I suck. But I’m here.

Hi all,

I haven’t posted in a few days because I have hit what shall now be known as my “I Suck Wall” and I feel like curling up in a fetal position at the bottom of it instead of figuring out how to scale it.

So here’s what happened. Last week, I hit 4500/7000 words of my short story (64%) and I became really uninspired. I stopped caring about my character, about what happens to her. I got bored.

This then triggered feelings of worthlessness and negative thought patterns:

“Who do I think I am writing any way?”

“Who cares, it’s not like anyone except my poor friends whom I force to read my story will read it. And even that’s not for certain.”

“I suck any how. This story is stupid. Someone has already written it somewhere and it’s probably better than mine.”

“Why did I think I could ever be a writer? I can’t even finish a damn short story.”

As you can probably tell from the dearth of posts, I entered the Escape phase where I just didn’t want to deal with it. If I didn’t write on the blog, or email or talk to you Ann, or talk to anybody about it I could just pretend that it wasn’t happening, that it wasn’t a big deal, that I didn’t have time anyway, I’m too busy at work and “trying to keep my life together” (exercising, cooking, cleaning – all activities that an adult should do ANYWAY).

This is a signature Zany move.My Mood

I start off ridiculously excited about a project (see, stars and unicorns). My productivity is high, I’m pumped, the world is glitter and sparkles. I have a spring in my step.

Then, the excitement wanes but I’m still somewhat productive. I’m still accountable. This lasted quite long this time around.

Then I hit the I Suck Wall and that’s right around the time that I start quitting. Hello, quitting my old friend.

Quitting is comfortable. It’s secure. It’s flipping your hair over your shoulder and rolling your eyes and saying, “Oh, it’s not like I cared that much anyway,” (except you — I — did. Do.) But the underside of quitting is that it also feels a little shitty. Like, eating-too-much-junk-food-and-trying-to-ignore-the-weird-sugar-high-and-tummy-aches shitty. A tiny little betrayal.

But, that’s why we have this blog. To quit quitting. So, deep breaths, here I am. I suck, but I’m here.

I am now going to take up your Carol Dweck advice Ann, and let’s see where it takes me. I am going to try to get back into it.

I will keep you posted!

 

 

 

 

Taking a step back

The past few days I’ve been banging my head against the wall trying to learn object-oriented programming.

Here’s what happened:

Monday

I sat down and decided to convert my teleabsence robot code to a ‘finite state machine.’  But I didn’t really know what that meant.  All I knew was that I wanted my robot to do a bunch of things at the same time, and I discovered the idea of a finite state machine via this Adafruit tutorial on multitasking the Arduino.  I followed the tutorial and got my lights blinking at different rates, but I just couldn’t understand how to translate what I had learned to my robot.

I decided to take a step back and learn wtf a finite state machine was.  I read a bunch of tutorials, but still didn’t get it.  I decided to go even further back and watch some lectures.  I settled on this MIT course, Introduction to Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.  I finished the lecture on Object Oriented Programming (OOP) and did the design exercises.  You can see my code here.

Tuesday

I’m feeling a little disheartened at this point.  I spent all of Monday reading and studying and doing problems, but I still wasn’t understanding how to apply any of this to my robot project.  I was feeling my enthusiasm dip just as I described in my learning with context post.

But I powered on!  I finished the next lecture on state machines and did the associated software lab (you can see my code here) and quiz (code here).

Then I tried giving my robot another stab and was totally stumped.

Feeling discouraged

I felt completely discouraged.  When I looked at my robot code it was like looking at it through a fog.  Who was I kidding trying to learn this stuff at 31?  These kids I see in the audience at the MIT lecture at half (ish) my age.  I’m 15 years too late to the game.

I had to remind myself that I had been learning OOP for TWO DAYS and I just needed to keep at it.  Of course it was hard!  Plus the class is in Python and my robot is in Arduino (kind of like C++).  This meant there was be an extra step of learning new syntax on top of new programming concepts.

Wednesday (Today)

Today I woke up redetermined to figure it out.  Of course it was going to take longer than two days to learn this stuff.  What I needed to do was figure out what exactly I wanted to learn and focus on that.  I need to stop jumping back and forth between projects and focus on what exactly I need to learn.  And I need to give myself enough TIME to learn this stuff.  I need to forgive myself for not magically understanding everything right away.

My mini-crisis last night, though, made me want to write a psychoanalytical post.  I think about this a lot, my mindset, how I learn, what I want, why I want it, etc., and I thought it might help to get it all out.

Fixed vs. Growth mindset

If you’ve never heard of Carol Dweck, go watch her TED talk now.  And read her book. She studies mindsets and learning.

I’ve thought a lot about my own mindset and approach to learning, what’s served me well, and what’s changed over the years.  I think it’s simplistic to say I have a fixed mindset and that’s why I’m not focused enough to learn this stuff.

Dweck also notes that mindsets change over time and depending on the subject matter.  You might have a fixed mindset when it comes to math, but a growth mindset when it comes to running.

I’ve thought about how my mindset has changed over time.  I often think about how focused I was in HS.  I would go to the art studio and stay there for hours painting or sculpting.  I’d forget to eat.  I’d do problem sets for math over and over.  Erase the answers and do them again.

I kind of had a growth mindset in high school, but only insofar as my grades were concerned.  I would believe I could get an A if I studied hard (and study hard I did!) but I didn’t believe I was ‘smart enough’ to really do subject X.

For example, I got a 5 on the BC AP Calculus exam, and a perfect score on my BC Calc final, and a very high grade in the class overall.  Part of the reason is because I wasn’t admitted to the class to begin with.  I was told my math skills weren’t good enough for BC, that I was placed into AB Calc.  My first day of senior year the AB Calc teacher caught me in the cafeteria and asked why I was in his class.  You should be in the BC class, he said.  I showed up for BC Calc and the teacher wasn’t happy I was there, but said he’d let me have a try.

I took that challenge and ran with it.  I aced the class.  But I never thought to myself, hey, I’m really good at this.  I should be a mathematician.  I thought ‘real’ mathematician’s got the material right away.  They didn’t have to study and struggle.

It took me many, many years to realize that I was wrong.  Yes, some people struggle less with some things, but everybody struggles with something.  And if you do something over and over again for long enough (build enough context) you can be good at nearly anything.

Fuck you mindset

I didn’t really have a ‘real’ growth mindset.  I wasn’t intrinsically motivated to learn this stuff, though I did believe that with effort I could do anything.  What I really had was a fuck you mindset.

In HS, what I really loved was showing people they were wrong about me.  I loooved upturning expectations.  My parents like to tell this story about when I was a kid how they were worried I was a slow learner.  I was terrible at spelling and was put into a remedial class in the 4th grade.  They didn’t think I’d amount to much.  I think that story stuck with me.  I incorporated it into the narrative of who I was.  I was someone you weren’t expecting.  I was smarter than I looked.  I wasn’t a typical girl.  Whatever.

However, that part of me, the “fuck you” part kind of died off as I got older.

As an adult, nobody cares.  Nobody has particular expectations of you.  There are no grades.  Markers of success are in your mind.  The external markers that do exist don’t have a linear path to obtaining them like good grades in HS.  You might want to make the Forbes 30 under 30 list (I know people who wanted to make it, and people who did make it).  But you can’t just work hard and make the list.  It doesn’t work like that.  You have to work hard, but you also have to be well connected, noticed by whoever it is that’s putting that list together, etc etc etc.  It’s luck as much as it is hard work.

So as I got older I realized that nobody really cares and learning something or getting good at something just to prove somebody wrong isn’t really a sustainable motivator.  I needed to figure out what it is exactly that I enjoy.

Figuring out what I like to do

From the first coding class I took back in 2011, I fell in love.  This was something that I could do for hours on end and not get bored.  This was something I really enjoyed.

As an adult, though, it’s a lot harder to throw yourself into learning a new skill.  You don’t have external motivators (my fuck you mindset wasn’t going to serve me here!), you have other responsibilities (job, relationship), you don’t have a clear path (take these 16 classes and become an engineer!).

I KNOW all this.  I know it so hard.  It’s embedded in my fucking bones.  But I still need to remind myself of it now and again.  When I hit my wall yesterday, I needed to take a step back and remind myself, Ann.  It’s been TWO DAYS.  You’re discouraged because there is no purpose, no degree at the end of the tunnel, there’s not even an end to the damn tunnel.  And that’s ok.

It’s ok because this time I’m doing it because I LIKE doing it.  I like programming.  I like seeing my robot run around and I want to make it run around even better.  So that’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to slog through learning OOP.  I’m going to figure it out in python and figure it out on Arduino.  And at the end of the day I have no idea if any of this will lead to a job or an award or anyone caring at all, but none of that matters.  I’m going to keep my head down and figure this shit out.

A small scale success story by and for our blog!

Hej there!

It is Friday evening and despite the misleading exclamation point after the preceding two words, mama is tiiiiiiiiired. I am basically writing this mostly horizontal in bed with this Drake song playing in the background. I am exhausted but also simultaneously creatively and intellectually energized after our short Skype call Ann! I am so, so proud of your Google Chrome extension (see previous posts)! I have it on my Chrome now and it makes me happy every time I open a new tab, it’s a little sparkling jolt to my otherwise rote brain. I will be re-reading your thoughtful and educational blog posts – I really appreciated how you linked to all the relevant parts of your process and I am curious to explore things more! SO PROUD! ❤

In terms of my updates, I have now hit 3000 words in my short story writing. This is the first time I have written for this long after the initial euphoria of, “Oh, look at me, I am writing! Creatively! Moi! I love this! I’m so writerly! I have designer glasses! Look at how gleefully and thoughtfully I can put words down on the page. I am an artiste!” has worn off. Have I mentioned how LONG 7000 WORDS ARE FOR A SHORT STORY? I guess not but hot damn, it’s hard to fill out those paragraphs. I know what I want for the ending, I know the scenes I want to describe and the feelings. I basically want to hang out with my main characters and get to know them better. But the actual part of hammering out the words? Hard as eff. The first 1000 words were a breeze. Now I’m in the thick of it and really struggling. But I know, I KNOW, that my previous processes were literally not working. The evidence? NOT WRITING. More evidence you say? This email I wrote myself 5 years ago using FutureMe.org (the blacked out part is concerning an ex-partner).

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I draw your attention to “have you started writing your book of short stories yet?”

Apparently 26 year-old-Zany was really consistent with 31-year-old Zany! I am SO thankful that we (you and me Ann!) have gotten our shit together and I am at least in the MIDST of pumping out my first-ever short story (as of a few days ago) so I can answer 2012 Zany with: “I’m working on it!” as opposed to the usual, “No… but I will! When x happens and this has changed and I earn this much and [insert a billion shades of excuses here].”

So back to my short story process. I realize anybody (myself being first in line) at any point in time can interject and say, but Zeynep, MUST you write 7000 words? Perhaps you’re more of a super-short short story writer. A microstory writer. Or in fact, maybe you just shouldn’t write at all given how much you are complaining about it. Maybe you should go back to your life of doing nothing and wishing you could write more and telling everybody about it.

But no, that’s not an option.

So, onwards I go with the glamour and grace of an old disgruntled donkey clopping forwards dragging piles of shit and muck to a barn somewhere.

Peace!

PS. Here is what 3000 words of pure punching out looks like.

PPS. In all seriousness though, for all my complaining, I am also enjoying this process. I feel like I have achieved both purpose and pleasure in life (even though the actual writing is not always enjoyable).

PPPS. Another mini side-success story inspired by this blog: I am notorious for signing up to really difficult gym classes, paying a shitton of money and not going after the third session. See: Fightbox boot camp March 2016. Wörkout boot camp September 2016. Small group personal training November 2016. I have literally shelled out thousands of Swedish kronor. But, the last three weeks my rule has been: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays you MOVE. It doesn’t matter what, where, when, with whom and how. You fucking move your ass. And the last few weeks I am proud to report that I’ve been to some super fun classes at my local gym (which is reasonably priced) including one that I have been turning up my nose at – Power Step at SATS. Having previously associated any Step-related class with middle-aged women in Turkish gyms, I used to sneer and say it wasn’t “worth my time” because it wasn’t “hard enough.” I totally forgot how seriously they take exercise here in Sweden and how competitive it can get. Power Step was so insane: step up, step down, twirl, step to the side, squat, lift, squat some more, now we plank, now we do burpees, now we do crazy complex footwork like it was a remastered Footloose taking place in a sweaty gym in south Stockholm. I felt like nothing I had ever done before had ever existed, my whole life had become an entire hour of Power Step. I had become One with the Powers of Step. But it was also RIDICULOUSLY FUN and I am so happy that I gave it a chance. And it’s all thanks to this blog which is helping me lower my expectations so I can actually MEET them as opposed to waving at them from the bottom and moping around that I don’t ever accomplish anything.

Alright. Rant of the week over! Off I go!

OVER AND OUT.

Coding & learning with context

Hello, world!

I’m incredibly proud of this next project.  It captures perfectly the goal of Zeynep and my quitting quitting project.

I started taking CS50x in December of 2015.  At the time, I thought I could blow through the class in a month if I plugged away at it for 10 hours a day.  I had big plans of taking additional math and CS classes after CS50x and possibly going back to school for a master’s in CS.  What, a master’s in CS?!?  But you majored in Art and International Relations!  Yes, dear reader.  I had the exact same thought.

So then, why a master’s in CS?  I wanted a career change.  I hated my job (project management) and I wanted to make things.  I had taken a Udacity Intro to Python course back in 2011 and loved it.  But I didn’t really know where to go from there.  I ended up writing a bunch of Google Apps Scripts since they were easy to get started with, and useful for my job.  But I wasn’t really learning much else.  I felt I had hit a wall and wanted to be back in a school-like environment.

I spent HOURS reading through reddit and quora blogs about going back for a second bachelor’s in CS, or going to a coding bootcamp.  The consensus seemed to be a second bachelor’s was a waste of money and a bootcamp wasn’t rigorous enough.  Instead, most people suggested taking the core classes on your own and applying directly for a master’s program.  So that’s what I was doing, or so I thought.

My biggest problem, at least in the last few years, has been split attention.  There are SO MANY projects I want to do and not nearly enough time to do them all.  Instead of picking one things and diving into it, I would start down one path, get frustrated that I wasn’t making progress fast enough, and then switch to something else.  The end result was that I got nothing done.

The problem with this approach was that I was a beginner at a lot of the things I wanted to do.  It’s like wanting to play Beethoven’s Symphony #5 on the piano, but not knowing how to play the piano.  You have two options.

  1. Watch a bunch of YouTube tutorials of people playing Symphony #5 and copy their finger movements exactly.  Eventually, you’ll be able to play that one piano piece, but nothing else.  You won’t have really learned to play the piano.  HOWEVER, with every note you hit you could hear Symphony #5 somewhere in there, struggling to get out which kept up your enthusiasm.  Also, you will have learned a LOT about piano playing (though you may not realize it) which will serve as a good foundation to learn to play the piano later.
  2. Start with the basics (reading musical notes, practicing scales) and work your way up to playing Symphony #5.  You’ll actually learn to play the piano, but during the learning process you won’t be playing Symphony #5.  That means you’ll need to keep reminding yourself what all that boring scale playing is leading to.  However, you’ve built a strong foundation about music playing that you can apply beyond Symphony #5.

That’s what it was like for me with programming.  The Udacity course was like starting with method #2, but stopping with scales.  After the course was done, I had no idea how to apply anything I learned to the projects I wanted to create.  I didn’t know how to go from playing scales to playing a real piece of music.

So I shifted to method #1.  I dove into a bunch of Apps Scripts projects, frankenstein-ing programs together using other people’s code, tutorials, and the Apps Scripts documentation.  I didn’t really get half the errors I was seeing.  I didn’t really understand why things worked when they did, but I could generally get things working.

However, this was deeply unsatisfying.  Which is why I came to CS50.  I wanted to be back in a school-like environment.  To learn things the “right way.”

Taking CS50 after having spent two years frankenstein-ing code was GREAT.  Going with method #1 gave me context so that when I saw lessons in CS50, I could think “Oooooohhh, THAT’S why that works” instead of thinking, “Ok, I get the theory now how do I apply it?”  I had already applied it and now I was backing into the theory.

But back to December 2014.  Taking CS50 was great, but it was hard.  I was itching to get started on projects and the thought of having to take 11 weeks of courses was overwhelming.  I got frustrated that I wasn’t making progress fast enough and quit.

This is totally counterintuitive and I know it, but I still do it all the time.  I think it’s going to take too long to learn something, so I quit.  But then 11 weeks later I’m sitting there thinking, why didn’t I just invest in this 11 weeks ago?  The problem?  Learning scales is boooring and I wanted to play the Symphony NOW!

Anyway, I quit the course in Jan 2015.  There was the issue that I wasn’t progressing fast enough coupled with my life getting busy.  I was also taking a sci-fi writing course at the time which I really threw myself into.  It was my 10 hour a day project.  On top of that, I was applying to new jobs.  I started a new job in April 2015 and just got distracted getting up to speed and working hard at the new gig.

But the new job was still in project management so, inevitably, I begin to feel the itch.  I wanted to *make* things.  So I picked the course back up Dec 2016 and really got to it in Feb/March 2017.  I finished the course last week (April 2017) and it was HARD.

I admit there were a few additional stop and starts in there, though not quite as long, and I skipped two problem sets, but I got through it!

My next post is about my final project!  Read on here…

Update #4: Part 1 of 7 complete

Greetings from a cozy cafe in Stockholm with a snowstorm raging outside. It’s the never-ending winter but I must admit I am kind of enjoying writing here with candle light and coffee.

As promised, here is a draft of the short story I am working on for my creative writing group here in Stockholm. Although I am behind in terms of the overall project, I promised the rest of my team members that I would have a draft complete and sent to them by the end of April.

Although not very writerly or artistic or mythical, I am taking a very administrative approach to my writing process. I Googled the average number of words in a short story and decided on 7,000 words. I am now trying to write about a 1000 words a day. My aim until next weekend is literally to just PUMP SOMETHING OUT no matter how crappy it is. I will edit afterwards.

The reason for this is that I am usually so paralyzed by anxiety and worrying about having something perfect the first time around that I end up just avoiding the whole creative process altogether and procrastinate.

So, in line with this blog and trying to change my processes that clearly do not work, I am just writing things as they come to me.

If you are interested in reading my current draft you can click here. Obvious disclaimer: it is in VERY ROUGH DRAFT FORM.

Happy Sunday!

xo

Zany

Update #3: Mapping out my life

Hey y’all,

As promised, Ann, here is my blog post about mapping out graduate schools I am interested in and what the requirements are.

I got so into mapping things out visually for school, I also added a sheet about what I want from life. Haha. And then I made a final more “realistic” flow chart with actual dates, with what I am doing when.

I’m not going to lie some of this has caused me a little bit of anxiety, which I think is heavily related to why I procrastinate. But, I think overall it’s a good thing: it means that something is stirring and it’s touching a nerve. And the only way out is through.

So without further ado, here are my “maps.”

1. What do I want out of life

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I first started with the question, What do I want? I felt like I had to add a date because, well, I’m human and wants change. I tried to not think with a scarcity mentality of what I can do or should do or get paid to do but really, just to let it loose and write whatever the fuck I wanted. Turns out, the things I want are pretty simple: a family, to have mental and physical health, to make art, to write and to have a job that solves problems, helps people and is creative. Oh, and a summer house on the Aegean coast of Turkey and a boat (happy shiny golden boat, Ann!).

I then got some yellow post-its and wrote actions I can do (daily, weekly or whenever) to not just “get” what I want but to also to create experiences of what I want in the present. For a family, I can start by not dating assholes and to be a good friend, partner, family member. For mental health I can go to therapy, do yoga, eat well, and exercise. For writing I can… write? Set goals to achieve with writing (hello, purpose of this blog!). For making art… I can make art? Take classes? Have deadlines (hi blog!). And in terms of a creative, fabulous job – well, I can just search for it and maybe get educated for it.

2. Mapping out schools 

This was actually the first visual map I created but I am ordering my maps going from broad to specific. As such, here is the map of the schools that I am currently interested in.

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Pick a card, any card

I decided to color code the most important aspects of the programs:

  • Cost
  • Deadline
  • Length
  • Requirements
  • When and location 
  • Why

This first five aspects were easy enough to fill in with information gleaned from the websites. The final question of why was a little harder – but it helped me figure out my real reasons for applying to certain programs. They ranged from switching jobs, to moving to Canada to just having fun!

I thought this was valuable insight and a starting point for myself for a future decision-making process of either applying or even attending the programs.

Again, I tried not to think about whether or not I could get in or even the costs – both financial and time. I will do that at a later stage.

3. 2017 – timelines 

My final incomplete visual map included concrete dates, activities, goals and how those activities are further conducive to my goals which were written in pink.

IMG_0814

This was a little more anxiety-inducing as I realized I was trying to map out 8 months ahead. And given that one of my original problems is that I plan but don’t do, I started feeling like this was a little bit pointless. So instead, I marked down actual activities (like art classes that I had signed up for and will obviously put up on this blog because I don’t want to quit them like I always have!) as well as a concrete date – for example, for a 10K I am running in September with a goal time. As well as activities I can do in August to prepare in advance for grad school applications (even though the earliest one is due January 2018) by at least writing the letter of intent and statements of intent.

I also realized that mental health and “soul”-health are the core of my ability to not only be happy but also to be able to complete projects and have the confidence in doing so. So I drew a little helpful visual map in the center that highlights the more frequent, recurring activities I need to do to be happy such as exercising, eating well, reading more, listening to good music and going to concerts, meditating.

Anyway, I realize this all looks a little bit all over the place but I think the end result is that I have something visual to refer back to every time I am feeling the urge to escape from the world and myself.

Next challenge: completing my short story for my creative writing group! I will keep you updated on the writing process and progress – if not every day, every couple of days!

Over and out!

 

 

Update #2: Adjusting

Greetings from a cold, windy Tuesday in Stockholm.

It took a little time for me to get back on my feet with the Prime Number Project as I faced some unexpected challenges!

Challenge 1: Bureaucratic barriers discovered

I discovered all school applications required me to have verifiable evidence of my residency status in Sweden. As I am currently in the process of applying for permanent residency, this caused me to drop all school applications until 2018.

I was a little upset, but I bounced back by thinking about the positives:

  • more time to research alternative schools
  • more time to have coffee dates with industry professionals who can inspire me
  • more time to have better quality applications for 2018!

Challenge 2: Terror attack in Stockholm on April 7

As you may have heard, there was a terror attack in Stockholm last Friday. It was really scary and although I am from Turkey, which has had a much deadlier and more frequent occurrence of such attacks, it threw me for a loop since it is in the same city in which I live. Although not an excuse to not complete projects, I ended up spending the weekend with friends and trying to do “normal” activities like exercising and cleaning to get back on track mentally.

Which helped me realize a systematic challenge that I face when completing projects: I get thrown off by external events and emotional ups and downs. I am great at making plans because in that moment I truly believe that the plan will be carried out without any extenuating circumstances, but when those circumstances occur, I tend to drop long-standing plans in favor for short-term gratification.

I will try to take this into account when going forward.

So here is my updated Prime Number Project Plan.

I still like the bite-sized approach to our plans, Ann, so I think I will try to see if I can make it work by switching around the order of prime numbers but still allocating a certain amount of time to complete tasks… since my (our?) original problem is lack of external deadlines.

  • 1 day to map out schools I am interested in, their application requirements and deadlines for 2018 – I plan on creating a visual board and uploading it in my next blog post. (Due: Thursday April 13th) (the purpose of this is so I can have a “plan” for the rest of 2017 and for 2018 of what I have to do by when so I can relax)
  • 13 days to write my short story for my creative writing group (Start: Friday April 14th, Due: Wednesday April 26th)
  • 5 days of blogging: 1 blog post per day (Start: April 27)
  • 7 days of Ashtanga Yoga (Start May 1)

I will keep you posted as I complete tasks!

Looking forward to your next post Ann – and WELL DONE on the shelves! They look beautiful ❤

 

The shelf

My first task is complete!  I didn’t really follow the prime number format, but I finished my first Ikea hack.  The finished piece is below.

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Time: 1-2 hours a day for 5 days

Difficulty: Moderate

Pain-in-the-ass-ness: 4 out of 5.  Shelves are a pain to hang and spray paint is pretty much a no go unless you have access to outdoor space or a large garage.

Worth it?  Myeh.  I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, but I was pretty irritated during the process.

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Why I did it

This project started as a vague concept to sell Ikea hacking services.  My first step was to hack a few pieces to get a feel for the process and get some nice images for my website.

How I did it

I was loving the brass trend and spotted these fabulous shelves on Pinterest.  These look DIY-ed and I figured they’d be super easy to recreate, so I took them on as my first challenge.  (I realized later he has DIY instructions for the shelves here.)

Materials

Since I was just testing out the concept, I decided to go for a small shelf unit instead of a full-on wall of shelves.

  • (2) Rubbermaid 30″ double track shelf tracks (I got mine at home depot)
  • (4) 11.5″ Shelf brackets (also from home depot)
  • (1) Can of Krylon metal paint primer in white
  • (1) Can of Montana Black spraypaint in gold (can’t find it on their site, I got it from Blick)

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Step 1: Painting

I started by sanding down the brackets and giving them two coats of primer.  I used medium grit sandpaper and went over the brackets until they were no longer shiny.  This took maybe an hour or so.  It’s a really dusty process, so I’d recommend wearing gloves.

Next I gave the brackets three coats of gold spray paint.  At first, I went on pretty thick and got a really shiny, smooth finish.  The bracket I tested this on looked like a block of gold.  Unfortunately, because I went thick I ended up with big drips down the sides.

I wiped the test bracket down with mineral oils to get rid of the paint, then re-sanded and primed.

On my second go-round, I tried to do multiple passes of thin coats.  I don’t know if it was the paint, my spraying technique, or the wind, but the paint didn’t go on as a smooth mist.  It looked pretty spackled.  As I built up the second and third layer, the finish ended up being bumpy.

I did a test spot where I sanded in between the first and second layers, but this did nothing to smooth the finish.  The sanding also took the shiny-ness away from the gold, leaving an ugly brown color.  I decided to just leave it as it was.  As the paint dried, it ended up spreading out and smoothing a bit, so it looked fine in the end.

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Here are the finished brackets drying in my shower where there is a strong vent to draw away the toxic paint air D:

Step 2: Hanging

To hang the shelves, I used all-purpose drywall anchors rated for 85lbs (which is complete overkill, but I had these lying around) and 2.5″ screws (which I also had lying around).  I didn’t use the screws that came with the anchors because I liked the flat look of the black screw rather than the big, bulbous top of the silver screw.

You’ll notice the black screws are much longer, but that ended up being fine since the bracket sticks out from the wall quite a bit, so when you take that into account the black screw was a good length for the anchors.

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I followed the technique in this video to get the brackets lined up.  I used a different type of anchor from the video, so I had to pre-drill holes before hammering my anchors in.

Next, I marked off the top screw location of my second bracket and drilled my anchor hole.

Sadly, I hit a bracket 😦  I don’t have a drill bit to go through metal, so I didn’t have any choice but to drill a second hole slightly to the right.  Luckily (trying to be an optimist here!) I had just painted the wall, so I’ll be able to spackle and match the paint color to cover just the drill hole.

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Disaster!

Finally, I got the anchors in and put up the second set of tracks.  Then I slotted in the brackets, placed my shelves (cannibalized set of billy bookcase shelves) and that was that!

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Here is my shelf with my trusty drill.  (I thought the lower right corner looked lonely in the first picture.)

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And a close up of the brackets.  You can see there is a little bumpiness to the finish, but overall I think it looks quite nice.

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Thanks for reading!

Creativity porn

So…this blog is working!

Now that Zeynep has posted her update, I feel obligated to post mine.

First off, I’ll admit I did nothing over the weekend.  I have a million excuses, mostly doing with my husband being out-of-commission resulting in me being the sole baby-watcher, but in reality I could have gotten work done at night but I didn’t.

Watching a baby is exhausting so at night I ‘treated’ myself to some TV.  But let’s be real.  There was a time when making creative work was a ‘treat.’  And there was a time, not so very long ago, when reading was a treat.  Both of those activities are loads better than TV.  So I need to replace TV with a different treat.  To that end, I’m going to put a mini-challenge to myself for today to find a new book.

OK!  Now moving on to last week’s results.  I’ve been working on Ikea hacks.  When I started out, I had this grand plan that I’d hack all of this Ikea furniture, post a bunch of pretty pictures, then find people who would pay me to hack their furniture for them.  I mean, people already pay for Ikea furniture assembly, so they’d totally shell out another $100 to beautify their billy bookcase, right?

Besides, I’ve painted furniture before so it couldn’t be that hard to do this more professionally.

Nope!

Painting Ikea furniture is a fucking pain in the ass.

Who is this person who stripped down and redid her cabinet after round 1 didn’t go as planned???  Or this person who painted and wallpapered a Pax dresser to make a custom vanity??  Or any of these people who probably spent more money revamping their Rast than buying it?

So there I was on Wednesday (or was it Thursday?) spray painting a set of generic white brackets brass thinking to myself, what the fuck am I doing?  I don’t even like painting furniture.  I like hacking things, for sure, but I have never enjoying the prime, sand, prime process.  Not for furniture, not for canvases.  In fact, that was my least favorite part of painting.  So…once again that brings me to…what the fuck am I doing?

And as I painted I began to wonder, how many people actually try these hacks?  Maybe I’m just over-confident, but I look at these home improvement blogs or instructables and read over the instructions and think, no problem.  I can totally do that.  Then when it comes down to it, it’s a complete mess.

What I realized as I was painting (epiphany brought on by paint fumes?) is that nobody does this stuff.  People love reading about these cools hacks and sitting there thinking (as I naively did), I could totally do that.  And perhaps with enough time, space, and patience they could.  But in reality most people won’t bother.

Ikea hackers and home improvement bloggers are selling creativity porn.

Of course, there are people who do want to be creative.  To make things.  To hack furniture.  But most people just want to fantasize.

And me?  Maybe I’m in the fantasize bucket too, when it comes to furniture.  Part of what I’m trying to do with this blog is find what it is that helps me get to flow.  I’ve been there while painting/drawing, while working on a design problem, a puzzle, or coding.  But not so much while furniture hacking.