Of Procrastination and Plateaus


About 10 years ago (maybe more)  I happened to pick out Martha Beck’s Expecting Adam from the local library’s bookshelf, which led me to search out more of her writing. An especially novel and compelling view she wrote about was on procrastination. My interpretation of what she was saying is that procrastination is the way that the wiser part of ourselves tries to protect us from making commitments to directions that are not right for us. After reading Beck, I’ve embraced procrastination like a friend who helps me keep my actions aligned to my goals and values. When I can exercise even a modicum of self-awareness I let my procrastination help me fine tune the direction of my energies so that I am able to resist leading myself astray.

I’ve been procrastinating about posting for the last few week because there is something, other that what I had planned, that I want to write about.

It’s about when I’m plateauing with my work,. Since writing about this feels uncomfortable to me,  I’ve been trying to dismiss the idea of writing this post. After weeks of not writing, it occurs to me that avoidance is not an option.

I want to write about what I’ve come to believe about plateaus, as this belief largely defines the way that I move through my days.

First, a  bit of context.

I am just now finishing up something that I thought would take about 3 hours. Instead it has, so far, taken me 3 full days of steady work. I really am just about done. But as the hours started piling up, as I was feeling like I was making absolutely no progress, I started to think about how often I am in the position of feeling like I am working without any results whatsoever. I make mistakes. I try out ideas that don’t go anywhere. I’m indecisive. I get tired.  My work area gets chaotic and I can’t find anything. ARgh.

Then I clean up my work area. Depending how long I’ve been at it or if I have a deadline, I may then take a break, or may keep working. Maybe I feel frustrated, maybe I’m getting impatient, but what I do NOT do is retreat. This is not procrastination. It’s something completely different. I know this territory well. I am on a plateau.

Here’s what I know about plateaus. It may look like I’m not making any progress. In fact everything that I do when I’m plateauing might be discarded. Actually, that’s what usually happens. But something else is going on. I know that if I just keep working, something wonderful is going to happen. And it does. Every time. Even though it seems like the plateau is lasting forever, it doesn’t last forever.

It seems like everything that I do, everything I try to learn, everything that I create, takes me so much longer than seems reasonable. I stay with things because this is the only way to get where I want to be.  Plateaus are the gatekeepers to my next levels, so I just keep plodding plodding plodding along. Happily, I love where I end up each time.

There. I’ve written this. Now I can get back to work.






Book Art · Book Artists

Paul Johnson’s Outlier Pop-Ups

Detail of Paul Johnson Pop-up Book
Detail of a Paul Johnson Pop-up Book. Can you see what’s going on here at the edge of the book?

“A pop-up needs a fold:” this is what I say whenever I  begin showing a class how to make a pop-up. Ha! Turns out I was wrong!  Paul Johnson’s  show at the North Main Gallery in Salem N.Y. has authoritatively proven me to be completely mistaken. Throughout this generous celebration of structurally engineered books  there is not a fold, in or out of sight.


This is not a show of books with pages that turn to reveal a sequence of cleverly folded and glued structures that seem to magically jump off the page. Instead, in many cases, the books themselves begin as appearing rather flat, then they simply explode into space. And it’s not folds or glues that are responsible for these feats. It’s …

HInged Roof, Paul Johnson
Hinged Roof, Paul Johnson

hinges. Well bust my britches, I never thought about creating non-folded hinges for pop-ups  The roof piece above is joined together by making opposing slits in two separate pieces of paper. Johnson also makes good use of piano hinges -this link is a piano-hinge-tutorial by Wendy Southin- as well as dovetail joints, which I have to say I have never seen a bookbinder use in paper engineering.

PauL Johnson book, detail of attachments
Paul Johnson book, detail of attachments

It was not just a few books here, but rather a plethora of book structures and book sculptures, each one as unusual as inventive as any I’ve seen. Now I know I haven’t stepped back here and given you much of the big picture: that’s more than I can process for one post. The overall look of the show is stunning, as is each book in the show. But those photos will have to wait for a later post. It’s the details that I am so intrigued with today.

Cinderella's-tricycle, Paul Johnson
Cinderella’s-tricycle, Paul Johnson

This show, it’s quite a ride. Up until October 4.

Books written by Pual Johnson
Books written by Paul Johnson

Oh, and if you are an educator and you are wondering if this is the same Paul Johnson who writes prolific amounts about Literacy and Book Arts, yes, this is him.

How-to · Paper Toy · puppet

Silly Easy Fast Paper Puppets

crayon puppet in progress
Puppet in Progress

I recently taught a workshop in which I was given a good bit of latitude in what I presented. I decided that I would bring a selection of my some of my personal favorite structures, and give people choices of what to make. It was one of the most fun afternoons I’ve had.  This sweet little puppet is another one of those structures that I have forever been wanting to write about, and it was one of the hits of the workshop. It truly takes about one minute to construct. Here’s the tutorial page for it:

Silly Easy Fast Puppet tutorial by Paula Beardell Krieg
Silly Easy Fast Puppet tutorial by Paula Beardell Krieg

The beauty of this structure is that it can be made out of just about any size and proportion of paper. I generally use regular size copy paper, but anything works. It might be hard to tell from these photos, but the mouth of the puppet articulates, and opens in a wide and humorous. way. The workshop participants decorated their creations with all sorts of bits of this and that .

Two Silly Puppets

The next photo is a of a puppet that looks it might have much to say. I find myself wishing that there were words on the paper that is cascading out of the mouth.

too much to say


And here are a couple more of my own puppets. I will be teaching  this again at a workshop in the fall, in Waverly, Pennsylvania, so I am going to try to put together a little tribe of these funny faces.

crayon and cut paper decorations on the puppets
crayon and cut paper decorations on the puppets

Again, the magic of these is the when the mouth open and closes. It’s such a surprise to be able to put together such a whimsical creature so quickly.  If you try this out, please email me a photo!


Valentines, Crayoned

I like sending out Valentines. This year I wanted use crayons to draw out hearts.

When I was thinking about how I wanted to make my valentines I knew that what I wanted to do was to do something by hand, and to make something to share that I thought was beautiful and fun. I like crayon drawings, especially my own crayon drawings. I have been drawing hearts and coloring them in all day long today.

I didn’t anticipate that it would take so long to draw the cards. But each card seemed to take longer than the one before, as I happily laid down color after color. Hot magenta and cerulean are the colors that got the most play.

Valentines in progress
Valentines in progress

Each Valentine card is postcard size, 3 1/2′ x 5 1/2″. I drew them on a large sheet of paper so that I could draw all the way to the edges, which always looks better to me. Also, I liked that bits of each drawing shared some overflow colors with each card that it was surrounded by.

Sheets of Valentines
Valentines Sheet.waiting to be cut apart

They are all done now…I have 1 hour and 10 minutes before it is officially Valentines Day. Which means that my Aunt Angela, my mother, everyone else who is far away, will be getting their cards late.

Valentine point

Late or not….

A Valentine for You from Paula Krieg
A Valentine for You

…here’s wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day!!!