Did someone say, ‘creative anxiety’? This is the story of a little quilt with a big heart…
It is hard to believe that it is May and I am only now sharing something new for 2020 here on the blog! This mini quilt was the very last project I made in 2019. I was struggling to adjust to a new home and a new way of living and I was hurting from some negative comments made to me about my creative process, and this quilt was my way of reminding myself that sometimes you have to give yourself permission to shine bright and be the best version of yourself despite what is going on around you.
Creative Anxiety & The Influence of others
Each of us is born with a light within us that makes us unique and gives character to our personality. Embracing the light and sharing it with the world can be daunting, but it is also rewarding when you discover it connects you with other like-minded individuals and gives fuel to your creative self.
Unfortunately, there are always people who don’t appreciate your light, and I think it is important to put this negativity into perspective and remind ourselves how detrimental it can be to let the influence of other people heighten our creative anxiety.
Of course, it is often easier to process this idea intellectually than it is to come to grips with it emotionally, and getting our thoughts and our feelings in sync can be difficult. It’s hard to dismiss the opinion of some people, but often it is necessary.
Creative anxiety can become damaging when you let yourself believe what other people think matters more than what you know to be true about yourself. The judgement of others can give you a sense that you don’t matter and that your voice is not important.
As a creative and often sensitive person, it can be difficult to truly believe that these negative naysayers are in fact of no truthful significance whatsoever. Learning to ignore the negativity, trust your creative instincts and embrace your unique talents are the steps you need to correct your motivational ship as it drifts off course in a sea of anxiety.
The Search For Motivation
Although this mini quilt was designed to help me process my own self-doubt, I still let my anxieties overwhelm me, and I have been in a creative limbo for some time. It has been 5 months since I made this quilt and shipped it off for publication, and in that time, I have struggled to be confident in my creative process. Only now, after months of uncertainty has the tide turned and motivation returned.
If you find yourself in a place where you are emotionally or creatively drained, then motivation is the first thing to disappear. It’s normal – don’t despair!
A couple of years ago I shared ‘5 ideas to help you feel motivated’ over at A Diary of A Quilter. These tips are the exact practices I have been putting into action over the past few months to help reignite my own motivation. While these ideas are not a miracle cure that give instant relief, they do work. (Check out the link to learn more!)
It’s important to Start Where You Are
At any given time, you might encounter something in your life that causes stress and results in creative resistance. When we stop creating and lose our sense of motivation there is always a reason behind it.
The key is to recognise what might be causing the stress and with this in mind take SMALL steps to regain your motivation. Consider physical exercise – if you haven’t done it in a while the very last thing that will be good for you is to force yourself to do a high intensity workout. All you will accomplish is immediate burnout and an inability to move your muscles in the morning! The smart thing to do is to take it slow and build up your stamina and strength – this analogy is undoubtedly true when it comes to sustaining motivation.
I can’t tell you how many times I have walked into my studio and just sat there not doing anything specific at all. But with time and discipline I have slowly been spending more energy in my creative space and feeling more at home there, and most importantly, more excited about the possibility of creating!
It has been difficult trying to reignite the joy that once came so freely to me when surrounded by fabric and thread, but because I know it exists within me, I persevere, and I remind myself that time and awareness are wonderful gifts that heal many anxieties. Patience is also a key part of the process!
Taking A Break versus Creative Courage
I shared some thoughts on creative courage here. Creative courage is necessary in the midst of creative work, but sometimes it also takes courage to recognise where you are at and temporarily put yourself in a holding pattern.
As creative people we only feel truly whole when we create. But if you are going through a time in your life where your mental energy is diverted from creativity you may need to give yourself permission to take a break.
When you are ready, put yourself back to work by easing into it and endeavour to make small consistent progress over time.
Some Tips on Making the Pattern
Colour, value and contrast are what makes this mini quilt truly shine!
This pattern is successful if you focus on creating alternate patterns of light and shade. Block A has a dark diamond and a light background and block B is the opposite. Alternating these blocks throughout the quilt gives the quilt greater depth and the appearance of a little sparkle 🙂
Lay out your pieces on a design wall or floor and test placement before you stitch the units together to ensure you are creating good contrast and colour placement throughout the quilt.
Some Final Thoughts
Anxiety and the creative process very much go hand-in-hand. Making decisions about which pattern to make, which fabrics to choose, what parts of the process to share on social media, which projects to prioritise, etc. etc. all create a degree of anxiety. But unfortunately, creative anxiety can be exacerbated when combined with the anxieties of our everyday life and external influence.
As we all struggle with this new reality of living in a world with Covid-19, stress is inevitable. So, if your creative habit has been impacted by this global pandemic or by any other personal issue, you may benefit from giving yourself a little creative grace for the time being.
It is important to remember though that you need a safety net that encourages you to eventually re engage with the creative process and when you are ready, then do the work to make it happen. Knowing that you will be creative again sets you on a path to what may be a new, more meaningful way to unleash your creative potential.
If you have been struggling to reignite your creativity after some time away from your craft, you are not alone. While the road back to our creative self is not always easy, it can be achieved if we remember the product of our mind and the work of our hands are inexplicably linked to our creative potential. Framing our creative thoughts in a glow of positivity is a vital step to getting back to what makes our heart happy.
And as the Homespun Magazine motto clearly states – your heart is in your hands!
We got this!!
Let’s realign our anxious thoughts and when the time for us feels right, get back to creating and making our world a beautiful place to be 🙂
Your quilt is beautiful and so perfect. It is hard to believe that you would have any doubts about yourself. Sounds like you are an amazing person.
Thanks for sharing this story and I really understand, as I’ve had a similar experience several times. I’m glad I’m not alone and have signed up for your newsletter. Found your site through BHQ newsletter and missed meeting Alyce this year at AQC. I’ll have a browse at your site a little later. Take care and stay safe in these trying times.
I have just been re-reading some of your older posts and guest posts on Diary of a Quilter’s blog regarding motivation and creativity. I just came across your most recent post. I’m so sorry you have had some negative comments impact you in this way. That is terrible and so sad that some people feel the need to try and tear other people down with negativity. You are very talented and create beautiful projects! I love seeing your gorgeous projects and hearing the story and more of the details behind them. I find it refreshing and thought provoking to read your deeper thoughts on the topics of creativity and motivation. With the world in such turmoil right now, the last thing any of us need is more to stress or feel worried about. So please, keep on being brave and creating and sharing. I am one (of many I’m sure), who appreciate your contribution! Kind regards, Kelly
Theresa Davey says
Such good advice. I really like your patterns.
Thanks so much !
Susan Pence says
This was a very very helpful tip – Lay out your pieces on a design wall or floor and test placement before you stitch the units together to ensure you are creating good contrast and colour placement throughout the quilt.