My Creative Bucket List: Art to Make Before I Die

A lot of people have lists of things they’d like to do before they die; I have a list of things I’d like to make.

As part of my annual review process in 2016, for personal accountability that I’m actually working towards my creative goals, I’m publishing my creative bucket list with status updates. I understand that the final step of getting a novel published or selling a short story is out of my control — but I can write the best novel or short story I’m capable of to improve my odds. I’ll update this post in the future, at least annually. (Last updated December 2017.)

My creative bucket list includes writing and illustration, my current creative foci. In my day job as a graphic designer, I need to ship my work regularly. Many of my creative goals involve shipping projects, not just completing them. To me, sharing the work is an essential aspect of completing it.

What’s on your creative bucket list?

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DIY Lawn Replacement: Plant Success Report

Front yard in three planting beds

Front yard in three planting beds, September 2015

When I was selecting plants for my front yard lawn replacement, I had a challenging time guessing which plants would do well, especially the natives. There doesn’t seem to be a ton of info out there about which native plants take well to PNW Puget Lowlands gardens (or maybe I was looking in the wrong spots).

I planted between May and July 2015, shopping at multiple nurseries to get everything (and still couldn’t find everything I’d picked out), so I’m reporting back on how the plants I chose did after an extremely hot and dry summer. I think I had higher-than-normal mortality due to the drought, rabbits, and mistakenly thinking one section of my yard was much shadier than reality.

I’ve divided the blend of native, drought-tolerant, and wildlife-friendly plants into categories: favorites, doing well, surprises, meh, dying, dead, and scrapped.

(Check out the three-year garden update, with lessons learned about plant selection, garden design and the replacement process.)

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The Saga of a Puget Sound DIY Native & Pollinator Garden Lawn Replacement

AFTER: My pollinator garden in 2017

For two years, I dreamed of replacing my lawn with a native, drought-tolerant, wildlife-friendly garden. Finally, I removed my old lawn and replaced it with a garden in 2015. Installation and updates during the first three years (2015 through 2017) cost just over $4,000. As with all major projects, it didn’t go precisely as planned. I’m sharing my successes and misadventures so others in the Puget Lowlands / Seattle area who are considering replacing their lawns with a pollinator garden can avoid repeating my mistakes. See the three-year garden report!

BEFORE: My uninspiring “lawn” aka clover patch with two anchor shrubs in 2013

Planting plan for my lawn replacement, featuring native, pollinator-friendly, and drought-tolerant plants.

Planting plan for my lawn replacement, featuring native, pollinator-friendly, and drought-tolerant plants.

Phase One: Planning

  • Layout Design
  • Plant Selection

Phase Two: Preparation

  • Removing the Lawn
  • Soil Testing & Amendment

Phase Three: Installation

  • sod cutting lawn

    Sod cutting the lawn.

    Plant shopping

  • Plant layout & planting
  • Lighting & hardscape

See how much it cost to DIY install our new garden.

Phase Four: Survival

My garden, three years after lawn replacement

Phase Five: Future!

  • Replanting
  • Incorporating bulbs
  • Adding more mulch & fixing the soaker hoses

Check out the garden after three years here – plus lessons learned on the replacement process, garden design and plant selection.

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Surviving a Huge Creative Project

Today I begin a massive creative endeavor; in November, I’m going to write a 50,000+ word novel. The fact that I’ve completed the project twice before does not diminish its challenge, but it does improve my confidence in my ability to finish. Last year I jumped in last minute (actually, a couple days late), and found it even harder, so this year I’ve been conscious about preparing. And preparing not just for the novel itself — plotting and planning characters and inventing 100 years of backstory — but also for the act of writing, and living while writing. My plan to finish this big creative project without my life falling into utter disrepair hinges on preparing for the worst by recognizing the points most likely to fail. (What can I say, I’m a Murphy’s Law kind of gal.)

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Eight Reasons to Complete a Personal Challenge Project

Time-limited personal challenge projects and resolutions pop up everywhere. Buy nothing day! No internet for a month or even a year! Write a novel in a month! Or the original – give up something for Lent! Are projects like these gimmicky and pointless? Or are they worthwhile?

In two weeks, I’m going to be participating in a gimmicky challenge myself – National Novel Writing Month. I will join 250,000 writers across the world in an attempt to write 50,000 words during the month of November, or about 1667 words a day. This will be my third time participating.

Gimmicky? Yes. The word count goal they’ve established is a bit “out of a hat”. But…it seems to work.

I’ve found that participating in a time-sensitive challenge has a lot of benefits:

  1. Helps build new habits – in my case, daily writing
  2. Establishes a deadline and concrete goals
  3. Gives you the support of other participants, if you’re doing a group challenge
  4. Feels achievable due to the limited timeframe
  5. Lets you try out a ‘different life’
  6. Provides a structure that’s easy to talk about and easy for people to understand
  7. Sets up a mental framework that the project is a fun adventure
  8. Helps you achieve a hard goal or complete a large amount of work

Of course, you get out of a challenge project only what you put into it. It only works if you take your goal and your timeline seriously and stick to it.

What challenge projects have you tried, and how did they work for you? What challenge project are you interested in?