Sunday, 20 March 2016

Why it pays to put creative work on hold (sometimes)

In my younger years I used to regularly buy fabric just because it was pretty and took my fancy, and even though I had no idea what I'd actually do with it I knew I would do something eventually. I amassed a huge bag full of fabrics and about four years ago I decided that, despite no prior experience, it would be a good idea to make a patchwork quilt. I figured I had a sewing machine, a stash of fabric and a basic grasp of measuring so what did I have to lose?

Over the course of about eight months I frequently sat and traced shapes onto fabric, cut those out, stitched them together. I did it while I sat in front of the TV watching Grey's Anatomy, or Parenthood. Sometimes I'd have a friend over and we'd take turns using the machine to work on our different projects. Gradually I built up more and more panels then the project would get stashed away for another rainy day.

Some time passed and I realised I hadn't touched the quilt for almost two years. Until yesterday.

Yesterday I was pretty poorly and knew I'd be spending the day in the Sofa region watching TV, so I decided to get my quilt box out from the back of the wardrobe and do a little bit of sewing. I figured I might at least cut the fabric for another row of panels if nothing else.

10 hours later I went to bed having traced, cut, and sewn two more rows of panels and it's now starting to resemble something like a blanket. I feel extremely proud.

That's 280 panels so far, with another 120 to go before I even start thinking about the back of it. Who knows when I'll work on the quilt again, but it felt important to acknowledge that sometimes life gets in the way of our creative projects. Since I last sewed a panel I have moved house twice, changed jobs, launched my wedding celebrant business, launched the Bookish Blether podcast, learned to drive, started my coaching diploma. All were projects that required time, money, and/or focus that took me away from my quilt.

But it's ok to stick projects on hold for a few months, or even years, until the timing is right again. If one project takes priority for a while, it might even be essential to put others on hold, or you face the prospect of bumbling along never quite completing anything. This was definitely the case when starting my wedding business. I had to set up a website, write copy, design branding, purchase business cards, make contacts within the industry, all before the bit where I actually do the work of being a celebrant. The majority of my couples have found me through my website so if I'd put this work on hold to sit around and make a quilt the business wouldn't be as successful as it is today. It's only March and I've booked 75% of my target for 2016 with little marketing.

I also realised often feel pressure to work on projects that have a certain level of visibility; a business, a newsletter (*plug* sign up for mine), a podcast, workshops etc etc. That's a pressure I place on myself and as a result it's now rare to take time to do creative projects that are just for me. Personal projects don't have to be for anyone but you, and there's real pleasure to be had in creating something with your hands, whether that's a meal, or a painting, or a few panels of a quilt.

I don't know when I'll work on my quilt again, but I'm glad I've made some progress this weekend and hope I'll see it again before too long.


  1. I love this. My story is on hold at the moment and it bugs me, but when I dust it down and look at it, it is still there and I still feel those characters, I just can't be with them right now.

  2. I think it's great to have a project you can pick up and put down without any guilt. Guilt (or perfectionism) gets in the way of so many people's creativity, thinking they HAVE to do it a certain timeframe. Seasons come and go and I think it's all about the journey sometimes, not the destination. Lizzie

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