Tuesday, November 11, 2014

how to get over our fear of time

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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.


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(Fancy Fox Quilt pattern by Elizabeth Hartman)

19 comments:

Franziska said...

On some days I enjoy the creative time and just sew or craft and let my thoughts flow. On other days I'm frustrated because I seem to be so slow and not getting 10 things done like others do. Also sometimes I just don't see any skill progress. Sometimes I craft just for fun and am able to be not perfect. Often I abandon projects that take too long instead of finishing and start something new. I often hesitate to start something big because it will take a lot of time. But when I'm at it I enjoy crafting.
Oh, and I choose a non vacuumed for being crafty, too. ;)

dottiedoodle said...

I've just listened to your podcast with Elise - so interesting, thank you. I agree it's so important to celebrate the process - and progress. When we bought our puppy we were told she would 'settle down' when she was two. But actually it's gone in leaps - oh, she doesn't climb the curtains any more, she's stopped barking at sparrows... I try to think of my creative process in the same way!

Cindi Brumpton said...

I no long have any desire to multi-task. Even a few minutes of crafting a day is soothing. I rarely watch tv without knitting!

Carla said...

Amen! I don't shy away from big projects. It's about the process and dreaming of the finished product : )

A little bit of quiet said...

Amen to that! It's all (big or small) therapy to me! :)

Emily McCord said...

I just discovered your blog and am amazed by your lovely quilts. I'm so inspired that you were able to pick up a hobby and excel at it as an adult. Sometimes I'm discouraged because I'm not super crafty or artsy and don't have experience, but your blog gives me new hope!;-) Also, this post was immensely touching. Thanks!

Emily McCord
The Orange Slate (http://www.theorangeslate.com)

Jodi @ Tickle and Hide said...

I loved reading your thoughts, Astrid! I remember growing up bemoaning the fact that my parents never pushed me in any creative endeavour, and joking about how I was going to force my kids to play piano so they could enjoy it as adults. :) I took up sewing at 30 because I longed for creative expression and was frustrated with my drawing and music skills. And it's fun being at a level of competence now where I can make lots of things I like, but still have a lot to learn. There's still much time (expecially if I keep putting off the laundry! ) to grow and make and tell stories and be in the now. X

Loreal said...

That's beautiful, Astrid. Thank you.

Andy said...

I was not sure where my comment about your fox quilt went but I was wondering if you make them to sell. I think that my sister would love one for my nephew in boyish colors

bbrock said...

The quilting and piecing on your Foxes quilt is beautiful! I got distracted by your beautiful work, so will have to go back and re-read your blog posts!

Stephanie said...

This quilt is beautiful! Any chance you would share where the fabric came from?!

barfgreen said...

Thanks for this fantastic, thoughtful post, and for sharing your beautiful quilt. As a blogger who also loves one colour a little bit more than all the others, I'm looking forward to reading much more here :)

Vermont Grand View Farm said...

Such a lovely post and message. Just this week I found myself moaning that "I just want to make something....nice." Nice by whose standards you ask? Yes, I have been comparing myself to those more experienced than I. Thank you for your words of encouragement.

hardknitlife said...

I am often asked about the time and effort that it takes to create a gift for someone, and I often find myself not telling people the truth about it. So many people cannot believe I would freely and unsolicited take hours and hours to knit something for someone, so I don't tell people the real time and I just say it was was knit with love. It's a process of love and creativity and I think that my time spent creating something I love for someone I love is (hopefully) appreciated :)

Tac Urga said...

Love this post <3 It really got me thinking about the way I look at big projects lately.

What color thread did you use for your top quilting? It looks amazing!!

Bethe said...

I agree whole heartedly! Quilting is something that brings me joy and helps me to relax, so I relish the 30-ish hours it takes me to complete each one. That's my "me" time, and I'm usually listening to podcasts or books on tape, so my mind is occupied and my hands are making something beautiful. Things that take a long time become that much more meaningful! (However, it's also why when someone flippantly says, "I'd love to hire you to make me a quilt" I have to patiently explain how long that takes and why it is so expensive for me to charge someone for my time. It's why we should value our quilts highly - because they represent such labors of love.
www.texaslovely.com

Jenn4653 said...

I absolutely love this post! Today everyone is so "right now!" I love quilting and immensely enjoy my time making pretty things.

Amanda Fagan said...

Wonderful post! I feel such a disconnect when people say, "How long did that take you? Oh, my God, I would NEVER have the patience!" My response is: "I love it. This is what I enjoy doing." I don't quilt for the end product, though I LOVE having my end products. I quilt for the journey, because it's how I choose to spend not only my "extra" time but whatever time I can steal away from everything else that I'm "supposed" to be doing. People never act as though reading a novel is some chore I accomplished. I can't comprehend how anyone could think quilting is a chore!

Kim B. said...

This is a beautiful, thought-provoking post. (I landed here after following a Pinterest pin of your black PLUS quilt with the book In the Woods. Absolutely love that quilt.) What you have to say here is SO important.

I spent some time yesterday making a pillow back. Just a pillow back, but it's important because I so often make bad choices - too much time on the couch looking at Facebook or other silly stuff on the internet instead of 30 minutes here or there doing something to CREATE. I want to be so much more mindful of this. I'm going to have to mark this post and come back to it when I need inspiration!

Thank you.