New Beginnings in the New Year!

If you are thinking about how to shape 2015 to pursue a project, space remains in The Workroom beginning the 12th of January. You could join the friendly, interesting group coming together for this session! (More info here on the blog under “The Workroom” category or at Please just email me to sign up:

I include words from some past participants (and thank them for great comments!), because their feedback explains The Workroom best:

“I LOVED The Workroom. I don’t know that I would change anything…I liked your daily posts very much – they were brief, relevant, and good motivators. I think your comments to our posts were the most helpful part of the course, and the other participants’ comments added much too. The group aspect of The Workroom is definitely important. My expectations were more than met – thank you!” Michelle T.

“I got so much out of the experience. I loved your steady and encouraging posts, the weekly page postings by participants, and all the commenting. I was able to knuckle down and find an area of focus and a new approach to my schedule.” Carol H.

“I allowed myself to take the creative process seriously, as a study or a discipline or a practice, giving myself time, space and energy to pursue the process. It was a permission slip.” Caroline S.

“I liked your ‘themed week’ approach. You were very organized and the way you had constructed The Workroom made a lot of sense. I felt confident – that you had spent time thinking about how this would work best, and that made me feel maybe I could be successful in it.

I very much appreciated the daily themed posts during the weeks. It helped me to have you touching in each day. Helped me to begin building the ‘daily’ muscle, too. Knowing you are doing your daily work helped me to try to do mine.

My expectations were met and exceeded and it was just such a deep pleasure. So many of us (I now believe) have this deep desire to do this/our work and it is worth a LOT to have someone create the space and structure for the support and encouragement to just do it and to understand that there are basic needs to satisfy in order to give yourself a good shot at success: routine, habit, encouragement, someone to point you towards the resolution (inner and outer) that you might need, etc.” Margy C.

“This was a new experience for all of us, and to my mind an incredibly successful one. The most surprising thing for me is the closeness I feel to everyone in the group. And I think that is partly due to your guidance and the way you talked about everyone’s posts. You set a good standard and I think we all tried to follow it.”  Carol B.

“I enjoyed all the posts and definitely all the comments. At first I was leery, resistant to all the computer time. As the time passed, I enjoyed that time and my new skills. I feel like I have a new circle of caring friends.”  Pat H.

“When we started and friends asked me about “The Workroom.” I had difficulty explaining exactly how it would work. Now that we’re done, I ‘d recommend the Workroom to anyone stuck or starting a project.

Your postings have been excellent. So well thought out and very timely. I marvel at how you figured out what we would need and when we’d need it. You integrated inspirational quotes, references, your own ideas very well — sometimes within one Post even. The sideline topics of books, quotes, etc. are helpful since they are easy to access in a glance.

Setting up Weekly Pages for us worked well, too. Your feedback to each of our Pages was very thoughtful in helping us sort out the next step or think of approaching something in a different way.

The success of the Workroom can also be measured by the way everyone participated so creatively with their own projects and also the depth and sincerity of their comments to one another.

Everything worked! I can’t think of anything to change. Congratulations and THANK YOU!”
“I learned a lot about myself and also feel the spirit of kinship with the others. And honestly, I would recommend The Workroom for a lot of people. I told a friend about it yesterday and she said, ‘why with a group?’. And I explained to her the support and creative spirit that comes with reading about other people being creative and then feeling it from yourself.”  Judy R.

“The daily posts kept me going and inspired. The comments from fellow participants were great. Having a deadline once a week and at a certain time meant that there was closure on that week’s work. Thank you, too, for responding to questions so rapidly.”  N.D.

Workroom post

The Workroom – A New Session

The Workroom – a sure sign of autumn – the dates are: begin 8 September and end 17 October. Below is a little “booklet” describing The Workroom, and more information, including testimonials from past participants, is available on my website The cost is $60 for the six weeks.

Questions or to sign up, please email me at

Having made the blog a sort of Workroom with the Frances project, I’m even more convinced that it works to be accountable. I’d love to see you there!

The Workroom Project ID fourth iteration

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“Friends for Frances” and the Internet Abyss

During sessions of The Workroom, I’ve watched people grapple with habits that interfere with their prime work time. While encouraging them, I remained convinced myself (classic denial) that I could “look quickly” at email (in case something needed attention) during my best work time. I was kidding myself, of course. If something is pressing, there are telephones and texts.

I like the communicating benefit of email a lot, but for me it opens a sinkhole, caving in the shimmer of fragile thought supporting creative work. If I pretended I could look quickly – I also pretended that I could answer quickly, check this website, read this blog here, comment there, pay a bill, make a plane reservation. I responded to the computer’s Pavlovian dings, allowing random interruptions all morning. But I didn’t seem to notice the energy required to respond – not to mention the time.

I think this habit grew incrementally. My good-natured husband, who is not addicted, not so “connected,” can’t believe it took me so long to admit what had happened to my precious mornings. So all during May, when I’ve been happily working, it’s largely been because of a self-vow taken: no email till one p.m. at the earliest.

Who knows what makes people finally grapple with bad habits? The young writer and I are always going on about the Internet enticement problem (in emails to each other!), and she’s successfully used limiting methods. And the mother of my young friend really made me think when she apologized for being out of touch, saying she was trying to stay away from email and use what little morning time she had for her real work.

It’s hard to express how luxurious it’s been to give this work a few uninterrupted hours. The liberated feeling is enormous. I love to finally look at email after one o’clock, (and most often it is after two). It isn’t discipline so much as substituting a big hit later in the day for a morning of random reinforcement.

So whatever happens with the three-kitty saga, it’s been a gift and an awakening to have this safe work time. During the morning, in tenuous work mode, when I ask what’s next? The answer can only be – something in support of “Friends for Frances.”

Thank you Frances and friends!

FFF Index p 3-1


Starting Up – 2014

Is 2014 well begun for you? I am slowly accepting that number, though changing years in the middle of the week discombobulated me. It’s OK really to wait for the weekend to officially accept the new – and eat black-eyed peas!

But now Tuesday of the new year dawns – suddenly the second week. Vague notions percolate about what I’d like to do in January on “Her spirits rose…,” and maybe that’s what this post says – that I’m thinking about being braver about drawing faces, cooking from the cookbook “Plenty,” and writing about the two Skillshare classes I signed up for in the busiest of December days, promising myself I would start in the quiet of January. Thankfully, the month is long.

But mostly I meander around in a recovering from travel and holiday fugue, slowly tackling end of the year tasks, sorting mail piled up, restocking the larder. Reading. And I’m very excited to be setting up the new Workroom session, which begins Monday the 13th – it’s inspiring to make a place for participants eager to do their creative work.

As the fifth (!) year of this blog begins, I want to say thank you, thank you to readers – most specially to those who comment and write emails – your reading sustains me. And writing here makes me focus – I look forward to what will happen because I do!


The Workroom – January 2014

Is 2014 the year you begin a creative project you’ve thought about for a long time? Can you fill in the blanks in these sentences: “I’d really like to…,” or “I’ve always wanted to…?” Please think about joining The Workroom and you can!

The session last fall was so successful, and again such a pleasure, that I’m really excited about a new session beginning Monday, January 13 and running for six weeks.

Workroom participants use the opportunity to work on a variety of endeavors, in the disciplined way creative work requires and rewards. Using the format of a private WordPress blog (learning blogging skills), we begin by making initial ideas tangible with lists and schedules and goals. We wrestle with the demons of procrastination and perfectionism.

It’s exciting to watch how participants engage each other, responding to my daily posts and their own weekly pages with comments and encouragement. The Workroom brings the energy that comes from being accountable – in a supportive way.

You can read more about The Workroom (and new comments by this fall’s participants) at under The Workroom tab.

January is a month away – but a very busy month. Please email me at if you have questions or to sign up. Make 2014 the year to explore your creative project, and warm up winter with new friends and purpose!

Workroom header jar

The Sketchbook Project

Clearing the decks in the first week of January, I found the envelope I’d received from “The Sketchbook Project,” a project encouraging people from around the world – some 22,000 so far – to register, pay a fee, and receive a sketchbook. When filled and returned, the sketchbook will be archived at the Brooklyn Art Library. (They also organize exhibitions to travel across the continent.)

The little brown envelope contained a tan, stiff-covered, five-by-seven-inch, stapled booklet with 32 pages of white paper. It had a January 15 deadline for return.

This blank book in the emptyness of early January presented all the dilemmas of a bigger project – what to do, how to start, media, rules, motivation. It brought to mind a quote from the poet May Sarton about “keeping gear in order for that never-ending journey.” I found the whole quote and it seemed to fit: “If there is motivation here, it is always self-ordering, self-exploratory, a perpetual keeping gear in order for that never-ending journey.”

I think of that journey as work, creative work, and that’s what sketchbooks are good for, like writer’s notebooks – a place to practice, to gather ideas, to keep the hand in. And in this case to think about my own workroom. Because I hope to make a little book with the ideas and encouragements from The Workroom for participants, it’s good to focus.

A set of rules for The Sketchbook Project proclaims: “…dive in – there’s no better feeling than tackling that first blank page.”

Not. In spite of my short timeline, I dithered (doing dance steps of avoidance and distraction), and finally let the little book become my space for working all that out. I allowed just one page at the beginning to fill in later, stamped the cover with The Workroom – and started.

For the next bit I’ll post the pages of “The Workroom: A Sketchbook Project” – though the book itself is gone to Brooklyn – it did its job and got me going, Maybe, if you are not already well-begun, it will help you start your 2013 creative project!

A sketchbook project - cover spread

Creativity in the New Year

A Sunday or so ago, I read an article by Hugo Lindgren, the editor of the New York Times Magazine, lamenting (but not really) his failure to produce the “Masterwork of Spectacular Brilliance.” (

He talks in the piece about the stage when a creative project can sink into the “muck of mediocrity,” as it “takes those first vulnerable steps from luxurious abstraction to unforgiving reality” – an always helpful restatement of how hard it is to go from nothing to something.

To my stashed words of wisdom, I recently added ones by John Cleese. He lists familiar factors for making life more creative: space, time, confidence, and humor, and says, “This is the extraordinary thing about creativity: If you just keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious.”

Over the holiday I read “Creative Thursday: Everyday Inspiration to Grow Your Creative Practice,” by the artist Marisa Anne Cummings. (She has a website by the same name.) The book is full of her charming illustrations, making her words memorable – evidence that she “keeps ‘agoing.” (A good phrase for the back of one’s mind.)

Hugo Lindgreen has another riff, this one on ideas. “Ideas, in a sense, are overrated. Of course you need good ones, but at this point in our supersaturated culture, precious few are so novel that nobody has ever thought of them before. It’s really about where you take the idea, and how committed you are to solving the endless problems that come up in the execution.”

Designer Dana Tanamachi’s New Year resolution, ”to aid in the flourishing of others,” resonated with me when I read it, because next to Lady Baby and the sweet wedding, the great joy of 2012 was designing The Workroom. I loved watching the participants, each in her own way, engage with chosen tasks and experience the stages of creative work.

It’s helpful to read and to take note of quotes like the ones above, but it really encourages to encounter people practicing creativity. The Workroom offers the support of a group, kindred souls, waiting for and expecting solutions to the “problems and puzzles” of creative work.

It’s exciting to think about another group of participants for a spring session of The Workroom (March 4 to April 12). I hope you will consider it!

new beginnings