Studio Diaries 5: Comfort Zones, Gardens & Quantity over Quality

Today You Got Better


This week I have started going to a gym for 6:30 am workouts! I know – crazy, right? I thought this would be a good way to support my writing practice. By 8:00, I am sitting at my desk, having already made a great start to the day and I am ready to write. It’s a big change to get up and out of the house so early. The first day I went, I left my breakfast on the counter because I’d underestimated the time I needed. I was totally worried about being late, so I almost didn’t go. Then I got almost to the door of the gym when I realized I’d forgotten my shoes, so I almost turned back. I mean, it’s already uncomfortable to make a start on something new, never mind this early, never mind late, never mind without most of my breakfast, never mind without shoes!

But I went anyway.

Here’s what I know. There is always a reason to turn back. There’s always solid evidence that the comfort zone is the place to be. But the unfamiliar doesn’t get more comfortable until you step into it again and again. I figured I might as well start that process even without my shoes!


Comic Supplies

Something else new that I’m preparing for is taking the Writing and Drawing Comics e-course with Summer Pierre. I’m so excited and totally nervous. At least the supplies are unintimidating: a composition book, some index cards, a Black Pilot Precise Pen (fine) and a Black Papermate Flair Pen (medium). I ordered the pens on Amazon and had the cards and the notebook on hand. I’m ready for class, Summer!


Plant Dreaming Deep

If you watch Creative Living Bookshelf, you’ll know that I picked up this book quite a while ago, Plant Dreaming Deep by May Sarton. It takes me forever to work through a book. Right now at the far edge of winter, I couldn’t have been more delighted to read a chapter about the garden. When May describes her excitement about her morning tours, I feel excited by what is soon to come:

“From May on, I can hardly wait to get up to see what has happened overnight, for one of the pleasures of the garden is that something is always happening; it is not static even for a day. I go out by six-thirty and sometimes earlier, still in my pajamas and a wrapper, to take look around before breakfast.”

This is just what I do too when I take my camera to capture a #goodmorninggarden moment each day and share on Instagram and Facebook.

Mock Orange #goodmorninggardenfrom last year’s garden

These days I’m looking longingly out the window, waiting for the snow to melt and for things to start sprouting and I’m not the only one.

 Kittens Love WindowsKittens…

Windows will always be a favourite spot for kittens. Our three seem to rotate between three favourites: the front window that looks onto the street, where I imagine they watch with amusement all of the people heading to work while they enjoy their life of luxury, the kitchen window, where they often perch with tails swishing, watching squirrels and birds flit by and elude them, and then the studio window, where they sometimes peer out at the sky, Shibumi, in particular, pawing at it as though the glass will give way and a whole new world will open up to her. I know that feeling too.

Thinking About…

And the other day I came across this, which has me thinking.

“In their book Art and Fear David Bayles and Ted Orland tell the story of a ceramics teacher who announced on the opening day of class that he was dividing the students into two groups. Half were told that they would be graded on quantity. On the final day of the term, the teacher said he would come to class with some scales and weigh the pots they had made. They would get an ‘A’ for 50 lbs of pots, a ‘B’ for 40 lbs, and so on. The other half would be graded on quality. They just had to bring along their one, perfect pot.

The results were emphatic: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group graded for quantity. As Bayles and Orland put it: ‘It seems that while the ‘quantity’ group was busily churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes—the ‘quality’ group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.” Matthew Syed from Black Box Thinking

Does this resonate with your own experience? I’d certainly say that the last two years of having a regular art day has made all the difference for me, not only in developing my skills and confidence but also in loosening me up for learning. The more I make, the more I’m willing to experiment.

Prompts for Your Studio

  • What practices will or do support your creative life? How might you start them, return to them or celebrate them?
  • Move your body.
  • Go anyway.
  • Step outside your comfort zone.
  • Take time to read.
  • Take a moment to just look out your window and breathe.
  • Experiment with quality over quantity. Notice the impact.


  1. Susan says:

    Not surprising that quantity won the quality scale (when the pots were made by students). Haven’t we heard that “practice makes perfect”?

    Thanks for all the wonderful things you send us to practice or think about.

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