I first learned about the concept of distributed cognition when I was an undergrad studying linguistics, but I didn’t know what it was called until I studied it again in grad school. For an absolutely impenetrable “explanation,” read this.
For our non-academic purposes, let’s consider distributed cognition a way to extend our individual ability to keep stuff in mind. We might ask our spouse to help us remember to take our vitamins each morning – this is a way of extending our own memory to be aided by the memory of another person.
In today’s podcast, I wax on about lists. Making lists is, to me, the ultimate (and delightfully simple) distribution of my cognition. Without making lists, I am a constant victim of my routine failure to remember to do all kinds of things, from the trivial to the very important. Putting these things down into a list means I can rely on the list instead of on my flaky memory – I take each item out of my brain and put it onto paper (or into an app, or whatever).
When it comes to our creative projects and fantasies, getting stuff out of our heads can be just as useful as it is for us to get anything else out of our heads. When we use the tools we have to distribute all the myriad things that are constantly swimming around in our minds, we help ourselves to think more clearly, and to fit more things into our days – because we stop losing things to our fallible memories.
Have a listen, then hit reply and tell me about the creative lists you keep!
Each episode this season begins with a short clip of a maker or artist talking about a recent project they were obsessed with. I recorded all of these in April of 2019 at Camp Thundercraft, a retreat for creative businesspeople held each spring and hosted by the folks behind Urban Craft Uprising. I’m very excited to be going back to teach two classes at the 2020 retreat coming up.
This week, we hear from artist, designer, and crafts instructor Robert Mahar, whom I did not fangirl upon meeting, I swear to you. I had the pleasure of taking an embroidery workshop from Robert at camp last spring, and it was fabulous. I still pull out the massive project every now and then when I need a quiet thing to do.
My list-making system of choice is a bullet journal; I carry mine with me wherever I go. I do not make fancy spreads in it. In fact, I do not make any spreads in it whatsoever. (I have in the past, but I never keep up with them, so I’ve just stopped wasting my time with them). In addition to my daily to-do lists, I take notes from meetings and workshops in there, jot down project ideas, and put in anything else I want to protect from the bottomless abyss of my unreliable memory.
I stick one of these onto the back cover of the notebook so my pen is always handy.
Also, my husband and I share a grocery-list app (also a Google calendar, and I don’t know how other people who live together can manage without one of those), and I use Todoist as an online list-maker (usually for things in the future I want to be reminded about).
I mentioned my unrealistically long Ravelry queue. I do want to apply such an approach to other kinds of projects I want to make, too. In the podcast I said I’d do this in my bullet journal. But maybe it’d be more useful to keep all the lists on a Trello board…
I’m still finding my way around Periscope, and one of the things I love most about it is that people can comment as you record, so you can respond to what they say or ask. I just love it. Anyway, as I’ve been experimenting with the platform, I find I’ve been chatting with people more and more about daily making and Year of Making, so I did a scope highlighting five reasons to do a Year of Making. The video of my five reasons is below, as is the link to get the free worksheet I promised in the scope!
My online not-really-a-class: Daily Making Jumpstart. (That’s what you’ll find at the website I mention in the scope: kimwerker.thinkific.com. In a few weeks, I’ll launch my next class on there; sign up for my weekly email to be the first to find out about it!)
Elise is a craft blogger, but unlike many products created by craft bloggers for their audience, the Get to Work Book has no colour in it. No trendy flourescent pops of pizzazz, no doodads to add to the feeling of it all. No assumption that we creative women need everything around us, including our tools, to be bedazzled and awash in rainbows in order for us to tolerate getting to work.
No. The wire-bound book is printed in greyscale, sandwiched between thick, matte kraft-board covers. Will I take some paint to it someday? Maybe. But I love the no-nonsense feel of the thing. It’s not about making work palatable, as if anyone who decides to create a job for themselves is disinclined to do the tedious bits; it’s about getting shit done.
And it is quite possibly the most expensive non-leather-bound day-planner I’ve ever seen. I forked over my cash, plus shipping to Canada from the U.S., without hesitation.
The book arrived just in time for its start date of July 1st, and since yesterday was Canada Day and I spent the day splitting my time between lounging on the beach and doing house chores, I finally cracked it open this morning. And I do believe I am in love.
The book marries the open-endedness of a bullet-journal notebook with the structure of my favourite academic planners from back in the day.
I’ll write more after I’ve used it for a while for a more detailed look, but for now, I’m confident I’m going to love this book. I think I’m going to love it hard. It’s possible I already do.
Did you get a Get to Work Book? What do you think of it? Are you using it as a bullet journal? Any tips or hacks?
I’ve spent this week pretty much hibernating in a vaguely introverted stint of recuperation after a month of houseguests. I didn’t think I was making very much, given that I’ve also been working and I read an entire YA trilogy, but after collecting these photos, I see I’ve actually been making quite a lot. Below, you’ll see the first Pyrex I’ve destroyed in the making of soap, the soap that resulted after I briefly mourned the loss of the Pyrex and oils involved and poured fresh oils into a stainless-steel pot instead of glass, pancakes, the first meal resulting from my newly acquired copy of Mark Bittman’s truly enormous How to Cook Everything Fast, some crochet, and my bullet journal.
We spent the middle couple of weeks of this month visiting a ton of family back east, and I used the opportunity to try out art journaling. I brought my knitting with me, but I wanted to have a new kind of activity to escape into when I needed a break, and also I’m sort of amused that I’ve become a person who takes a sketchbook when I travel (see).
And I went on a truly astonishing marker-buying spree (sidebar: I was really excited to try out acrylic paint pens, but it turns out I don’t enjoy them at all. Sadface).
And when I couldn’t find a non-spiral-bound mixed-media sketchbook, I got a watercolour one, since that’ll do, though the texture of the paper is a bit much.
And then I watched only the first lesson of the CreativeBug class, and was on my way. (This is my usual M.O. – take only part of a class, read only part of a book, half listen to someone explain something to me, then just go off and make of it what I will until I’m ready for more instruction.)
I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I enjoyed it tremendously. I had no plan, and I had no idea of an expected outcome. I decided to be a little literal with it, because I was at a loss for any ideas at all for what to make, so I made things related to our trip and what we were up to, and that seemed like a lovely thing to do, and as a now-avid bullet journaler, it was in line with my relatively newfound passion for recording daily life. I enjoyed messing around with patterns and doodles, and colours and lettering. And a bit of collage. As an added bonus, Greg’s cousin’s ten-year-old daughter would sidle up to me as I messed around in my journal on a picnic table, and the two of us would share markers and doodle or whatnot for an hour at a time.
I haven’t touched the art journal since we returned home last week, but as things settle back down to normal (before they spiral out of control in October), I anticipate I’ll go back to it every now and then, not as a daily practice, but as an occasional visual check-in. And I’ll certainly take it with me in October, when I’m sure I’ll feel compelled to glue all manner of things into it. Hm. Maybe I should dedicate a wee book to those travels, alone…
Do you art journal? What’s your practice like?
Hi! I'm a writer and editor, and also like a camp counselor for grownups. I help people have way more fun making stuff. Learn more about how right here.