What I know

September 2018
September 2018

“If I knew then what I know now” is a deceptive little phrase and one that has been burrowing around in my mind this week. It is so tempting to interpret those few words entirely negatively; to think of them as a regret; to assume that we would have done things differently if we had been blessed with the gift of foresight. It is as if the words are written on the outside of the door to our dreams, which now stands locked and barred against us.

I think we need to find a different way of looking at it; forget about timing and say “I now know what I need to know”, then go forward from that position of strength. Lessons hard learned are not be frowned upon, and experience gained should not be disregarded. Our dreams may change, of course, in the light of knowledge gained, but they do not have to; and if there is a door to our dreams, it is never shut so solidly that it cannot be re-opened.

In The Lord of The Rings, JRR Tolkein wrote about this concept in terms of paths that run within our lives:

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,

And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we may come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.

The dreams, the paths, are not gone; they are just set aside momentarily until we are ready to resume our course, knowing what we now know.

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Revelation

Wroxham Broad
Wroxham Broad

The list of things I haven’t done the past week is enormous. I haven’t exercised anywhere near enough. I haven’t been faithful to my diet. I haven’t finished reading Midnight At The Well Of Souls (by Jack L Chalker, thrilling 1970s sci-fi). Indeed, for the past three days I haven’t even written or knitted. Instead I have done more important things, more urgent things, and more fun things. Unfortunately, none of them are the stuff that stories are made of. So, instead of writing about progress, I’m going to present you with a small revelation.

One of my favourite poems is Maud by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. For many years I have loved the part which became the popular Edwardian song, Come Into The Garden, Maud. I am also very keen on the section that John Fowles quoted in The French Lieutenant’s Woman. So it is unfathomable to me that I have never actually read the entire poem.

It shouldn’t really be a surprise because it is a long poem and the readibility is patchy; the bits I know are probably the highlights. However, I have decided that I owe it to myself to read it through just once, and so last week I started from the beginning, which is sombre in mood as the narrator relates how he dislikes a particular part of the wood where his father had fallen once to his death. It is very evocative and draws the reader in as all good beginnings should.

The poet is considering whether it would be best to leave his childhood home when news reaches him:

“Workmen up at the Hall! – they are coming back from abroad;
The dark old place will be gilt by the touch of a millionaire:
I have heard, I know not whence, of the singular beauty of Maud;
I play’d with the girl when a child; she promised then to be fair.”

Things creep up on us in just that way, and we cannot know whether the future will be delight or pain, all we can do is walk forwards and live it.

I am looking forward to this poem being my future companion for a while.

Not that

New sock
Not that but this!

There is a computer service known as IFTTT which allows users to write simple little commands which their computer will action automatically under certain circumstances. The initials stand for If This Then That. An example would be If an e-mail arrives from Harry then move it to the Harry folder. It makes sense because this type of thinking is hard-wired into the human brain – If the sun is just above the horizon then it is early morning or late evening; If the rain comes then the crops will grow. Routines, which I wrote about at the beginning of the week, are often based on the IFTTT scenario.

So what does this concept have to do with the knitting in my photo? Well, the knitting leads me to propose a different concept – NTBT. Not That But This. My photo is clearly not a progress update on the sleeve of the Basilica cardigan which I had just started in my previous blog post. I didn’t get more than a few rows of that completed before realising that this is not the time to be embarking on a complicated pattern. This is the time for sock knitting (enter sock wool, stage left).

I grabbed a ball of Opal Sport Exclusiv out of my stash and made a start. I am enjoying the gentle greens and greys of this yarn’s colourway, so soothing on the soul (oh, wait, should that be the sole?), green being a calming colour. It isn’t quite as soft as the sock wools I normally use, being a blend of 60% wool/25% polypropylene/15% polyamide, but it’s what I had on hand and I’m keen to use up some old yarns. I have a further three lots of sock yarn which I’ll try to get knitted up over the next couple of months, all from West Yorkshire Spinners – a plain grey which may be too boring to knit, but we’ll see; a grey with cream and brown; and a grey with cream and red.

The big change that is coming up is my return to full-time work after a year without a formal job. Between that and knowing that I want to keep aside plenty of time to pursue my creative writing, I anticipate that my knitting production will slow down significantly for the next few months. My main plan for the autumn is to minimise my yarn stash and tidy up the storage in my knitting cabinet, which currently looks like this:

Knitting cabinet
Not exactly inspiring

I’m not sure if I have talked about this piece of furniture before, but it is a music cabinet which belonged to my maternal grandfather who gave music lessons after he retired. One of our favourite parts of our grandparents’ large Edwardian terraced house in York was his Music Room which was on the first floor (upstairs from the ground floor, this being an English house). The bottom part of the cabinet swings downwards to about 45º and I have some knitting patterns stored there, but that area isn’t being used as well as it could be. The real bugbear for me are the Rowan magazines. These are all issues that I love and don’t want to get rid of, but the size makes them difficult to store effectively.

Once the yarns and storage are sorted out, I think my next garment will be the big pink jumper of my dreams. I will have to order wool for that and I don’t want to start it until I am more comfortable about the amount of time my new job will leave for knitting.

So these are my meandering thoughts for a Friday morning. I have a busy weekend of Grandparenting to enjoy before I start work on Monday. Exciting times. I hope that you are all looking forward to the weekend.

Finished object – Mama Weer All Crazee Cowl

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So I finished my cowl and I am delighted with it. I love how enormous it is and I love the glorious colours. It will be warm and cosy, not to mention ultra-cheerful, on cold winter days. Although working the knit one, purl one rib for such a big project was rather hard on the hands, it pays dividends in how the cowl sits and its versatility, so I’m glad I chose that. It also makes the cowl completely reversible which is very useful when the inside of an item is frequently on view.

In the end, I finished after the ninth colour because it felt complete. I had been a bit unsure about adding the stripe of pink at the end because the progression of the nine colours seemed close, and the pink interrupted it. That mini skein will sit in my stash and be used either to augment a pair of socks (it is sock wool, after all), or be added into the colourwork in a patterned sweater somewhere down the line.

I have updated my projects archive with the full details of this knit and I just want to take this opportunity to point you in the direction of Noodle Soup Yarns whose mini skein set I used on this project. Charley is a very talented dyer who lives in my home county of Norfolk and sells her hand-dyed wools at local craft fairs and through her online shop.

Taking photos of the finished object, I was struck all over again by how rotten I am at taking selfies. In fact, I think that is the thing above all others that marks me out as a member of my generation. I have just about got the hang of it to show my face, but I have to admit defeat over trying to photograph myself wearing the things I knit. I think the answer might be a tailor’s dummy (or is dress form a better term?), but it is unlikely to make an appearance given the bijou nature of my flat.

Whilst I was waiting for Holby City to start last night, I sneakily cast on my next garment – Basilica by Martin Storey for Rowan. I am knitting the sleeve to begin with to act as a swatch, although I have used the yarns and needles before and I’m confident about the gauge I will get.

14-08-19 Basilica cast on

I hope you’re getting on well with your creative projects and everything else in your life. Today the temperature in Norfolk has dropped and it’s dull and threatening rain. I recognise this weather – it heralds autumn and that can’t come quickly enough for me, even if it’s only to give me a chance to swaddle myself in that crazy collection of colour.

 

Routines

Peace
Boer War Memorial, Norwich

Some people thrive on routines whilst other people loathe them, but we all rely on them to some extent. However much you might seek to escape, to live a life of sponteneity, you can’t deny the subtle tug of the turning seasons, the rising and setting sun, the moon as it waxes and wanes. If you live upon the planet Earth, you are programmed to obey its routines.

My photograph marks that autumn is approaching and, for me, a change of circumstances and unavoidable change of routine. I will be commuting past this statue twice a day in increasingly murky weather as the year recedes from my grasp. I won’t deny that circumstances need to change and that I welcome the murky weather and quite look forward to the brand new year that will chase the old one away. I could live without the change of routine, though; I hate to change my routines. There is always a period of discomfort when I’ve lost the old routine, but not quite set up the new one.

Knowing my routines are destined to change sends me into a flurry of preparation. I try to imagine what my new circumstances will require, how I will be able to fit the important things into new timescales, what, indeed, is important and what I can simply kiss goodbye to. Yet, if experience has taught me anything (debatable), it has taught me that there is a limit to how far you can go in planning a new routine; the specifics will only gradually fall into place during the early weeks after the change happens. No matter how much I want to have everything thrashed out today, it is not yet the right time to determine what I am going to need with me on a daily basis, what I am going to have time to do on my new commute, where and when I am going to shop. I will need to live the new life for a bit before I can fathom out what does and doesn’t work and adapt myself accordingly; only then will I be in a position to settle in to my new routines.

This leads me to conclude that routines are not things which we can consciously set up, maintain, dispose of, or lose – they are not really subject to our control. Routines are adaptable, although they give the appearance of being solid. They are a landscape and our life runs through them like a river, carving patiently through the bedrock, altering it a millimetre at a time. Sometimes life, like a river, is in flood; other times it idles peacefully along, occasionally it forms an oxbow lake where we sit becalmed for a while.

Changing my routines does not come easily to me and in the past I have been guilty of fighting change. Perhaps I can ease the process by allowing my routines to evolve to suit me as I move forward, rather than seeking to set the routines in stone first then fret when they don’t really work.

It isn’t easy to get a handle on all this stuff that existence brings with it. I can’t help but feel it would have been useful if someone had mentioned to me fifty years ago that life isn’t anywhere near as clearly constructed as you’d think and that you’ll never really get the hang of it. So, if you’re young, and you’re reading this, please feel free to take that as my lesson to you.

Tune in on Wednesday for some knitting content, because I have a finished object to share.

I don’t have plans and schemes

I don’t have plans and schemes
And I don’t have hopes and dreams
I don’t have anything
Since I don’t have you

Well, actually, I do!

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My next garment

Over the past couple of days I have been examining my modest yarn stash to work out which yarns I want to keep and which I am never going to use so therefore need to donate to charity. I’ve also been getting some exercise winding small remnants of Shetland wool from the cones into balls as I think they will be easier to store. I am saving all of these to make a Fairisle patterned sweater one of these old days.

Since I finished Gaudi earlier this year and ended up with plenty of left-overs of the Rowan Felted Tweed DK, I have had the above cardigan on my radar. It is Basilica by Martin Storey – a lovely, cosy-looking bundle of colour which will my third project from the excellent Rowan pattern book New Vintage DK, which I bought in autumn 2018.

After careful consideration, I have come up with the following colour scheme:

Main colour for ribs and collar – a double strand of JC Rennie Supersoft Lambswool in Marine (the ball nearest to the model’s head in my photo)

Secondary colour, for the larger colour blocks on body and sleeves – a double strand of JC Rennie Supersoft Lambswool, one strand Blueprint and one strand an unknown shade of grey

Stripes – Rowan Felted Tweed DK in Mineral and Clay, double strands of JC Rennie Supersoft Lambswool in Medium Grey and an unknown shade of orange

I am planning one very small change to the way the pattern is written so that the stripes are at the bottom of the garment and the solid colour block starts at the armhole and stretches to the neck. This will get around the fact that I have a limited amount of my secondary colour.

Considering that this garment is knit in stocking stitch with a very simple stripe sequence, I am surprised that Rowan felt they needed to produce it as a charted design. I understand (although I don’t entirely agree with) the use of charts to convey complicated instructions that would take up too much space if written out in full, but in this instance I can’t imagine the written instructions would take up as much room as the chart.

That’s the limit of my knitting plans and schemes so far. The pale pink “sloppy joe” jumper is still on my list, but first I want to concentrate on getting this bunch of wools out of my stash. I don’t really have any other sweater quantities stored away, which is a lovely position to be in. Ideally, I’d like to run my stash down completely. Lovely though yarns are in their skeins and balls, I like them so much better when I’ve turned them into garments and put them in my wardrobe!

Well, I think I will knit another couple of rows on my cowl before tea – I am just starting colour number eight.


For your education and/or enjoyment, why not take a listen to Don McLean’s version of Since I Don’t Have You?


 

A curiosity cabinet

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Mama Weer All Crazee Cowl – progress to date

Today I am going to write about a miscellany of ideas, connected only in that they spark my interest, thus the title of “Curiosity Cabinet” seemed appropriate.

To kick things off, there is progress on my Crazee Cowl and I am now on the seventh of the planned ten colours. I must admit I am ready for this to be finished and I am reserving the right to call it done without using all ten mini skeins. That being said, the colour I started at the weekend is very much my cup of tea, gorgeous shades of deep purple/blue, teal and turquoise with splashes of verdant green and yellow. This has led me to conclude that when I am using a colourful yarn I like it to be really vibrant and multicoloured. It’s not that I dislike the more muted combinations in middle of the cowl, I just really like the bright ones.

I like to learn from the projects I work on, and if my learning point on this one has been to invest in wild and wonderful colours on my special skeins of yarn then it’s a lesson well worth learning. Thinking about it, this cowl itself has the air of a curiosity cabinet about it, and if I wasn’t so enamoured with the Slade-inspired “Mama Weer All Crazee Cowl” I think I would rename it “Curiosity Cabinet”.

Now we’re into August I’ve been looking at the latest brochures over on Rowan Yarns’ website and, in particular, Martin Storey’s recent offerings which include some lovely, wearable patterns, as I expect from my favourite designer. I particularly like Neat from All Year Round (a very basic v-necked jumper) and Holburn from Easy DK Knits (the round-neck jumper with split and buttoned welt). I think a combination of the two would be particularly interesting. Although I’m not a hoodie girl, I do like the look of Homespun. Finally, I’ve included Tactile, not because of the pattern, but because the first thing I noticed in the picture was the profile of those sliding doors, having spent seven years of my life becoming very closely acquainted with that product line. It’s funny what sticks with you when you are no longer involved with a thing on a daily basis.

Away from the knitting, I’ve been working on my goals for the next three months, as I was pondering in my previous blog post. Over the weekend I worked through a free training module on the American Franklin Planner website and I must say it sparked my enthusiasm to think about my core values much better than either of the books I’ve been reading this year (Getting Things Done by David Allen and The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll). Perhaps it is just the brevity of it that appealed to me, who can tell?

I’ve enjoyed a couple of podcasts over the weekend. On the knitting theme, there was the latest offering from Melissa of Knitting The Stash and I particularly enjoyed the part about receiving vintage knitting magazines for her birthday during which she touched upon the idea that knitting patterns themselves are often quite timeless, it is the styling of the photography which changes and which makes things seem dated. I love a good vintage pattern so I was very interested in this. The other podcast which was audio rather than video, was from NASA and covered commercial ventures in the space programme from whether products can be/should be endorsed, to encouraging commercial space ventures in order to utilise their facilities to reduce the cost of future exploration. All fascinating stuff.

Lastly, here’s a photo I took last week of the military area at Earlham Road Cemetary, with the Spirit of the Army standing sentinel over the soldiers in the summer rain.

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An ode to August

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Ah, August!

July is a funny month in my experience. Although it is tempting to think of August as the height of summer where I live, July is often the month with the highest temperatures. July is hot, sweaty, torpid, and I am unenthusiastic, becalmed. Contrast that with August, when the nights begin to draw in; there is a tiny promise, in the early morning, of autumn waiting just around the corner; in the local streets the gardens are ripe with plums and apples. August brings a breeze to the east of England, to blow away spiritual cobwebs and physical lethargy. At its best, it combines the good things about summer – long days, sunshine, that school’s out feeling – with rather more pleasant temperatures and an anticipation of things to come, new adventures, new terms, perhaps even new people.

So here is a question to ponder – when does the year start?

There are a multitude of possible answers. The calendar year starts on January 1st, of course. Then there is the tax year which, in the UK, starts on April 6th, and in many companies this is the year we have in mind whilst we’re at work. For children, parents and anyone who works in the education sector, the school year is the predominant measure of time which puts September as the year start, in the UK at least. These are three very common examples, I am sure there are many more.

However, the thing I have been thinking about is the personal year: the year as you feel it to be, regardless of what anyone says, and tradition or circumstances dictate. This has been high in my consciousness because a lot of planning systems emphasise a half-year check-in on goals and, presuming you set your goals at the beginning of January, you will be carrying out your half-year check in July. There has been a fair amount written and videos produced throughout the past month on this theme, and yet July feels to me less like a new beginning and more like a slow descent to the finish. In fact, it was almost the end of July when it occurred to me that August is the time when I feel things change and I start to look forward.

This actually makes sense because the July feeling is exactly the way I always feel during the six weeks between Christmas and my birthday – the pause, the wait for a new beginning, as opposed to the time when the new year starts and I am full of enthusiasm for goals I’ve set myself. Perhaps my personal year starts in February, meaning my personal seasons run:
February/March/April
May/June/July
August/September/October
November/December/January.

With this in mind, I am working on my half-year review and planning; trying to work out how to move forward with my goals between now and February; taking advantage of that fresh-start feeling in my heart.

How about you? Do you feel that your personal year runs on a different schedule, or are the standard years – either calendar or academic – the ones that feel right to you? I’d love to hear from you, so feel free to leave a comment.


With reference to this week’s quote in my diary – I can thoroughly recommend this YouTube video of Alan Rickman’s wonderful performance as Jacques Roux in “Revolutionary Witness”. An oldie but goodie.

 

Five favourite beauty products from Avon

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I’ve been selling Avon for a few months now and, although progress is very much inch by inch (I’m not the world’s most natural saleswoman because I hate being “sold” to myself), there is some progress and my aims are low for this as a business. However, the real benefit of it has been the ability to try out reasonably priced products myself and so I thought it was high time I did a little report on which ones I have become particularly attached to. In the interests of balance, I’ll also do a ‘what I haven’t liked’ piece at the end.

I’m quoting the current full price of each product, but every brochure brings a fresh batch of offers, so a little patience can often bring rewards.

Skincare

The biggest surprise to me has been a re-think of my cleansing routine and becoming rather committed this late in life to using hot water and a humble flannel to remove my cleanser. Never thought I’d do that! The Avon cleansers I’ve tried can also be removed with tissues, which is how I used them when I began.

I have tried two cream cleansers – Anew Comforting Cream Cleanser and Mask (£6.50/150ml tube) and Care Hydrating Cold Cream (£2.00/100ml pot); both are very good with plenty of slip meaning you can give them a good massage to loosen up any make-up before you remove them. My favourite, though, was a very light milk/gel formulation – Care 3-in-1 Facial Cleanser (£1.75/200ml bottle). Although it was very light and liquid, it was certainly up to the task of removing the light make-up I regularly wear and it was just a pleasure to use.

Unfortunately, the Care facial range hasn’t featured in any of the recent brochures and isn’t listed in my online shop, so I fear times may be changing. As I definitely don’t like foaming cleansers, at present the Anew product is the only one I can opt for. That being said, the main Care range still has the Multipurpose Cream products which I will try out if the facial range is being discontinued.

My second favourite is also in the skincare line and is the True Nutraeffects Oil Infused Micellar Water (3.00/200ml bottle). I use this as a ‘toner’ step after using my cream cleanser and flannel. The oil migrates to the top so you have to shake the bottle before you pour a little onto a cotton pad, and then I find it is a lovely calming step before applying a moisturiser. In the interests of balance, I do have to note that one of my friends tried this before I did and she hated it, saying it felt like there was a greasy film on her skin after use and I’m not sure if our different opinions are down to skin type or personal taste.

Bathtime

I love the basic bubble baths (£2.00/500ml bottle; £2.50/1 litre bottle); they foam well and have nice, gentle fragrances. At this price you don’t have to frugal with them. So far, I’ve tried the Jasmine and Herbal Meadow versions (Herbal Meadow is an older one and is currently available in the clearance sale). Coming up in the next brochure (from 9th August) the newest version, Goodbye Tension, will be available and I’ve had an advance bottle of this to try out. I’m loving it! With notes of mandarin, lavender and musk, it is one of those scents that I like without being able to detect a specific element that makes me like it. It is warm but not spicy, definitely unisex, it makes me think of a walk in the woods. I recommend it.

Make-up

My fourth favourite is the Mark.Epic lipstick range. I regularly use Rosy Outlook and Hint Hint (£8.00 each) and I feel that as autumn approaches a darker shade will probably enter my life – perhaps Sangria Shock or Heartbreaker. I will also give an honourable mention to the True Colour Perfectly Matte Lipstick because I’m impressed with how wearable it is – not at all drying on the lips. I wear it in those moments when I want to channel the Dr Who companion, Clara Oswald, who always rocked a good neutral matte lip.

Perfume

Last on this list, but first in my experiments, it’s the Rare Gold Eau de Parfum (£11.00/50ml bottle). With notes of golden melon, orange flower and vanilla, it is just hits that spot for me of being a really nice scent. It’s a shame that, like a lot of Avon’s perfumes, it isn’t very long-lasting on the skin, but when it is frequently on offer for £7.00 or £8.00, there’s nothing stopping re-application during the day. The good thing about a perfume that fades fairly rapidly is that you avoid the possibility of reeking all day of something other people find offensive, which can happen with even the best brands. I have found Avon’s Eve Truth Eau de Parfum (£15.00/50ml bottle) is a longer-lasted scent and it’s nice, it just isn’t as nice as Rare Gold.

My personal misses

The things that really haven’t worked for me are:-

Skin-So-Soft Dry Oil Sprary – it’s an ultra-iconic Avon product; everyone loves it; how could I not? I’ll just say it’s not the product for me and leave it there.

Mascara – yep, all the mascaras, although I have to be fair and say it’s not just Avon’s offerings. I stopped wearing mascara many years ago, since when mascara technology has boomed. Now all the mascaras build length and volume and they are really, really black and I look even more like a doll when I apply them than I did in the old days. I just don’t like mascara and I’ve experimented with enough over the past six months to realise I never shall. I use a Glimmerstick in Saturn Grey to provide a bit of definition to my lashline at the outer corners of my eyes instead.

Sheet masks – like mascara, this is a category rather than Avon-specific fail. I find sheet masks too gloopy, messy and unrelaxing to use. Instead, I gravitate towards the Planet Spa tubes of face mask, and the Anew Ultimate Gold Peel-Off Mask.

Anew Clinical Lift and Firm Eye Lift System – this dual product in a single jar containing a gel to use above the eye and a cream to use below, just didn’t grab me. I tried using it as specified; I tried using the gel in the daytime and the cream at night-time; I tried using the gel on my lips and the cream around my eyes; I was just completely underwhelmed. I believe that an eye cream or gel is an important part of a good skincare routine, yet I have very rarely found one that is pleasant to use and that I feel improves upon not bothering. The one I did find was by Guerlain and it cost a breathtaking amount of money – I got it as part of a never-to-be-repeated offer, used every last atom of it, and went into mourning when it was used up because I knew I’d never be able to replace it. It probably wasn’t even as good as I remember it!

So, there we are. I hope this has been an interesting little insight into things I use and don’t use. If you’d like to take a look at my web shop you can click here – purchases can be made in the UK only, although if you’re somewhere else in the world you will doubtless have local Avon websites you can visit.

Fail is a four-letter word

A revolutionary failure
The Liberator from Blakes 7 – a series where the good guys failed to win

In the world of Blakes 7 fandom, there are many hotly debated issues, but the end of the series is particularly divisive. There are many fans who feel let down by the fact that everyone (debatably) died and that the evil Federation ‘won’. Personally, I have always been happy, although obviously also devastated, that it ended in such a strong way; I would have hated for the series to drag on too long and then just fizzle out. I have posed the question before – if it had had a happier ending, would I still be obsessed with it forty years later?

However, this isn’t an essay about Blakes 7; I’ve just used that for illustrative purposes. My real aim is to talk about the nature of failure and to determine whether I should feel more disturbed by my failures (they are many). It seems, even before the rise of social media, that we have been increasingly encouraged to sanitise our failings and the word “fail” itself has been demonised. The mantra nowadays seems to be “praise the successes, gloss over the failings”. I, for one, am beginning to wonder if this is really wise.

This has been on my mind over the weekend because I have been watching YouTube videos by someone who writes, self-publishes, and also has a business advising other writers about planning their work/lives. The channel is Heart Breathings, if you would like to check her out; I’d say she does about 50% good commonsense and advice and 50% hustle, and there are a lot of YouTube channels out there with much more hustle. I will come clean and admit I watch a lot of YouTube videos in search of inspiration about tackling my own lackadaisical approach to planning. You have my permission to question whether watching YouTube videos is a sensible way of dealing with a lack of enthusiasm and determination or whether it is yet more procrastination.

I watched one particular video in which this writer and her buddy had a writing retreat and I found myself wondering about the fact that she didn’t meet the targets she set herself. Now, she is heavily pregnant which would definitely affect her ability to work, and the word count goals she had set at the beginning of the break seemed incredibly high to me. Although the first day was mainly travel, she was already far behind her target at the end of it and I wondered why she didn’t revise her target based on that fact. It is fine and dandy to forgive yourself for not achieving your targets, but you need to be realistic when you decide whether you can catch up over a set amount of time, and if you can’t, you will need to lower your expectations.

One of the most interesting things my weekend’s viewing has me thinking is that I should care more when I fail. If failure doesn’t upset me, then what I was trying to do wasn’t important in the first place. I’ll be honest: I’m getting on, I don’t have time to be doing things that I don’t care about. Failure is a feeling, as are success, love, and hunger. Why would I waste my remaining days ignoring such feelings or, worse, not feeling them at all? To a certain extent, we judge which things we care deeply about not only by how happy we are when we succeed, but also by how we feel when we fail at them. When something is important to us, the stakes are automatically higher. We can shrug off a disparaging comment from a stranger far more easily than the same comment from someone we know and admire.

From the partial reading I have done of The Bullet Journal Method (see my previous One Book July musings), one strong idea I have taken away is that if you continually fail to do a particular thing on your list, you would be wise to examine whether it is actually important to you. I am guilty of carrying certain tasks forward from day to day, often tiny tasks that take no time at all to do, because I don’t feel any sense of guilt that I didn’t do them. I need to look at each of these things and ask if I actually care about it. If I do, then I should feel guilty that I am pushing it endlessly into the future; if I do not then I shouldn’t be trying to do it at all.

It reads as if I just spent the whole weekend watching videos, but that is not the case. I spent a couple of hours on Saturday sketching out a version of a planning page that would help me to set goals for the next quarter of the year and break them down into a list of tasks for each month and week. Doing this, I discovered that I don’t actually have a problem with the goal-setting side, and I can see the actions I need to achieve the goal, but I struggle with the concept of assigning particular things to set time periods. Perhaps it is because the projects I am currently working on really consist of doing the same thing repeatedly. Take, for example, searching for a job, which involves checking out particular sites for vacancies each day. I can’t control how many suitable jobs will be advertised in a week, so I can’t plan ahead to put in, say, two job applications every week. All I can do is repeat the process and ensure that when I see a vacancy that I think will suit me I send an application in a timely manner. That doesn’t count as ‘planning’;  it is, by its very nature, reactive. There is a more proactive method which is to send of a set number of ‘cold-call’ letters every week on the off-chance that someone might be thinking about hiring, but that doesn’t appear to be how the job market works nowadays. There is a similar conundrum with writing my novel: I am trying to write a minimum of 500 words a day and the aim of finishing first draft will be achieved when I’ve finished telling the story. In this instance, the proactive course would be to determine at the outset the number of words I want the novel to come in at and set goals of when I want to be at the 25,000 or 50,000 words mark. That is certainly something I want to consider. Funnily enough, knitting is the one thing where I find it very easy to set goals and break down a project into components – when I want to have the back or the sleeves finished by. In fact, if I could approach different types of projects with the same clarity that knitting has, life might be a little easier.

So, here we are, heading into a new week and it might seem negative to start off with the objective of feeling more disappointed and unhappy if I don’t do things well, but being disappointed by my failures is a key component in moving forward. After all, fail is a four-letter word, but if I own my failures and use them as rocks to form the foundation of the life I’m trying to build, it does not have to be a bad word.