Time -- perhaps the most scruntinised aspect of artists' and makers' lives. How many hours did that take? Where do you find the time? I found that this week, in response to the Foxy quilt, many people expressed a wish to make one similar, but with a sad resignation that it would take too long.
This tally of hours we assign to handmade things seems to be the number one reason to say "no" to creativity -- the overwhelming thought of forty hours, perhaps, on just one project. Nevermind that you might love those forty hours. Nevermind that you might spread it out in a happy half-an-hour here, a slow hour there (you can read more about fitting in these little pockets of creative time here). Just the idea of that much time, added up, can stop creativity dead.
How can we overcome that fear of finding time that often holds us back?
Perhaps it starts with shaking the negative connotation that anything that takes a long time must be dull and inefficient, or else impossible.
I first read about the idea that in order to become a master at something you must practice for 10,000 hours in Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers". I'm not sure I believe in this exact pin-point of time required, but I love the way that hours are seen as a goal, an accomplishment, instead of a chore.
I remember, at first, feeling overwhelmed -- mourning all the things that I'd never be a master at because I hadn't started learning them early enough. But, at some point this year, while searching for joy in the long long hours of sewing straight line after straight line, the idea of 10,000 hours took on new meaning to me. There are lot of hours of less-than-inspiring manual labour that go into quilting. Previously, I'd found quite a bit of pleasure in counting these up so as to moan about them -- "six hours! oh, my back!" -- but the idea of that bigger picture of 10,000 hours put all that time in a different light. Those hours could now be amounting to something much greater than just back pain -- amounting to this deep, deep knowledge of something that I love and really do want to master the skills of.
As beginners at anything, it can be very useful to look to experts in that field for guidance and inspiration. I'm very grateful to the quilters who have laid out their techniques to help me learn. However, we must be careful of the danger of comparison -- of thinking, "I'll never get to where they are. And even if I do, they will already be so much better!" Perhaps it will be impossible to keep up with others. But it what is possible is to move down your own path, mastering things in your own way, at your own pace, with your own voice. And along the way, well before the 10,000 hours, you will see moments of mastery -- moments when you can look back and see your own progress taking shape.
So much depends on what we choose to include in our days, and what we decide to leave out. In that choice, we make our lives.
There can seem to be an illusive secret to finding time to create, but I wonder if it doesn't all come down to these small choices -- not right or wrong, but indicative of our priorities and goals. I often choose an un-vacuumed floor in favour of following a surge of inspiration. I choose messy hair, and unfolded laundry and simple meals. We all give things up in order to make time for what we see as important, and these choices, minute by minute, add up to who we are.
(Fancy Fox Quilt pattern by Elizabeth Hartman)