Happiness Habit: Rename your Project

Go figure….I found a great book.  This one, Get in Done, focuses on moving beyond procrastination to fulfill your creative desires by taking it all just 15 minutes at a time.  It’s really something how much you can actually get done in 15 minutes.  What’s even more interesting, in my own life and I suspect in yours, is how many ways you can find 15 minutes.  Since I started reading this I started waking up earlier and grabbing some time before I had to get in the shower.  I started measuring what I wanted to accomplish each week, in regards to reading or being creative (even exercising) in 15 minute increments.  Just the main theme of this book has broken down a number of barriers for me.  And that is just the beginning of what it really has to offer.

One of my biggest takeaways to date was a great suggestion for motivation block.  As a creative person I’m looking for inspiration and fun in what I’m trying to do.  Yet when I would sit down to create a to-do list, or set my creative priorities, it would look something like this:

  1. Start blogging again.
  2. Sew myself some clothes.
  3. Create new jewelry designs.
  4. Finish household DIY projects.
  5. Develop a plan for a floral and decor rental business.

Pretty cut and dry and rather direct if you ask me.  To the author’s point, sometimes we’ve been living with a project for so long that the name of it is now associated with a sort of punishment every time we think about it.  That was definitely my case.  I had wanted to start blogging again for a year.  Every time I sat down to think about restarting or revitalizing the blog, though, I was just frustrated and anxious about the fact that I ever stopped in the first place.  Her exercise in Get It Done suggests renaming your projects to give yourself a fresh, perhaps lighter and less oppressive, perspective on what you want to accomplish.  One step to it:  work swiftly and begin writing down a few possible fun, silly or sexy names for the project in question.  I discovered as I started that it didn’t take nearly as long as I expected to rename all my major projects.  One idea would turn into another, and into another and before I knew it I had EXACTLY the right name for each.

By renaming your projects to something fun and, sometimes, more meaningful it makes it less like work and more like creative play – which is exactly what artists and creators need to get inspired and get moving.  I haven’t started all of them yet, but when I stop to think about what I want to do creatively I get excited every time.  So, what are my new projects?

  1. (re)making Moe:  Little did I realize that when I renamed the blog project it would actually inspire the new name for the blog itself that I had been searching for.
  2. Rip It and Zip It:  Because my sewing aspirations involve not only from scratch/pattern sewing but also a lot of thrift and vintage redesigns it totally works.  Utterly cheesy? Yes.  But it feels far more fun than simply “sewing”.
  3. Grammy’s Jewelry Box:  My grandmother has always been a HUGE inspiration for me.  She did everything.  I still have a small jewelry box (that was actually my grandfather’s) that I dig through just to reminisce.  I remember being little and digging through a big bin of my mother’s old costume jewelry for hours just taking in the pieces.  Man do I wish I had that bin today.  The name Grammy’s Jewelry Box wraps all of that into one simple statement for me.
  4. Our New Old House:  When the restoration of our house was finished after the fire and we talked about moving back we called it our “New Old House”.  As a result, this project rename was way too easy.
  5. Ultimate Garden Party:  This project really revolved around everything I love about decorating with flowers or decorating outdoor spaces.  I spent about a year working in a flower shop and I miss it frequently.  What I would love to capture through this project is that perfect outdoor space, for weddings or for parties, combined with the sense of a street-side flower market.  Exactly what is states – my ultimate garden party.

Renaming these projects didn’t just make it easier to think about working on them but it kick started my creativity overall.  I have continued to add idea after idea to each of these over the last 2 months since I took that one simple step.  Do you have a project your procrastinating on?  I can bet you it has a crappy, homework like name.  Spend just 15 minutes today – pick one and rename it.  The magic will follow on its own.



Off My Bookshelf: Random Edition

I collect books.  I love to read, but I must admit that I have only read 25% of what sits on my shelves.  If I walk into a Half-Price Books or browse the bargain section of any other bookstore I will be sure to randomly pick items that peak my interest.  After all – they average about $5 a piece!  How could I go wrong?!  One day my free time will outweigh my other time and I will be lucky enough to have shelves and shelves of interesting material at my disposal, right?  That’s my theory at least.

That being said – here’s a couple of my favorites from my latest bargain round-up at Books-a-Million.  Pretty much completely unrealted, aside from the fact that I’ve only been able to crack a few pages of each so far.

Devil’s Knot:  The True Story of the West Memphis Three

As the back cover reads, “In 2011, one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in American legal history was set right when Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley were released after eighteen years in prison. Award-winning journalist Mara Leveritt’s The Devil’s Knot remains the most comprehensive, insightful reporting ever done on the investigation, trials, and convictions of three teenage boys who became known as the West Memphis Three.”  I’ve heard of this story many times over, a number of my favorite bands have songs in reference or tribute to these three, and while I understand the basics I’m enticed to read the details.  I’m not good at true crime stuff – I’m intrigued by serial killers but can never make it through more than a few chapters before I have to put it away.  I, stupidly, tried to read Helter Skelter once and caused myself nighttime stress for months.  Hopefully this won’t have quite the same impact.  Time will tell.
Night of the Living Dead:  Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever

As a huge fan of classic horror movies (monster movies, more so) anything on the topic catches my eye.  I love the “behind-the-scene” kind of stuff.  It all goes back to when I first picked up “Nightmare of Ecstasy:  The Life and Art of Ed Wood” off  a shelf in the back room of the comic book store I was working at (I was probably 14 tops).  That book solidified my love for B-movies, classic monsters and almost anything shot in black and white.  So far I’ve read through the introduction of this book, a written walk-through of the film, and it recreated everything I love about the film.  I’ll see how the rest holds up but it will be a good addition to the collection nonetheless.

Hyperbole and a Half

I had no idea what this was when I picked it up other than it seemed witty and there were comic strips and cartoons mixed with written stories.  I didn’t realize until I just looked it up on Amazon that the author, Allie Brosh, has a blog by the same name.  Here are the author’s words from the back cover:

“This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative—like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it—but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly. So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:

Stories about things that happened to me
Stories about things that happened to other people because of me
Eight billion dollars*
Stories about dogs
The secret to eternal happiness*

*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!”

This one I can definitely digest in bite-size chunks.  Perfect for my schedule and just right to counteract the fact that when I can finally sit down and read (usually at night) I usually fall asleep after about 15 minutes.

Happiness Rules

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun After 15 years of working in a fairly large corporation I’ve seen my share of motivational ideas.  There was Play to Win once as an organization, a small group of people into habits of highly effective people, or how to influence people.  Most recently there was The Energy Bus (which I’ll admit had a little spark at least).  And every time someone tells you, “this isn’t the flavor of the year – this is a culture shift!” it feels that way for only a minute.  Inevitably it fades away.  Needless to say I’m not quick to jump on the bandwagon.  Honestly, most of the time I’m reading it or listening from the perspective of what I can do with it at home, not necessarily at work (because there’s ALWAYS too many naysayers to make anything work in the end).

When a saw a copy of The Happiness Project arrive on my desk through inter-office mail I was skeptical.  “We’ll discuss this at our off-site” the note read.  Oh boy….

I was hooked after the introduction.  Gretchen Rubin really doesn’t write it like any other self-help or motivational book I’ve read.  Like she says, it’s more just a record of what she did for a year to make herself happier. She gives the good and bad of what she tried, what worked and what didn’t, and does it in a way that makes me think of things that I would like to try.  It feels easy – not like work or a practice to learn and implement.

Admittedly, when I started I thought, “but I am happy, what’s this really going to bring to the table?”  As I read her introduction I realized that, like she explains of herself, I was feeling happy while at the same time also feeling a lot of stress, anxiety, disillusionment or detachment.  Some days I was just pissed and grumpy and couldn’t figure out any reason why.  I was snappy with my family, I would want to spend some days after work just laying in bed in the quiet, dark room.  Some days I didn’t feel like getting OUT of bed.

My life is good – I can’t complain. Some things could be better, of course. The stress of courts and money could cease to exist and I then I could be ecstatic.  Until then, though, I started really seeing myself reflected in her writing.  Next, I started implementing.  Nothing major, a handful of things – mostly putting on paper the things that I felt I couldn’t ever quite sort out.

I’m making a lot of lists.

Gretchen talks about things like “absolute truths” or “rules of adulthood” that don’t necessarily resonate with me.  One of the things I have adopted, though, are happiness rules.  It sounds completely cheesy, I know, but bare with me.
In an effort to make it as easy as possible to be happy there are some times where very simple things that we do can help avoid a crisis or stressful situation.  You see in my title happiness rule #2 – and I’ll get to that. First…

Happiness Rule #1 – Always overbuy flavored coffee creamer.

Simple, right?  Is that really a life rule?  For us, yes.  Nothing ruins a great weekend morning worse than making the coffee, getting our favorite mugs and prepping to go out in the courtyard to wake-up together…..and then going in the fridge to realize we’re out of creamer.  Then it’s all of a sudden getting dressed, going to the store, finding out what else we might need while we’re there and next thing we know it’s suddenly 11AM on saturday morning and I STILL haven’t had my damn coffee.  No one wants me in that place.  I don’t like feeling that way or starting a day that way.  Hence – a happiness rule.

Now, happiness rule #2 just dawned on me yesterday afternoon.  After a very long, emotional day I was working late and getting home later.  I was exhausted in every sense of the word.  I was snappy and uncomfortable – my face hurt as if I had been clenching my teeth all day.  I tried for about 30-45 minutes to be home and doing stuff with everyone.  I wasn’t feeling good and I certainly wasn’t making anyone else feel good.  Previously, nights like that may have led to me picking a fight.  This time I had to just stop and say, “Fine, Today!  You win!!  I’m going to lay down…”  and that’s exactly what I did for most of the night.  Thankfully I have an amazing husband who keeps things moving on those nights so I hardly even have to worry about any aftermath to deal with.  Why shouldn’t I just admit defeat and do what my mind and body’s telling me?  It left the family having fun and me feeling better later on.  So, yes.  A new happiness rule.

I’ve got lots more coming out of this book for me, too, that’s best left for another day.  Right now, however, I am not defeated.  So time to check something else off the list instead.