making one broken teapot :: the slow project series :: part 1

This is the first installment in a four-part series behind the scenes of the slow way I'm doing projects these days.

I started blogging in 2009.  But I didn't tell anyone.  And then I started again in 2012.  I told folks that time around, and then I lost the thread when we moved twice in 5 months with a one-year-old in tow.

And then in August of 2013, I saw this post about a course called Create a Microbusiness that Matters at Courtney Carver's fabulous Be More With Less.  And I took the course.  A $19, emailed-to-me-in-a-PDF, really great course.

Around that same time, I got invited to join a little group of excellent women who were tending or starting their own tiny businesses with small children in tow. 

And here's the slow way things went from there...

What I did:  Created a tiny business + blog from idea to planning to creating to doing

How long I think it would've taken me in the pre-family, pre-40 olden days:  1 month

How long I thought it would take me these days:  6 months

How long it actually took me:  13 months

When I worked on it:  For a long time, I worked on it for 2.5 hours every week on Tuesday nights at a coffee shop.  Months later, I added in 20 minutes here and 20 minutes there, wherever I could grab it.  Sometimes that meant 20 extra minutes once in a whole week; sometimes it meant 20 extra minutes several times in one day.  Later, I took out the 20 minutes but added in early morning time.  5:30AM to 7:00AM every morning except Sundays.  Sometimes longer if my daughter slept longer.  Oftentimes shorter when she woke up and wanted me to crawl back in bed with her.

What was hard about it taking so long:  For months, every time I met with that lovely group of mama entrepreneurs, my status report was the same:  "I'm still working on this course.  Still figuring out where I can be most helpful.  And what will work with my life right now."  They were so supportive, but it was hard on my ego and hard on my sense of moving forward to say the same thing month after month.  Later down the road, even my husband was saying, "At some point, you just have to press go."  That was true, but I had to hang onto my own sense of when I was ready.

What was awesome about it taking so long:  My brain got to think about this for a long time.  And connections happen inside a brain when it gets to wiggle around with something for a while.  When I get stuck writing or coaching for one broken teapot, I can go back to the course assignments and mindmaps and drafty blog posts I wrote over all those months and get unstuck.  Also, working on something for a long time gave me a huge sense of accomplishment when I did eventually "press go."

My biggest how-to-do-a-slow-project takeaways from making one broken teapot:

1:  Keep it a secret.  Almost.

I've written before about how I've learned to keep a new project under my hat for a while.  It may be specific to me, but I have better follow-through if I make a certain amount of progress before I start talking about something. Talking about it too much when it's not real yet lets all the air out, and then it's all deflated and so am I. 

But.  This project taught me that a really slow project goes best for me if I break that rule, just a bit.  When something is stretched over more than a year, we can start to doubt it, get distracted by some newer and shinier idea, or just plain run out of gas.  When I was creating one broken teapot, it was really helpful to have a super-small group of folks who knew what I was trying to do, could offer specific feedback and ask me how it was going, and generally and most importantly were in my corner all the time.  This squad consisted of my husband, two friends who have known me since time began, and that excellent group of creative-leader-mamas I had joined.

2:  Set aside consistent time to work--even if it isn't a lot of time.

During some stages, it was 20 minutes in a week, and during others I was able to cobble together 8 hours in a week, but during each stage of making one broken teapot, I did my best to be consistent.  One of my favorite parts of making theatre has always been the ritual of creating together at the same time every week or every day--even when a show wasn't in rehearsal.  It makes a thing feel real and important.  I wanted that same ritual feeling of work for this creation. 

3:  Say no to other things.

Like you, I don't just have an extra 8 hours or even 20 minutes in my weeks.  In order to say yes to making one broken teapot, I had to say no to other things.  And I had to do it over a long period of time.  Here are a few big no-sayings I said:

+  No, I won't stay home on Tuesday nights, even though my daughter is asking in the saddest way.  Oh, man.

+  No, I won't ask a friend to meet me for a drink on my Tuesday nights out of the house because I need to use that time for making this new thing.  Sigh.

+  No, I won't be able to meet once a week during the summer to make a new piece of theatre with a group of great women because that will take the time I committed for making this new thing.  Damn.

So.  Was it worth all that hard no-saying?  Honestly, I don't know.  What does that even mean, really?

I do know that I love this one broken teapot space.  I do know that I love the creative-leader-mamas (and non-mamas!) I've been fortunate to coach.  I do know that I felt like a superhero when I finally pressed go on something I had been slowly working on for so long.

And I know that you can be a superhero to yourself, too.  It's okay to be slow, lovely one.

Finally, a PS...

If the mention of that Create a Microbusiness that Matters course piqued your interest:  It is awesome, and I don't think one broken teapot would exist if I hadn't spent that whopping $19 on it.  It came all at once, emailed to me in a bunch of zipped up PDFs.  For every section, I read the material (short and to the point), and then I read the assignment.  For every section, I thought, "This isn't going to help me.  But, whatever, I paid for the course, so I'm going to just do it."  And at the end of every single assignment, I emailed my husband with something like, "Dang.  I just learned all this about myself and what I could do that might be helpful.  That was unexpected."  I should tell you that I get a percentage if someone buys the course because of this post.  I should also tell you that I would have included the course in this post without that deal because I can't tell this slow-project story without it.