Monday, June 2, 2014

Spring Cleaning: Learning a New Technique

by Julie L. Cleveland

Sometimes, we just get into a rut, and I know that I do when it comes to most things that I do. As a freelance/independent contractor, I fall into a tried and true routine because 1) that's what sells 2) that's where I’m comfortable and 3) I don't feel as if I can spend/waste time trying something new when that costs me money by way of time. I know that a lot of people who are self-employed fall into the same trap. Maybe these random thoughts of spring cleaning can help you clear your brain as well.

It's too bad that I haven’t figured out a way to incorporate play time into my schedule because there are a million ways that I could play and learn at the same time. This is probably more relevant in my polymer excursions than in my writing, but it’s applicable to both areas. When I play in clay, I learn new tricks and polish old ones. The other day, I had an assignment to create a cane (the result of blocking polymer components together to achieve a final picture - like the slice and bake Pillsbury cookies), and I could not get the components to go together as they should. Something in my brain was not putting the puzzle in place, and I had to step away from the cane for a moment. I believe that had I spent more time playing and less time being SO serious, I could have popped it together in a moment or two. I over-thought the obvious. I am sure that I am not the only one that has those moments when nothing works right. Too much over-thinking?

In an effort to spring clean my brain, I think I’ll start setting aside a time during the day to play. At one point, I had this awesome and convoluted production calendar that told me exactly how much I was going to create and when I was going to do it. Well, that lasted a month. It was effective; I just grew to resent it. Now, maybe, I will pencil in an hour a day at the end of the day that is dedicated to creating something in clay. I need to work on my caning skills, so that would be a great thing to put on the schedule. Have you set aside time each day to play by doing puzzles, going for a walk or dancing around the front room?

The other thing that really needs cleaned, is my writing. I write all day long. I write for a variety of clients, and I do a lot - and I mean A LOT  - of web work for clients. I rewrite, I write copy, I build SEO, I do product descriptions, I write blog posts for clients and I do a variety of other articles.  I create e-zines and other publications for a variety of folks, and generally, I am working on a topic sheet of their creation. There has to be a time when I start to write for me. By the time I get around to it, I’m too tired to take the time to do something that I enjoy. There must be a balance. Maybe, I should set aside an hour in the morning to write for me. I can do those automotive articles that I want to do to fill my portfolio, and I can exercise my grammar skills at the same time. (See “Blogging June Away”)Regardless of what you fill your time with, there has to be a time when you do something just for yourself.

What it all comes down to is finding the time to not only work and get paid, but exercise my creativity in an effort to hone my skills. I can use new canes to make new beads. I can add new pieces to my freelance portfolio of "stuff I wrote that you can buy". My promise to myself in June is to find a few moments every day that I can use to play. Maybe my spring cleaning will inspire you to do some of your own spring cleaning.


Julie and Blu


  1. One way I "clean" my brain is to go outside, even in the depths of winter, and play basketball with my dog, Finn. It's hysterical to watch him chase the basketball around the yard, trying to open his mouth wide enough to pick it up. After a half hour of play, I'm recharged and ready to create.

  2. It can be hard to do something for yourself after you've spent all day working on it for other people. I remember talking to the horticulturalists at the garden I used to work on. I expected to find that they all had beautiful gardens at their homes based off the beautiful work they did at the garden. Instead, they all said that after working at the public garden all day, they just wanted to relax and play doing something other than gardening when they came home.

    I like the idea of playing in a very different area (making polymer clay canes). Hopefully, it'll free up your mind so you can be more productive.