Building Creative Muscles

In order to grow and improve in skill and creative flow, practice is critical. This we know. But practice is hard, my friends. We’re all busy. Dang, the suburbs are crazy with the busy-ness they conjure. Life in the twenty-first century is a lot of things, and topping the list is busy. Can I get an amen?

There are a thousand things conspiring to keep us from practicing that thing which keeps our soul alight. Work. School. Family. Volunteering. Commuting. Sleeping. Being busy is exhausting.

So, then how do we practice?

Since my return to quilting a few months ago, I’ve loosely held a goal of sitting down just a few minutes every day. I used to think that quilting was something to be done in large blocks of time, a luxury not experienced in my new season of motherhood. My days of uninterrupted solitude had passed, and so I thought my quilting days were gone as well. But when I realized how important quilting and creating is to my soul, I also realized it only takes a few minutes to make an impact. “Just do something” I tell myself. You don’t have to finish anything, or even make any real progress. Just practice. This is tops for my list of new habits to embrace in 2017. #15minutesaday.

When we decided, rather spontaneously, to spend several weeks this fall, driving to Arizona and back, I worried about keeping up my creative practice. A sewing machine and stack of fabric isn’t exactly RV friendly. At least it didn’t fit well into our little RV with our two little kids.

So I improvised.

sketchingQuilting is a multi-faceted art form. It can be done quickly, with the main goal being simply to finish. That’s fine, I worked that way for a while when I started quilting. But that’s not where my heart has been this time around. This time, I can’t seem to leave a pattern well enough alone as I incorporate tweaks and edits to make the thing my own. Where I was once content to run a quick meander and call a project finished, now I’m much more interested in letting a top breathe and finding just the right motif to complement the piecing. But this motif-style quilting isn’t something I have much experience working in, so I’ve been reading and sketching and studying different styles. This is how I kept my flow going while we drove.

Across the plains, from sea to shining sea (just kidding, we didn’t actually make it to the ocean, but I’m pretty sure we saw all the plains), I sketched and traced and read tips from the pros. All in the name of muscle memory and training my eyes, hands, and brain to see and feel a new set of motions. I have visions of wildly quilting my future projects, but when it comes to laying thread to fabric…call me chicken.

Practice can take many forms.

My friends, it’s working! I have miles to go, I suppose I’ll never be an Angela Walters, but compared to the lazy stipple routine I had been comfortable with for so long, I’ve come a long way, baby! By hyper-focusing on the shapes and rhythms of this particular facet, I’ve gained new confidence and forward momentum. So there you go…just practice.

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