested, my new project currently looks like this:

OwlSweater

I’ve thought a lot about things I’ve not done in years, that I either stopped after a long period of consistency or things that just never got off the ground despite best intentions. A good example of the former is the piano. I played and practiced the piano with weekly lessons from the age of 7 to when I left home at 18 to go to university. I got my ABRSM Grade 8 with Merit, was good enough that my teacher thought I should teach in my spare time and summer holidays (I never did, though probably should have done), but when I went to university I was suddenly without easy access to a piano and I stopped playing. It’s now been six years since I regularly practiced the piano.

I’m very grateful to be able to say that I do now have access to a piano, as my parents very kindly bought me a weighted keyboard for my birthday/Christmas last year so that I could finally start playing again. But whilst I have started learning a new piece (one I wanted to do for my grade 8 exam but was deemed too difficult for the limited time we had), I’m nowhere near as consistent I’d like to be in practicing. Now, I do an hour or two here and there every few weeks. I’d like to be playing regularly, every day preferably when I’m at home.

But I’ve lost the habit. It’s something I did for 11 years almost every day, but now after 6 years of inactivity it’s no longer something I can do without thinking. Unless I’m specifically focused on the piano, I’ll completely forget that it exists most days, even though in general consistent piano practice is one of my goals.

When it comes to projects that never got off the ground, there are countless examples of this. I have an entire folder of documents which contain the first couple thousand words of various writing projects, and there are two other blogs out in the wilds of the internet that I’ve started and stopped suddenly. Six years ago I made a couple of youtube videos (which no longer exist) with the goal that I would start posting videos regularly to increase my practical creative skill set and to hopefully interact with a community (which was much smaller back then). It’s been about a year since I last picked up the guitar, but last summer I was fairly consistent in trying to teach myself how to play. Of course, by now I’ve completely forgotten everything I learned.

Sometimes I sit back and think of where I could be now had I not let all these things go. It’s not really a healthy thought process to say ‘I’ve wasted all this time’, but I did quite literally waste a lot of the time over the last few years doing absolutely nothing on facebook or reading fanfiction, to name just a few. There was no creative or productive pursuit that caused me to drop these other projects.

But I can’t get those years back, and there’s no use torturing myself up too much about what I have or haven’t done. What I can do is reflect on where I would be had I kept up some of my past projects, then use that as motivation (or, a reason, when motivation is failing me) to keep going with things now rather than as ammunition to beat myself up with. Rather than thinking where I should be, I’ll think of where I can be in the future.

I have got better. It used to be that I’d drop a project and not pick it back up for years (see knitting), but now when I drop things I get back into them much more quickly. If I haven’t exercised in a month I’ll probably start doing something again pretty quickly. I’m still working on this blog despite at least two large hiatuses in its history, rather than scrapping it and starting a new one. I’m still looking up acting classes and this week I went through all my half-started documents and my goal for this week is to pick one and continue working at it. I do sit down and play the piano every few weeks.

So many people I admire say that success in any/their chosen field has nothing to do with moments of divine inspiration striking and bringing the perfect idea, but is all to do with showing up and putting in the work. That once you finish a novel you won’t remember which bits you wrote in a fit of ‘inspiration’ and which you wrote due to the hard slog of just sitting down and putting one word in front of another. Learning a piece on an instrument is all about repetition, repetition, repetition. All ‘up-and-coming’ musicians/actors/writers have ten years work behind them that you’ve never seen because they were learning what to do.

I think I’m going to try and take the days as they come. When I focus on weeks or months I tend to notice (or, not notice as the case may be) time moving very fast and me not doing much. This last few weeks I’ve been planning my days out more specifically in my diary (a passion planner in case you were wondering), and it’s made me appreciate how much I can get done in each one a lot more. That’s not to say there haven’t been days where I’ve done little but relax, but it’s more active relaxation – reading a book, watching something I’ll enjoy, knitting etc. rather than realising the day is over and I spent all of it online doing I’m not quite sure what.

I want to stop having a list of things I started and start having a list of things I’ve finished.

Not sure where else I want to go with this at the moment, so I’ll leave it here for now.

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