One-inch picture frame.

I’ve been trying to do little.

This isn’t necessarily laziness, but rather productivity in small amounts.

Doing too much of any one thing or too many things at once wears on my brain these days.

In Anne Lamott’s book about writing, Bird by Bird, she talks about her one-inch picture frame, the one she keeps on her desk to remind her that she doesn’t have to tackle the entirety of a writing project all at once. She can just focus on one small area, accomplish one small task. Right now, that’s all she has to do. And then, she can focus on another tiny corner of the big picture. Eventually, inch by inch, it all adds up.

I love Anne Lamott.

Her advice here applies to more than just writing projects, of course.

Daunting things, like this school year that’s about to start in T-minus-thirty-seconds, can much more easily approached a little at a time.

This snippet of wisdom, the one-inch picture frame, is not entirely novel advice. It’s akin to the proverbial one-bite-at-a-time elephant and the old line about breaking large tasks into smaller chunks.

But for my brain, which tries to do everything at once, this worldview the size of a postage stamp is helpful. It sets up blinders so that I can’t even see the rest of the elephant. The picture from does away with the idea of a large task.

There’s nothing but this one stitch. This one word. This one breath.

This one inch.

That, I can handle.

So maybe that’s why I’ve been stitching small lately, giving myself no more space than a square inch to stitch words and pictures into fabric.


I like the challenge of designing something that has to fit within a grid of just a few stitches.

And I like the freedom to forget everything else, except the one little block of space my creativity occupies for the moment.

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Getting centered.

Literally and figuratively. Centering my cross stitch pieces and finding emotional and mental calm.

Let’s start with that second one.

(Click here to jump directly to the cross stitch centering tutorial.)

•••

You may be familiar with Julia Cameron and her iconic book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. If you’re not, it’s just as hippy-dippy as it sounds, which is probably why I enjoyed it.

When I was at my first MFA creative writing residency in 2012, both my mentor and a classmate recommended Cameron’s book to me as a way to let myself write more freely, without thinking so much. See, the book takes the reader through a series of activities to help unlock creative energies, and one of the main components of the process is Morning Pages.

Morning Pages are simply three handwritten pages of stream-of-consciousness journaling meant to clear the mind—or unearth ideas that were previously hidden under the rubble of uptight thought—ideally written early in the day before worries and obligations take over. The pages aren’t supposed to be shared or published. Instead, they have a throw-away quality that lowers the stakes so the writer can babble on without worrying what anyone else will think.

(The Artist’s Way isn’t just for writers. It’s for anyone wishing to live a more creative life. It just so happens that part of that discovery process, according to Cameron, relies on writing through one’s thoughts.)

In short, the purpose of Morning Pages is to get past perfection.

To get past self-consciousness and inhibition in order to make messes, out of which personal revelations and innovative ideas are born.

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The deep end.

Kinda went off into the arts & crafts deep end today, but I came up with—among many, many other things—these gorgeous embroidery books.

I’m all 😍😍😍 over here.

What Delilah Did Presents Secret Garden Embroidery

Miniature Needle Painting Embroidery by Trish Burr

Stitch-opedia by Helen Winthorpe Kendrick