Last Thursday night we had an (aforementioned) mini-tornado and then the power went out. I was forced away from my computer, my sewing machine and the tv. There was no baking to be done as our stove is electric and there wasn’t enough light to paint, so instead I sat down in the twilight, strained my already abused eyes and read Jeffrey Yamaguchi’s book 52 Projects: Random Acts of Everyday Creativity, from cover to almost cover, but then the light disappeared completely. It is such a beautifully written book, full of wisdom and inspiration. The ideas themselves are good and a lot are quirky and unexpected, which is a nice discovery in this thought-of-everything-before world. Many even had someone too busy for anyone’s own good (me) contemplating taking on new projects as I turned the pages. But mostly I liked the writing around the projects – the anecdotes and the introductions and the end notes. It’s such a readable little book.
I was listening to Craftypod #13 which features an interview with Jeffrey Yamaguchi, where he talks about his book, his website and the importance of project making – and one thing that he said that stuck in my mind was something about how he approaches tasks or events in his life as projects to be researched, experimented with and ultimately completed and how this inspires him. And it got me thinking about how much I love projects. I always have – and when I think about it I approach life in exactly the same way as Jeffrey explained.
All through my childhood I organised a neighbourhood club (“The Allsorts Club”) which I threw myself into with gusto and everyone else kind of tagged along, some with less enthusiasm than others (we had rules about how many times you were allowed to quit per week, and kids would turn up to club meetings on the strength of my mum’s chocolate cake alone which was always supplied). Club activities were rampant. We held Lego shows in front gardens which were open to the public where we made incredibly detailed dioramas including live recorded sound (of traffic for a cityscape, animals sounds of our own invention for country scenes) that was played out of old mono tape recorder. We had puppet shows, restaurants, circuses, our own currency and postal system, a series of merit badges not unlike the girl guide or scout badges awarded for minor achievements and an annual magazine of puzzles, fiction, poetry and illustration. Not only was there club organisation, but for a time I would write out project sheets for my friends. We called them “contracts” as in “you sign it therefore you complete it”. I think we had a similar thing going at school for homework and so on, so we echoed it with our own version. They were usually a list of things that had to be completed within a week and they were things like “collect a snippet of hair from each of your family members” or “write a poem about figs” etc. There was nothing terribly interesting about the things that had to be completed, it was the creating of the task list and then the checking off of items which was the bit that was cherished.
Somewhere in high school I started to loose my interest in projects. There were probably some anti-enthusiasm hormones kicking in as well as the equation project = deadline = work = hassle etc.
But then it kind of came back again in my 20s. Project Get a Job, Project Find a Perfect Mate, Project find the Perfect Share House (every year it seemed), Project Become an Illustrator (which included Project Artist’s Way). And lately there have craft projects, and online projects – swaps, softies, etc. – exhibition projects, baking projects and of course that big one, the Motherhood Project.
After reading Julie and Julia and seeing how her year-long cooking project was in many ways fueled by her documentation on her blog, and her sense of responsibility to her readers, I realised that my blog is one of the single most motivating factors in my life right now. It keeps me thinking about my projects, however big or small they are, and how I can document them daily and share them with others undertaking similar projects (tasks, challenges, joys) or with others who are just happy to read along and how I feel a sense of community and accountability and all the inspiration that comes from that. And it’s like having the Allsorts Club all over again, but it’s looser and more fun and without chocolate cake to bribe anyone to take part.
** Update – I had to republish this entry but unfortunately I had lost all the comments. Thank you if you previously left a comment.**