19/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

A bit anxious; gloomy

Sleep Rating

9/10

Moon

Waxing Crescent

Motivation

Good

What I did

Inspiration-hunting. After feeling terribly discouraged by my attempts to translate onto paper the delightful thing that's in my mind, I decided today's work needed to be about reconnecting to what I found so enchanting about my original vision. Enter my bookshelf of magic, specifically three of Sara Midda's glorious watercolor explorations (Sara Midda's South of France, A Bowl of Olives: On Food and Memory, and In and Out of the Garden). While I can feel the discouragement ebbing, I'm not ready to forge ahead just yet—this project of mine has just over a week remaining (obviously I'll keep working on it, but will quit the daily documentation here), and I need to start cultivating some wonder for myself in this part of the process (as opposed to gnashing my teeth and generally treating its like some hideous calculus problem I can't solve). This is supposed to be fun, Helen! Lighten up!

Time spent

On and off throughout the early afternoon, but specific times weren't logged

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

Forget design! What's / THE FEELING you want to have / and inspire here?

18/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

Upbeat

Sleep Rating

8/10

Moon

Waxing Crescent

Motivation

Poor

What I did

Today found us up north, visiting Dana's family for the whole day, so it wasn't until late this evening that I had a chance to think about Phase Two of the project. Besides some tinkering with layout (I'm having second thoughts about the size and format of the pages...and while it probably doesn't sound like something I should worry about right now, it's proving to be a critical decision I need to make before moving forward), tonight's efforts were of the thinking-versus-doing variety. Plus some Pinterest-scrolling for editorial design inspiration. Definitely not my most productive hour, but I figure some days are more, others are less. No sweat.

Time spent

8:41 p.m.—9:54 p.m. CST

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

Probably should have / worked on this first thing today, / not now—sleep beckons.

17/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

Calm

Sleep Rating

10/10

Moon

Waxing Crescent

Motivation

Good

What I did

Completed a mockup of the fourth, fifth, and sixth modules (layout, formatting, fonts, etc.). I'm noticing some frustration coming up as I struggle to translate my vision onto paper, but I know a mockup is exactly that. Even though I have more time today, limiting myself to an hour seems like a good decision—the frustration tells me it's time to step away.

Time spent

3:26 p.m.—4:31 p.m. CST

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

I don't have to push / through frustration; in fact, my / hour is complete.

16/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

Upbeat

Sleep Rating

8/10

Moon

Waxing Crescent

Motivation

Good

What I did

Completed a mockup of the second and third modules (layout, formatting, fonts, etc.). Since I created a basic template yesterday, this didn't even take a full hour to do. I'm not going to split hairs about the hour, though—we were away from home the entire day, so I'm glad to have accomplished so much in just 40 minutes this evening (when all I really wanted to do was pick up the novel I'm reading and lounge on the couch).

Time spent

7:34 p.m.—8:16 p.m. CST

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

Relationships are / my priority; still, there's / time for this goal, too.

15/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

A bit anxious

Sleep Rating

6/10

Moon

New Moon

Motivation

Great

What I did

Completed a mockup of the first module (layout, formatting, fonts, etc.).

Time spent

9:10 a.m.—10:20 a.m. CST, plus on and off throughout the afternoon and early evening, in between Skype calls and a long walk (50 degrees here today—being outside was essential!)

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

Working on layout / makes concrete this thing that is / otherwise abstract.

14/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

Upbeat

Sleep Rating

6/10

Moon

Waning Crescent

Motivation

Great

What I did

Continued mapping out chapters and compiling a list of the illustrations and supplemental materials I need to create. Considering themes and motifs, and playing around with possible execution.

Time spent

I didn't schedule a designated hour today, nor did I log the specific time I spent working, but I used small pockets between 2:15 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. when I wasn't coaching or doing yoga.

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

This is more than a / book; it's hope and care and love, / and it's mine to birth.

13/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

Upbeat

Sleep Rating

6/10

Moon

Waning Crescent

Motivation

Good

What I did

Considered possible layout for each chapter/module and began plugging my writing into one. This wasn't what I planned to do this evening, but my focus wasn't there and I wanted still to accomplish something—sometimes we have to settle for mindless arranging of text. In any case, this exercise was useful in that it got me to start thinking about the visual experience I'd like my participants to have. (Wondering why I wrote "participants" instead of "readers"? Go back to 11/28, where I explain.)

Time spent

4:15ish p.m.—6:00 p.m., but not constantly

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

I thought a "lack of / focus" was hocus-pocus, / but it's not; it's real.

12/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

Upbeat

Sleep Rating

7/10

Moon

Waning Crescent

Motivation

Great

What I did

Began mapping out each chapter and compiling a list of the illustrations and supplemental materials I'll need to create.

Time spent

Several significant chunks of time between 2:25 p.m.—5:30 p.m. CST, with a break for some yoga and to check in on the laundry (the washing machine was rocking out in the basement)

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

Steps accumulate / when you break them in half and / get lost in movement.

11/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

Upbeat

Sleep Rating

9/10

Moon

Waning Crescent

Motivation

Poor...but once Dana and I began talking, good

What I did

Avoided plugging into the book until Dana came downstairs and caught me "doing more research" (paging through Nick Bantock's The Trickster's Hat once again, checking in on a friend's Facebook Live, generally not accomplishing much of anything)... We wound up tossing around some ideas and strategies for what I'm now referring to as Phase Two of the book-building process. (Phase One began back in late 2015 and was called Year of Wonder; fifteen paying participants received a handwritten letter from me every month for a year. Each letter contained some instructions for locating or creating delight in the every day. It was absolutely a labor of love, but not without its rewards—it's become the meat of my book!) I'm coming to see that Phase Two isn't actually the book, itself (that's Phase Three); Phase Two asks for interaction, and it will require the participation of a small group of folks. Maybe you'll be one of them?

Time spent

5:25 p.m.—7:18 p.m. CST

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

I created a / living thing; it's not ready / to sit on a shelf.

10/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

Upbeat

Sleep Rating

7/10...once I could finally fall asleep!

Moon

Waning Crescent

Motivation

Good

What I did

Constructed a bare-bones outline of the content I've already written (2015-2016). I'm working on summarizing each chapter in a single sentence (have I covered everything I intended to cover? Now that a few years have passed, has anything else emerged that I neglected in the first draft?) and reconsidering the order of things. I have to remind myself of what I taught my creative writing students about revision back in 2008: Revision is seeing something again. A second seeing. A new seeing. How can I truly revise this little book on wonder?

Time spent

Twenty-five minutes while dinner was in the oven

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

Take advantage of / those in-between minutes; don't / say there isn't time.

9/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

Upbeat

Sleep Rating

5/10 

Moon

Waning Crescent

Motivation

Good, but tired and a bit headachy

What I did

I did a couple hours of yoga. (Important side note: Today was my February Get It Done Day, which meant I was sitting on my rear-end for much of the morning and afternoon, working on computer tasks and checking in with fellow participants. By the time Get It Done Day was over and my book-building slot rolled around, I needed to get up and tend to my body and spirit.)

Time spent

3:06 p.m.—5:02 p.m. CST

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

Don't forget you're not / machine; you've got a body / that houses your mind.

8/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

Upbeat

Sleep Rating

10/10 

Moon

Last Quarter

Motivation

Good

What I did

Combed through Nick Bantock's The Trickster's Hat: A Mischievous Apprenticeship in Creativity. Made notes. Investigated Susannah Conway's approach to creating e-courses. Started to sketch out the big picture journey I want my readers to go on within themselves. I'm getting warmer; my book will be a kind of apprenticeship.

Time spent

2:30 p.m.—3:34 p.m. CST

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

I have been courting / this magic my whole life, yet / it feels novel, still.

7/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

Upbeat

Sleep Rating

9/10 

Moon

Last Quarter

Motivation

Good

What I did

More research (still reading Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal).

Time spent

Today was a largely interactive work day—coaching calls, coaching emails, and a standing weekly get-together in the evening—so breakfast reading was my only opportunity to give thought to the book. Not sure I managed an hour, but the effort was there.

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

I am overly / ambitious when it comes to / hours in the day.

6/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

Sensitive, tender, taking everything personally

Sleep Rating

7/10 

Moon

Last Quarter

Motivation

Fair

What I did

More research. I've moved on to Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal, because apparently I can't help myself... And while I do plan to keep reading both fiction and nonfiction throughout this book-building process, I don't plan to keep counting it as 'research'; however, AKR's work is absolutely research (along with being hideously pleasurable) for me at this point. Thanks to awesome reader comments and emails, I also did some brainstorming today. Nothing on paper; my shoulders have been really sore from too much screen time, so this afternoon was spent entirely offline.

Time spent

I didn't actually notice. I'd say, though, that this was an on-and-off-all-day kind of effort, between Skype calls and answering emails and taking a field trip with Dana to an art gallery.

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

Sensitive days will / feel inconvenient always. / But what is their gift?

5/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

Upbeat

Sleep Rating

7/10 

Moon

Waning Gibbous

Motivation

Excellent

What I did

Research—specifically, I plowed through Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life (Amy Krouse Rosenthal) in fewer than 24 hours. The encyclopedia format for a memoir delights me to no end (you know how I know? Because I find myself thinking, Dammit, that's so good, I wish I'd thought of it first)... Of course it isn't the right format for my project, but the very fact that it's an option for a work of nonfiction means there's very likely a host of other possibilities I've yet to consider.

Time spent

7:30 a.m.—10:00 a.m. CST, roughly

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

When you think you need / to read, read. Read to receive / answers, more questions.

4/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

Happy, relaxed

Sleep Rating

6/10 

Moon

Waning Gibbous

Motivation

Good

What I did

Semi-distracted editing (I'd blame it on the Super Bowl, but anyone who knows me won't buy it) with occasional internet browsing (caught me red-handed). Really, what I'm confronting tonight is an inability to conceive of what this collection of writing ultimately wants to be. I hinted at this yesterday. I'm asking myself, What would Keri Smith do? And what about Amy Krouse Rosenthal? (I began reading An Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life earlier today, so AKR's really, really on my mind.) I'm also thinking about all the magical books I own that, in one way or another, inspired me when I was first eking away at this project. Does it want to be a book? A wonder manual of sorts? Does it want to be released as a self-published serial? Is it actually a course I want to lead likeminded folks through? So many questions. As I ponder them, I find myself tinkering with small potatoes line edits...and realizing I need to take a broader approach. I need tomorrow's work to be off the screen. In addition to conducting some research, I'd like to engage in a little reverse process brainstorming: What happens if, having already written the bulk of this thing, I now outline it? What happens if I go backwards?

Time spent

6:02 p.m.—7:04 p.m. CST

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

Football announcers / drone on and on. Thank god for / Mozart and ear buds.

3/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

Calm, positive

Sleep Rating

7/10 

Moon

Waning Gibbous

Motivation

Good

What I did

Considered layout and delivery. Today's work looked different; I thought more than I did, if that makes sense. So...while I can't say with certainty that I spent an entire hour on the project this afternoon, I can say I'm starting to get a clearer idea of how this book thing might come to live in the world. If I'm being honest, today's super low-key, amorphous "work" session feels like a bit of a cop-out—but I'm trying to accept that my effort isn't going to look the same each and every day this month; it will take many different kinds of work to make this book a reality.

Time spent

Amorphous

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

Work doesn't always / look (or feel) like work; be sure / to count play time, too.

2/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

Tender, sensitive

Sleep Rating

2/10 

Moon

Waning Gibbous

Motivation

Poor...but once begun, good

What I did

More line edits

Time spent

5:37 p.m.—6:37 p.m. CST

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

Showing up is hard. / Hardest when sleep is poor, but / I'm committed, still.

1/28

book watercolor by Helen McLaughlin

Wondering what we're doing here? This explains it, but for the tl;dr crowd (don't worry, I got you):

Beginning February 1st, I’m writing a daily report here, one that documents my progress toward a long-imagined—but not yet executed—dream of creating a small book on wonder (of which I've already written a good portion of the content). I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse. Let's dive in.

 

Mood

Upbeat

Sleep Rating

2/10 😣

Moon

Waning Gibbous

Motivation

Fair

What I did

Line edits & reacquainting

Time spent

6:50 p.m.—7:52 p.m. CST

 

What I learned today (in haiku form):

Best to start early! / Sleepiness comes with the dark / and eyes will feel strained.

Twenty-eight days of commitment

In the 2018 mini survey, several of you posed some variation of the same question:

How can I tap into my creative potential on a daily basis?

How can I craft a daily practice that is sustainable and moves me toward my goals?

How do you build a consistent creative habit?

How do you manage your day?

How do you manage your productivity?

Does it ever get easier to take action or does it require the same amount of conviction and motivation each time?

And instead of answering it in a tidy post that oversimplifies something that isn’t even simple (or tidy) for me, I thought I’d run a little public experiment to show you (and me), in real-ish time, how I’m working through my own time management/creative commitment issues.

(Because, yes—I have them, too.)

February is perfect for starting something new.

For one thing, it’s the shortest month. Also, January gets all the credit for being the fresh slate everyone pines after, but it’s important to me that we all give ourselves the permission to draw our own starting line.

We can commit to a daily practice any day or week we’d like, and we can decide that any month begins a new kind of year for us.

So, then: Beginning February 1st, I’ll share a daily report here, on my blog.

It will document my progress toward a long-imagined (but not yet executed) dream of creating a small book on wonder. (I wrote a good portion of the content in 2016, but there is still a ton of writing and editing to do, and I haven’t even begun the illustration work.)

I’m committing to showing up to do the work for an hour every day, every single day of the month, and I’m committing to full transparency with you about how that creative hour is spent, for better or for worse.

What will be included in each daily report?

My mood, my level of motivation, a rating for how well I slept the night before, the phase of the moon (why not, right?), and when/how I spend my designated ‘book-building’ hour each day.

I’ll also share my daily lesson (because I’m certain I’ll learn something every single day that I show up) in the form of a haiku.

Together, let's see what happens when I devote 28 hours of working time to something I very much want to actualize.

This feels both exciting and terrifying, which is how I know it’s a really good idea.

Bookmark this page to follow along daily.

(You don't do bookmarks? No biggie. My Tuesday newsletter will keep on keepin' on through February, but won't contain much more than simple links to my daily blog content; I'm buckling down and going at this book thing full tilt, so it gets all of my creative attention.)

Onward and upward!

Love,
Helen