02.14.17 Project Status Update

As of today I’m on time based on steps I need to take to turn in our taxes by mid-March.

In a few cases I needed to print statements I thought were already printed but that didn’t take too much time.

It also looks like we have all the 2016 reports like W-2s and interest statements which will make it easier to compile documents.

I’m happy about being on time with taxes because this isn’t my favorite project. The sooner I complete it, the sooner I can move on to something that’s more fun.

Learning versus Performing

One of the most valuable ideas in the creative process is its emphasis on learning.

Our culture focuses on performance. We look at results…the bottom line, test scores, demonstrable achievements. That often works in our favor.

The problem is that we tend to be impatient with doing what it takes to attain those results. And results often require long hours, patience, and a lot of persistence.  For example, the picture of the performing dog looks really cool but how many hours did the dog and trainer spend together to make the performance possible?

Up until recently I was usually impatient and frustrated with myself and my circumstances. It seemed like everything in my life was conspiring against my achieving what I wanted. But the real problem was I didn’t appreciate how much I was learning and growing in the process.

For example, I love graphic design and I regularly clip layouts and illustrations I especially like. I get very inspired by these examples. The problem is my skills just aren’t up to recreating or adapting these ideas. I can get so upset when my work doesn’t measure up to what I want to create.

What I keep going back to is that mastery requires consistent practice. Mastery which is the expression of unconscious competence requires spending a lot of time in the phases of conscious incompetence and conscious competence. Both phases are uncomfortable and often frustrating.

Currently, I create designs for my own pleasure. I don’t have the goal of earning money through my artwork. I think becoming a professional designer could be a great career but I’m not yet sure it’s for me. As long as my enjoyment is greater than the attendant frustration of learning new skills I’ll keep creating artwork. At some point, my skills will be strong enough so I can make the decision about whether I want to sell my work.

Pursuing mastery feels like a better goal to pursue than pursuing a living because mastery is about learning. If I make this about the money I’m concerned it will somehow lessen what it is that I’m creating. And I want to allow myself to enjoy the process of learning and gaining mastery. It feels luxurious and nourishing to do so.

02.07.17 New Project: 2016 Taxes

I doubt there are many people who consider doing taxes an act of creativity..maybe a few tax accountants out there.

However, any project that occupies 20 hours of my life deserves consideration in the creative process.

I wish I could be one of those persons who brings a shopping bag full of papers to their accountant each year and says “Here ya go, have at it.” But I’m a control freak by nature and I actually try to keep track of what’s coming in and going out.

Structural Tension Chart

All projects to which I apply the creative process begin with a Structural Tension Chart which includes my goal, current reality, and action steps.

Goal (which is it I want to create?): An accurate, timely tax return. An accurate snapshot of our finances.

(Note the first sentence isn’t terribly exciting but it is accurate. The second sentence is more interesting because we’ve been thinking a lot about retirement and an accurate snapshot of our finances is required as a starting point).

Current Reality: Before turning things over to our accountant I make sure the numbers in Quicken match the numbers on our the numerous financial statements we receive from our credit cards, banks, and other places with which we spend or receive money.

Last year I kept current until June then got behind and began printing statements and filing them in a 3-ring binder. So I have six months of statements to reconcile with receipts I added to Quicken.

I scan and file my receipts so I have backups of all my tax-related receipts.

And it looks like we’ve received most of the tax documents we need to include: W2s, interest statements, and mortgage interest.

At this point, I have all of the numbers and documents. I just need to make sure the numbers are in Quicken so I can send an electronic file to our accountant.

I’ve estimated I’ll be ready to send everything on or before March 15. I’m hoping I don’t need to beware of the 2017 Ides of March.

Action Steps:

Actions steps fall loosely into the following categories:

  1. Reconcile Quicken with statements
  2. Generate reports
  3. Organize documents
  4. Send to accountant who files electronically
  5. Pay if we owe money

I’ve already begun reconciling statements and expect the process to be completed in early March.





Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts

When You’re Just Not Feeling Creative

There are days when one thing after another seems to make a tiny paper cut until it feels like I want to curl up and go catatonic.

Today has been one of those days.

First I discovered moths have gotten into my sweater drawer and several beloved sweaters are beyond repair.

Then I pinched a nerve in my foot while getting groceries which hurt like hell. It was hard to walk without putting pressure on my sore foot.

I got into a fight with my son because he wouldn’t do an errand for me. It was such a trivial thing for us to get so angry over.

The vet office called to tell me my 11-year old cat’s bloodwork “showed abnormalities” leaving me to imagine the worst while waiting for the doctor to call me back.

None of these things are fatal singly or taken together but oh how my heart hurts at this moment.

As I contemplated the question, “what do I want to create?” My response is “be in the habit of choosing peace over hurt, fear, and anger.” Because I know I’m capable of choosing peace and when I do life feels better.

There are other things I would create which more directly address some of the day’s issues: a relationship of mutual respect and cooperation with my son; great-feeling feet; a safe, clean environment for my woolens, etc. But it’s difficult to address these specific results without more peace in my heart.

New Project: Completing Previous Project

I decided to break down the actions needed to complete the how to article into smaller, easier pieces and create a fresh project to complete these pieces.

Making things “as simple as possible but no simpler” seems to be something I need a lot of practice with. I continue to learn that what I think I can accomplish is a lot more than what I do in reality.

I also think there’s wisdom in limiting the number of hours I have each day to do what I see as productive, creative work. 5-6 hours is really good. 4 hours is more realistic. Not only is some time spent on admin work but there’s time driving, doing errands, and dealing with unexpected crisises like bringing my Mac in for repair and using my iPad as my makeshift computer for work.

I created a new Structural Tension chart on Google docs. Once I have a working computer I’ll upload the new chart as well as images of my latest Daily Creations.

11.05.16 Update

I’m close to complete on the How-to article. I estimate I have 2-3 hours remaining in writing the article. Some observations about the goal and current reality:

  • My goal was to create a how to article for DIY-type people searching for good gift ideas. They could follow the steps I lay out in the article to create what I’m calling a “Story Card Book.”
  • I’ve followed all the steps I laid out in my Action Plan. This is a good thing!
  • I have realized with the benefit of time and emotional distance that the article gets bogged down in technical details. Some people may care about how I enlarged the card face image. Most won’t. In my next draft I’ll expand on areas of general interest.

I’m now working with a small group of writers and have the benefit of their feedback. Although this project was to be one I could do without the input or permission of other people, involving people in this type of project would have been an advantage. That may be a guidelines I don’t follow in my next project.

I’m going to publish the first version of my article because I’m sure there are people who will find it helpful. I have a commitment currently to publishing my work rather than sitting on it because it isn’t perfect.

10.22.16 Project Update

queen-card-1queen-card-2 queen-card-3-3

I’ve created all the images for the how-to article. All that’s left to do is to insert the article text, add images, and adjust spacing so that the article is easy to read.


The last image is of the card as it looked before I wrapped and mailed it. I wish I had taken a few snapshots of the card before wrapping it but I was in a hurry to get it in the mail. I figured I could probably recreate it somehow.

But creating a somewhat realistic version didn’t work very well. I tried to create a booklet that looked 3-D in Photoshop and using another application called 3-D Boxshot. After messing around for an hour with no luck I gave up.

In Creating Your Life, Robert Fritz talk about how much of our time creating will be frustrating because we are learning the skills necessary to create what we want. This is a perfect example where I had a clear image of what I wanted to create but don’t have the skills and know how to create that image.

It’s worth noting here that this frustration is inherent in the journey and is not a sign that I should give the journey up. I’ve found that in today’s culture of instant gratification it’s helpful to remember looking foolish and stumbling in part of the path to mastery. So my willingness to take the steps and look awkward is worth celebrating.

10.20.16 Project Update


Current Reality Snapshot

All images but one are completed. YAY!

I’m setting the publishing date to 10/26 although I’m leaving it as 10/23 on the Action Plan. This gives me more time to complete exercises in Creating Your Life.


The specific steps in the creative process are actually pretty simple. If you’ve done any project management you’ll find it easy to create and update Structural Tension Charts.

The more challenging part in the creative process is the mindset piece because shifting from a problem solving perspective to a creating perspective doesn’t come naturally to most of us myself included. Creating Your Life provides lots of exercises and ideas for making the mindset shift easier and I want to spend some time doing those exercises.

Without taking time to integrate the ideas I quickly get caught up in checking off boxes on my ToDo list. While I love the endorphin rush of checking off those little boxes, it can get addictive and I’m back to mindless activity and problem solving instead of  consciously creating.

10.19.16 Update


Today I created images meant to look like templates. There are three templates and I wanted the templates to show how page elements were positioned so it would be easy to add text and images. I thought I would use graphic Design software like Adobe Illustrator to create the template images but Illustrator doesn’t play with Apple’s latest OS. I finally ended up going with “good enough” and creating them using Adobe InDesign. They don’t look great but they get the information across.

This has got me thinking that it’s worth the investment to buy the version of Illustrator that works with Apple’s new OS.

This is also an example of how shifting the focus from problem-solving to creating my desired end result shifts how I do work and the decisions I make. If my focus was on solving the problem I would have spent hours figuring out how to create these images using less expensive software. But because my focus is creating something by a specific date and the time I allot each day for this project, I’m realizing it makes more sense to invest in software I know how to use.

I also made progress creating a couple other images. I like using grid paper to get my ideas down. Having my ideas sketched out helps me work faster and more decisively.

10.18.16 Update



Today I also got started on creating images. It’s interesting to me that although creating images is one of my favorite things to do when creating technical content, it’s something I seem to put off until the last minute. I think there’s probably some fear underlying my hesitation. Perfectionism perhaps?

In addition to reducing the number of images in my How-to article, I also cut the steps for sending the article our for proofreading and copy editing.

Creating Your Life advises you to choose goals that you can complete on your own; that don’t require the permission or or input from others. So much of this course is about what contributes to being an effective creator. And being an effective creator is about keeping our view of current reality as objective as possible. So it’s important to understand things you do, yourself, as a creator which may improve or muck up accomplishing goals. When we bring other people into our projects it can muddy our understanding of cause and effect.As an added bonus, removing the outside review makes it easier to complete this project within my deadline.