Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Creativity Book: Exercise 1b - Name Five Obstacles

The second exercise in Eric Maisel's The Creativity Book is to name five obstacles that prevent you from realizing your creative potential. Mine are pragmatism, focus, goal management, pain, and fear. For more detailed descriptions, please see click below.

1. Pragmatism. Cooking, cleaning, working to pay the bills, paying the bills, errands, and exercising all seem to be more important than realizing my creative potential. I try to do some of these activities creatively, for example cooking, and I do find some satisfaction in that. But when it comes to following through on projects that don’t rise to this to-do list of life, I have a hard time justifying the time, effort, and money outlay.

2. Focus. I have difficulty focusing on creative tasks. This is particularly challenging when what has to be done is something will take dedicated blocks of time, like machine quilting or binding. I put off this step in the creative process, so then I get a backlog of things that are all waiting for this step. Then I decide I can’t start anything else or work on anything else because then it will just wind up on the Waiting to be Quilted pile. So I freeze up and don’t do anything. I have a humongous pile at the design stage, a big pile at the quilting stage, and a pesky pile and the binding stage and I’m just sitting in the middle of my piles feeling scattered and unsatisfied.

3. Goal management. I started quilting because I like making art that I can give to my friends as gifts and I found friends don’t like 8 foot square paintings as gifts. But they don’t seem to mind 8 foot square bed quilts as gifts. Lots of other reasons too, but that’s the one that relates to goal management. Then I heard about Quilt National . . . and I wanted in. I have to watch this competitive aspect in me because I can quickly slip into Golem from Lord of the Rings mode (Quilt National, my precious) and no good comes of that (i.e., even if I get around to entering something, my chances of being accepted are very small, so then there’s that whole failure thing, and even if I get accepted, my chances of winning are even smaller, so then there’s that whole failure thing). Then all of my friends started breeding like bunnies and now I’m backed up six baby quilts and haven’t thought a thing about Quilt National for too long. But Quilt National is very art quilt focused, while my whole purpose in going into quilting was to make useful art. Can I make art and bedcovers at the same time? Can I make baby quilts in a timely manner and still have time for more ambitious projects?

4. Pain. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was diagnosed about a year after I started quilting. Does a stereotypically old lady art form cause stereotypically old lady diseases? Just kidding. Sort of. Anyway, my point is I can’t machine quilt for 15 hours straight like Mary Buvia. Some days I can’t do the requisite life to-do list, see above re: obstacle number one, without needing to rest, so expending energy on non-necessities seems impossible, though all the RA literature tells me to do just that. I am not entirely sure I can hand quilt or embroider at all anymore, even on good days. Cutting can be difficult. Hand sewing on bindings is really challenging what with maintaining the tension on the binding and the blind hem stitching. I tire easily and some days I’m in too much pain and on too much medication to operate heavy machinery, including my Bernina Aurora 440 QE. I don’t want to sound like I’m dying or anything. But this is a list of obstacles, not the list of how I’m working to overcome these obstacles. I bought Bernina to help me transition to machine quilting from hand quilting as a way to adapt to the RA, and that’s a huge help.

5. Fear. Lots of different kinds of fear. Most immediate is the fear that once I have kids I’ll have no time for creativity and my quilt studio will be converted to a bedroom, I’ll pawn my sewing machine, and the artist within will shrivel up and die. I speculate, wildly, that this happened to my paternal grandmother. She was an artist and she returned to it once she abandoned her family. But while she was actively mommying, all hell broke loose. Probably a lot of factors were at play there, not just her frustrated artistness. Unrelatedly, I also fear that people won’t like my work, either in a gift recipient way or a contest judge way. I’m not so fearful that people will critique my execution, because I can always learn from that and try different means of execution. But I’m fearful people just won’t like my concept, the more subjective aspect, which I’m not sure how to learn from. Tangentially, I'm also afraid that I have no idea what I'm doing with this whole quilting thing and no one has just come out and told me so. It's the Emperor's New Clothes fear. Like I'm going to bring a quilt in for show and tell and the whole guild is going to gasp and then laugh, in an at not a with way. Or even worse, they'll politely clap and let me keep walking through this life deluding myself that I can make quilts. I'll keep getting form rejection letters from quilt shows never knowing it's because I'm tragically bad, not just the best that didn't make the cut. Of course, I've never brought anything to show and tell and I've never entered anything for a show, and I've seen shows and I've seen my quilts and they are at least of the same genus, if not species, so this is really quite irrational. But it's there.

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