23 February 2010

I'll Go

Two weeks ago was was my first make of my new year. (It seems that I'm not starting off the year with great timeliness in posting.) With that in mind, I felt a little pressure to be grandiose in what I chose to make. I wanted it to set the tone for a new year in which I would do bigger and better things that the year before. I also thought I should probably make something Valentine's Day oriented. I got a little stage fright knowing that (due to Jason's embarrassing promotional email--which he sent without my permission and much to my nausea-inducing chagrin) there are new people tuned into what I'm doing here. It's a pressure I hadn't experienced before in relation to this little happy place. I didn't feel up to it. I felt deflated, exhausted, embarrassed, and stressed out. To make matters even slightly more complicated, Jason and I were house-sitting. And that meant that whatever I was going to make, I would have to plan ahead and bring all of my materials and equipment with me. So that put sewing and cooking out of the question. I didn't want to bore you with yet another crochet motif, and I'm still working on the granny square blanket, which just might take me the rest of my life to finish. I didn't want to color or paint. And I wasn't inspired to felt or embroider anything. So where does that leave us?

Looking back over the past year, I was shocked to see that not a single song was included in my weekly makes. How could this be? Am I not a self-proclaimed songwriter? I wrote a poem. I wrote an essay. But not a single song. Enter identity crisis and crippling despair.

If you read my post on Hope, you know that I feel like music needs to be a part of whatever direction my life is taking. I didn't elaborate there, so I'll do so here. I hardly ever listen to music. Ever. I always have a song playing in my head, so I rarely feel the need to fill the quiet with music unless I am singing along to my own internal soundtrack. I think this is part of the reason I've always written songs, even when I was little. I would walk around outside, and I would sing about what I saw, whatever popped into my head. I did it for the joy of singing and expressing myself and praising my Creator. I did it to give release to my need for the dramatic, which I have always held inside of me. I did it out of a desire to make something up that wasn't there before. I formed the habit before music was quite so mobile. If I was going to have music with me all the time, I would have to make it myself. And I did. I've done it for as long as I can remember.

But over this past year of disciplined and regular creativity, I have not been writing songs. The reasons for these are long and boring and over-trudged. But one that I haven't really talked about is that I have always written from the whim of the moment. And for all those trudged-over reasons, I have not really been open to whims of the songwriting variety.

But open or not, music is a part of me. And it's something I would like to be reconciled to. So I've been listening to more music. I know that music has a great power for mood shifting, so I've been listening to my old Christian CDs. The good ones from back in the junior high/high school days when I used to buy Christian music: Caedmon's Call (self-titled), Skillet (Hey You, I Love Your Soul), Ginny Owens (Without Condition), Sonicflood (self-titled), etc. It's been really helpful to start my day on the way to work with songs about the goodness of God, the reality of my condition, the hope I have in Christ.

I decided that if I were going to start writing again, I would need to reject the snobbery of the hierarchy of subtlety over blatant Christian messaging in my music that I adopted back in the fall of 2005. And with the beginning of this new year of weekly makes, wanting to incorporate music, feeling impossibilities in every other medium, and knowing it was about time, I wrote a Jesus song.

I debated just telling you about it and not sharing it with you. Because I wanted my first week to be something grand and wonderful, and this is...well...not. I knew that my first serious attempt at songwriting in years would not hold the former brilliance I once possessed. I know this is not a good song. The rhymes are lazy. The lyrics don't take you anywhere from the beginning to the end. The structure is sloppy. The chords are boring. And the melody is cliche and stupid. For all accounts and purposes, I really don't like this song.

But. To hide it from you would be to deny the purpose of this blog, which is to include you in my creative journey. And to be an honest account, I must include my failures as well as my victories, the things I am proud of and the things I would rather not grace with my signature. I wish I could give you a song that expressed my current state with some greater magnitude and skill. But my songwriting muscles have atrophied, and I have a feeling that it will be a long journey back to where I used to be. In the mean time, there will be quite a few craptastic songs. And this is one of them:

I'll Go

My steps have been my own.
I've wandered far.
My feet have taken me
Deeper, deeper into the dark.

I am lost, and I can't see.
It's time that You take the lead

I'll go
Where you want me to go.
I'll follow if You'll lead.
Say that You'll lead me.
I'll stay
Where You tell me to stay.
As long as You keep on loving me,
I'll do it Your way.
I'll do it Your way.

I'm holding all my failures
With open hands.
I'm done with my excuses.
I'm out of plans.

I am tired, and I'm confused.
It's time to follow You.


You are life, and You are light.
You are faithfulness and truth.
You are mercy. You are might.
I will ever trust in You.


(Blogger doesn't have a way to upload sound clips, so you'll just have to imagine what it sounds like. Maybe that way you'll imagine it's better than it actually is.)

I think part of the problem is that even while I was writing this song, I knew it was a lie. I feel that even more blatantly now that I'm looking at it in retrospect and sharing it with "the world" as an expression of what's going on in my heart. The reality is that I am weary. And I have tried to direct my own steps, all the while thinking that I was being faithful to God's direction. I find myself without clear purpose or calling or identity, and I know now that part of the reason for that is that I have been fighting for everything that I want and motivated by the fear that I will never get any of it. I know now that God is for me, that He's been trying to show me that this life of fears and fighting will only wear me down. He wants to free me from the bondage I've created around my heart, the walls of protection I've made for myself that feel increasingly like a prison. I see all that now, and I am moving towards a place of trust, a place where I will be able to say, "I'll follow if You'll lead." But I'm not quite to the place where I can say, "I'll go where You want me to go. I'll stay where You want me to stay."

Perhaps the most honest line of this song is, "Say that You'll lead me." But if I am completely honest, that desire is speckled with, "Say where You'll lead me." And then I'll decide. Unfortunately, that is not generally the way that God works. He requires total surrender, total devotion, total trust, and then He shows You what's next. When God reveals His plans, it's generally not in the context of "Check yes or no." Once He's shown You, that's the path. I'm not going to get into the theological arguments behind this...all the sovereignty and predestination and free will nonsense. I only mean to say that until my heart is fully surrendered to God, the fact is that I don't really want to know what He wants. Because I'm scared that I won't want it, and where will that leave me? Alone. Further isolation and despair. Because once I have turned my back on God's plans, I am entirely abandoned to my own. And mine--when they are even existent--are pretty lousy. But in this lovely little agonizing state of limbo, I can pretend to want what God wants, all the while grasping the illusion of control.

So all that, in addition to the technical shortcomings of this song, is why this song isn't good. It's not honest. And honesty is my highest goal and virtue in the realm of songwriting. It is my barometer. And maybe that, more than anything else, is why I haven't been able to write songs in a long time. It has been years since I have had the eyes to see the honest state of my heart. It's a scary place at the moment. Too much regret, too many doubts, too many fears, too much uncertainty--the bad sort of uncertainty that steals away opportunities and blinds you to the possibility for a happy outcome. But if I'm going to be an artist of any kind, I can't be content to sew a couple seams and call it done. I need to go to the dark and scary places that stretch me beyond my current skill and past my safe boundaries. I need to start asking myself, "Is this honest?" And no, this song is not.

Unfortunately, I've never been a good editor of my own songs. I'm too emotionally connected to them to swing an axe where it needs to be swung. In my past life as a songwriter, I leaned heavily on initial inspiration for the quality of my work. I don't think this song has too much potential, so I didn't agonize over it too much. But if you have any ideas about how it can be better, I welcome your feedback. Unless your feedback is, "Robin, I love this song. It's the best song ever. You're so brilliant. Blah blah blah." Because this is not the caliber that I expect from myself, and it would not be helpful for me to have it reinforced, thus lowering my standards. So constructive criticism, come one, come all. Gushing is strictly forbidden.

10 February 2010

Anniversary Giveaway!

In order to be eligible for this giveaway, all you need to do is to leave a comment on this post by February 20th. On the 21st, I will use a random number generator to determine the winner. And the winner will receive...

one custom Robin-made something
crafted especially for you!!!

If you'd like to direct my little project, feel free to tell me your favorite project from this past year, something new you think I should try, your favorite color, etc. Or you can just say, "Kudos" for my one year weekly making anniversary and leave it all up to my creative whims. Whatever you want to do. The ball is in your court. Comment away!

Thanks for stopping in to see my little corner of the universe now and then. Thanks for your encouragements and comments and happy thoughts. And thank you most of all for celebrating with me!

Woohoo for a full year of The Weekly Make!!!

My Random Number Generator picked the number 3, which means that:
Matt is the winner of The Weekly Make First Anniversary Giveaway! Congratulations, Matt!

Thanks so much to everyone for your comments and kind words. It was so fun to see comments pop up and to envision what I would make for you if you were the lucky winner. So very inspiring. I think I'll have to do more giveaways like this in the future. So for everyone who didn't win, I don't know when, but you'll get another chance. :o)

09 February 2010

Year Gone By: Lessons and a List

This past week marks the 52nd week of The Weekly Make. That's right. A full year of intentional creativity. An entire 365 days when I have thought about putting my creative resources to good use and actually followed through to the completion of much creative goodness.

At the risk of sounding a little over-inflated (although this is my blog, so I guess I'm allowed a little pride now and then), let me just say that I am very impressed with myself. This is the first time in my life that I have ever set a self-imposed goal with no external drive, deadline, or authority, and have actually followed through. This is the very first time I have ever been truly self-disciplined and self-motivated with any sort of regularity. This is my first experience setting a long term goal for myself and then actually achieving it. Maybe that tells you a little something about what the rest of my life has looked like. Maybe not. It's not that I'm lazy. It's not that I haven't accomplished anything. I wouldn't say that The Weekly Make is the greatest achievement of my lifetime. But everything else that I've ever done for more than a week at a time has been the product of some external motivator. So to have completed a full year of weekly makes where I was only accountable to myself (and a handful of faithful readers)...it is no small thing. And I must say that I'm proud of myself. Way to go, Robin.

So I'm going to celebrate. And this celebration will have 3 parts:
1) What I Have Learned
2) What I Have Made, and
3) Another Giveaway (which I have put into a separate post because this one was too long for people to see it.)

What I Have Learned
This comes in three little parts of its own:
A) I do what I desire. Honestly, I think that's why I was able to get through this year without ever completely slacking off. Because I really want to make things and get better at making them. I have a deep, strong, ever-present desire to be creative.

B) When I don't have the energy to support my desire, I need a muse. I used to think that in my own power and personality, I had everything I needed to be a creative person. In small bursts, that's true. But over a long period of time, I need to go looking elsewhere for that spark. When I can't summon my imagination at will or conjure the necessary energy to create, I have a choice to make. I can either sink into myself in an endless downward spiral of despair, or I can look for help where it can be found. Inspiration is not something I have to conjure, and it is not something I have to wait for. I can go looking for it. And it really is all around me if I will just turn my eyes right side out and choose to be inspired by what is available to me.

C) Discipline is a necessary factor. Sometimes I just don't feel like doing anything. And on those days, I need to exercise discipline. It's a necessary fact. I've known this about writing--and I guess about all sorts of artistic expression--for a long time. But The Weekly Make is the first time I've really put it into practice. I made things when I didn't feel like making things because I knew that if I was disciplined, creativity would become a lifestyle rather than something I did now and then. Creativity is no longer just an abstract part of who I am. It has become a practical part of my life. And it's not governed solely by my whims or the chance of inspiration finding me. It's something that I make space for...something I expect from myself with regularity. I used to approach projects with big ideas, knowing that there was a good chance that even if I started, I probably wouldn't finish because I didn't have the skills to meet my vision. But now I have confidence that if I put the materials in my hands, I will be able to finish something that wasn't there before. Discipline is what gives me that power week after week.

So left-brained Robin has decided that my equation is as follows:
A Creativity Lifestyle = desire + inspiration + discipline

And with those things in place, I can do this. I can be the person I want to be. I can become more of who I am. And that is something to celebrate.

What I Have Made
Since the beginning of last year, I have kept a running list of the things I have made. Rather than making you scroll through my archives, it's all right here:

Week 1: Disney World Purse
Week 2: Greek/Twilight/Stump Picture, Little Red Riding Hood Picture
Week 3: A New York Cheesecake, Mini Peanut Butter Cheesecakes, Raspberry Vinaigrette

Week 4: Rooster apron
Week 5: Wool felted balls, Chocolate Raspberry Bundt Cake
Week 6: Triptych
Week 7: Munchkin Cards

Week 8: Gryffindor Scarf and Hogwarts Pitcher
Week 9: Roots and Wings Drawing
Week 10: Pigwidgeon
Week 11: Menorahs
Week 12: Jason's birthday cake

Week 13: Mothers' Day Aprons (gardening, kitchen), Recipe Book
Week 14: Skip
Week 15: Spinning
Week 16: Tree Wall-hanging

Week 17: Sonnet for my Tree
Week 18: Chicken/Angel Hair/Parmesan Dinner, ChocRasp Bundt Cake, Upcycle Skirt
Week 19: Strawberry Jam and Strawberry Lemon Marmalade
Week 20: Amadeus

Week 21: Banana bread
Week 22: Wand
Week 23: Wand bag and Gnargle necklace for HPatHBP
Week 24: Banana bread, spaghetti sauce, clean dresser, switch rooms, pear plate
Week 25: Blanket and bumper for Molly

Week 26: Dying Wool
Week 27: Bacon Pasta Meal
Week 28: Crazy Quilt Project
Week 29: [Fabric Collage]

Week 30: [Pin Cushions]
Week 31: Parmesan Striper
Week 32: Angora Goats Contest Essay
Week 33: Apple Butter and Mango Salsa
Week 34: 2 Aprons for my mom

Week 35: More aprons, spinning
Week 36: Apple Butter
Week 37: Felted Pumpkin and Flower (<-- I didn't blog about that) Week 38: Felted Acorns, Horacio

Week 39: Felted Pumpkins, Acorns, Bernie and Henry, Designed Display, Made Sign
Week 40: Learned to crochet and felted another pumpkin
Week 41: 2 granny squares
Week 42: [started Megan's gnome and Amy's bag]

Week 43: sheep ornaments
Week 44: cathedral window light wall-hanging for Kalos
Week 45: headband special order, felted teddy bears, acorn ornament, josiah's hat, molly's bird, mom's camel, my headband
Week 46: dad's wall-hanging, jason's ornament, amy and megan's headbands [mom's apron]
Week 47: 5 slippers (megan and amy's plus one), finished cabinet

Week 48: square crochet motif
Week 49: "hope" abstract/symbolic crayon drawing
Week 50: hexagon crochet motif
Week 51: Puff Oven Pancake

Week 52: [Granny Square Blanket]

Note: When things are in [ ]'s, it means that project was either done as a make-up for that week or is still not finished.

Wow. That took a long time to link. Looking back, I only had 2 weeks that I made up for during another week, 4 unfinished projects, and only one week that I skipped entirely. I'd say that's a pretty good record, don't you think?

It's kind of crazy to think that a year ago, I made my first solo-sewing project. I have so many more skills and resources now and so much more confidence. Looking at this list, I feel like I can do anything!!

08 February 2010

Good Gracious, Granny

If there is any hope for me recovering from how much I hate the number 4, that hope is the granny square. Because until very recently, the very sight of a square (the physical manifestation of that unpleasant digit) was odious in my sight. It's okay if it's turned on its edge because then it's more like a diamond. In fact, when Jason and I were talking about engagement rings, I told him I wanted a princess cut diamond (of course) but that it had to be set like a diamond and not like a square. This was slightly problematic. It required a custom setting. And he even had the jeweler remove 4 diamonds so there would be two columns of 3 diamonds on each side of the center stone instead of 2 columns of 4. This is serious business, folks. It affects my life in a big way, this 4 factor. But like I said, if there is any hope, it is the granny square: that wonderful, deceptively simple, super-duper fun, basic, traditional crochet motif that has me thinking in squares morning, noon, and night.

For this past week's weekly make, I have made a granny square blanket. Okay, I guess I'm making it rather than have made it. It's quite a big project. And I'm not going to let you see it until it's done, because it will be more impressive that way. But I'll help you imagine it. Picture a granny square that just keeps going. Row after row after ever-increasing row until you have a big enough square to cuddle up in with a nice cup of [insert warm beverage of choice] and a good book. I got my inspiration from those lovely gals over at the purl bee. But my blanket looks nothing like this one...except that it's square...and uses the same stitches. But the color palate is completely different, and you'll just have to wait and be surprised. I'm really really hoping for a snow day tomorrow so I can finish it. [oh please oh please oh please please please] <-- notice I don't even say things in 4s. As I sat on the living room floor last night, stitching away, Jason took a break from Mario Kart to ask me what I think about as I do projects like this. He wondered if I have to think "stitch, stitch, stitch" the entire time. I told him that at that moment, I had "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Starship in my head, and I was trying to figure out how to finish the sheep on my mom's apron. I think I finally got it! No, probably not. :o/

(Sidenote: Check out this amazingly 80's music video for "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now," complete with big hair, poor lip-syncing, and clips from Mannequin. Terrible movie. One of the greatest love songs of all time. End sidenote.)

There are some projects that do require me to pay careful attention to what I'm doing. But repetitive projects like this blanket allow my mind to wander a bit more, which is nice because when I'm thinking about something else, I'm surprised by the progress I make rather than counting down to the end of the endless row. Generally in the process of my makes, I think about what I'm going to blog about them. I try to remember little triumphs and defeats along the way. I try to focus on the process so that I can not only record the end result but also document how I got there and the lessons I learned along the way. I try to improve my skills and my speed and the efficiency of my hands as I work. I think about whether or not it would be practical to mass-produce whatever I'm making at the moment, how much I would charge for it, how I would stage the picture for my etsy shop (coming soonish) or display it at a craft show. I gauge my passion for what I'm doing. I try to decide whether I like it or not, if I would make it again, and what I would do differently next time. I think about where or how or by whom the object will be used. And occasionally I think about what God thinks about all my making. I think about how I am made in His image as a little creator. I try to invite Him into my projects so that He can be my companion in creating and occasionally my muse.

I really love creating. I love imagining new things and designing them so they're possible and actually making them with my hands. I think just the act of creating would be enough for me to be completely satisfied. But it's all these accompanying thoughts that really make me notice what I'm doing beyond just what I'm doing. They put the project into the broader perspective of how I am becoming a more creative person, or unearthing the creativity that has been there all along, waiting for me to learn the skills to finally be able to give it a voice. And that's what this blog is about. It gives me a framework to notice and follow through with my creative impulses and a stage where I can display them and invite others into the inner workings of my mind.

In my next post, I have quite a big announcement coming your way. I'm pretty excited about it. Okay, that's a lie. I'm pretty thrilled about it, in a "way to go, Robin" sort of way. Time to celebrate.