21 May, 2014

Slump

Wandering aimlessly and picking bits of thread of my shirt...
Moving, sorting, and removing piles of fabric...
Taking out old projects to fondle but then putting them away...
Packing up quilts to put in the cupboard because I don't need to see twenty of them laying around...
Blank sketchbooks...
Being way too interested in my daughter's Rainbow Loom...
Procrastinating on promised gifts and volunteer commitments...
Letting the clutter accumulate...

There isn't much sewing going on, other than the mindless nature of my hand sewing. Definitely no starting of anything. I am the major league hitter with a mid season slump.

Finishing the manuscript, I'm sure, has a lot to do with it. With the previous two books I had something to jump into as soon as it was done - like a new baby or the next book itself. So there wasn't any time to decompress or wallow. Just boom! And on to the next thing. Right now there is no next thing.

I've also had to make the very tough decision to back off teaching for a while. I'm still teaching, but I will not be travelling much for it in the next year or so. It was about to take off in a very good way, but that professional success came with personal sacrifices I wasn't quite willing to make. It is absolutely the right decision, but that doesn't make it easy to live with. I LOVE teaching and the travelling and meeting people... I will miss it for sure but am thankful for the local opportunities coming up.

Without a doubt the state of our house is getting me down. Personally, I can't stand clutter. But I live with 4 people who aren't bothered by it at all. They love me, but they can't quite get themselves to tidy up enough. I can nag more, but that won't do any of us any good. I stay on top of it as best I can, but the bitterness grows and the frustration peaks. Then, when I do buckle down for a good clean up I get cranky because I touch the broken cabinets, the tuck tape never coming off the wall, the unfinished bathrooms, the carpet remnants laying around. I try to keep my studio clean so that can be just my refuge. But still.

It used to never bother me that I have so many UFOs/WIPs, but that might be the problem. That is a form of clutter, after all. So I've got two quilt backs now made so those tops can go to a long armer. And I've puttered with a few of the projects to see if that helps. Fine and a little bit fun, good to keep the muscles moving. They aren't getting me super excited though. At some point I should get a bit more motivated and sort through them all while taking a good hard look in the mirror. What is going to get done and what is not? Then move on.

Regardless of the reasons, I'm itching to find my mojo again. 

A bit of it came back over the weekend. We took a gorgeous drive to a beautiful spot to spend the weekend with precious loved ones. I flipped through trashy magazines, stomped in the forest, taught the girls how to canoe, ate a lot of cheese, and obsessed over pregnant elks. Somewhere in there an idea for another book emerged. It was so invigorating to have that creativity spurt forth. And to know that I was still receptive to new ideas.

You see, I believe that we have to exercise our creative muscles and put the work in to keep us going, but that is no guarantee of creativity. It only makes sure we've left the doors and windows open for the butterflies. But if your butt isn't in the seat doing the work, the beautiful creatures will pass right by without you noticing. Creating isn't inspiration, it's work.

In this slump, however, I have been literally slumped over. Head down, moping, shoulders hunched, and eyes closed to the world. My muscles are working, no doubt about that, but I am not open to the space and forces around me. It's just too internal.

In the past I find that pushing myself for charity work is the way to opening up. It gets me out of myself. Thinking and doing for others. Right now I am still doing that though, as I try to wrap up the last Just One Slab quilts. Confession: even these feel like they are dragging me down right now. But I keep plugging away because they are more important than any of my own sluggishness.

It won't last forever, that I know. Sometime soon I will have something to show you. Even just voicing all this seems to be pulling my shoulders back. I've also identified a short list of my own suggestions for getting through.

- Keep sewing. Keep your muscles moving, your brain activated to the process.
- Finish something, anything.
- Take inventory of the WIPs, admit that you won't finish some and pass them on.
- Wash the windows, or get them washed. New light, clean light will highlight the path and let the butterflies in.
- Try a new technique.
- Give away a quilt, a finished quilt.
- Say no to a commitment.
- Get up early to sip tea and do nothing in the quiet morning light.
- Colour, paint, or create with your kids.
- Turn off the computer, walk away from Pinterest and Instagram
- Put away the inspirational stack of fabric you pulled out two years ago. 
- Sign up for a swap or bee.
- Take a road trip, even if just for the day.
- Have faith in yourself.

Do you have any other suggestions of your own to share?

For now I am enjoying my quiet mornings, even if they aren't all that productive. I'm working on a quilt that is a gift (I'll share when I'm done). I'm prepping for a round of teaching gigs and a family trip to Toronto. And I'm writing a proposal for a book I can't start for at least 6 months, but I've got to run with what is getting me excited. Summer is starting soon - the emerging blossoms (such a late spring) and energy of the kids is indeed invigorating. Today, today I will stand up a little straighter and keep my eyes open for butterflies.


28 comments:

Brenda said...

As a writer, I always find myself at a loss after a big project. so cut yourself some slack now that the big deadline pressure is off, and set yourself some little deadlines. every writer I know needs deadlines! what's your new book about?

Leanne said...

How about going out (or staying in too) dancing or to paintball or for a bike ride? I find that if I take the time to just be in this moment for a while that before I realize it I am inspired again. Turning off as much of the noise of daily living that is not part of this moment really helps. Dancing does too.

Barb said...

Been there, done that! Take a workshop, be inspired by others in the class! Learn something new! Summer will be invigorating, it has been a long winter for Calgary.

Cristina Hogarth said...

I love everything about this post. These are resounding echoes of my regular thoughts and feelings. Thanks for sharing with us, and being so honest.

Cathy Tomm said...

You know I have been there too. Each of us find our way out of the slump. I know playing with a stack of scrapes can help. Sometimes a new sketch book for some new ideas. I have found a couple of art exercises to do some are about writing were I have been, were am I at and were I want to go with my art. On Monday I made a post about my art.

Luch said...

Sorry to hear about your slump...but I really appreciate your list of suggestions! Sometimes, when I'm in a creative/productive slump, I find it helpful just to give myself permission to be there. I practice yoga and often my teachers talk about being aware and accepting of where you are without judgement/expectation...if I allow myself to feel sad/down/lazy it's ok because the feeling will pass (with time and those many suggestions!). Sipping tea in the morning sounds nice. Could be the weather's not helping...I don't know about Calgary, but in Edmonton, though it's nice today, it's been soooo slow to warm up that I'm feeling a bit unproductive these days.
Take care! Heather

M-R Charbonneau said...

It's like you are in my head! It's hard to take the opportunity to rest and regroup, but important to do so. Thank you for a great post!

Indexer said...

What works for me when in a creative slump is to rummage around in my fabric stash, re-sorting and trying out combinations. Sometimes I just cut strips to have ready for when inspiration strikes. I'm usually listening to a book on cd and the cats have snuck into my sewing room creating combos of their own. Often I see a fabric with new eyes and shazzam, a new idea arrives, fully formed.

BTW, you sure have lots going on for someone in a creative slump! Not to mention 3 kids!

Lisa J. said...

Cheryl you will have lots of opportunities to travel for teaching in the future. We will still be out here waiting for you. When I'm in a slump i usually try to knock off an easy project....but there is lots to be said for just taking a break as well..

Jude said...

the best cure for me when i have lost my mojo is to get out of myself to find myself. make a batch of cookies with the kids for the neighbors, take a meal to an elderly couple at church, help the boy scouts with a food drive, volunteer to help with some civic activity that i normally wouldn't do, etc. then the magic happens.....

liz said...

I love your honesty in sharing here Cheryl. I think you're human and have been doing an awful lot. Slumps are part of the natural rhythm, I would think. I love the suggestions you've already received to allow yourself to be in a slump, to find something else to do/focus on for now. REST is always a good one too - how about diving into a great book you've been wanting to read?

Cynthia said...

Hi I have been reading your blog for a little while now. I find it interesting and marvel at all you do, while raising a family. I had some time today in Indianapolis, IN. So I ventured out to a couple of quilt shops. In the second called backdoor quilts in Greenwood, IN I noticed your book," Sunday Morning Quilts" and had to pick it up. I'm enjoying reading it. Marvel in all you have accomplished.
Feel better.

Byrd said...

Clutter is a bummer, no doubt about it. This time of year, when we are all ready to get outside, that closed in feeling peaks. This will pass. In the meantime, I agree with what Liz says - dive into a great book. Take care, Pam

Kitty said...

Thank you for your openness and honesty. I think many crafters, even those of us without successful book deals ;), get into this slump. Your list of advice is SO great. It really resonates with me, and I'm sure many other quilters out there. Would you mind if I share the list of suggestions on my blog? I will of course link to your post. Also, I love your style and would love it if you'd consider joining our new facebook group called Late Night Quilters Club (if you're on facebook). It's a great place to post pictures of your projects, share tips and advice, or even just commiserate with others feeling the same way you are right now (and help jump start each other's mojo again)! I hope you find some butterflies!

Chrysanthemum said...

Having a good rant is therapeutic. There....didn't it feel good...
Here's a suggestion... Substitute sewing machine....:)
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/r/richieashb139776.html

Nell's Quilts said...

You're allowed to feel this way. Sometimes life just gets to us and we need to take a break and regroup. That's what you're doing and it's okay. Weather you realize it or not your post was very creative - poetic in nature. Your creativity hasn't stopped just taken a different turn. I've fondled fabric and looked through books for inspiration but right now nothing is talking to me. I've decided to take a few days off and read books I've had sitting on my shelf for a while. A change of pace. A time to refocus and re-energize and inspiration will come. Even Mother Nature takes a bit of a break in winter to let things rest and rejuvenate for the coming spring. Spring is just a little late coming this year. Have faith.

Sewing In CT said...

I was going to say what Luch said - Give yourself permission to feel the way you do. It's ok.
You have accomplished so much. It totally ok to take a rest.
If doing that doesn't work - go see your doctor. Recently I've been very off kilter and there was a reason for it. Like vitamin D deficiency. Nothing dramatic, entirely normal but there it is. I'd never have known if I didn't discuss it with my doctor.

liniecat said...

I imagine it must be an anti-climax when a book is completed but I'm pretty sure, us Creatives, have periods of lows, not exactly depressed, but subdued?
Maybe its a necessary balance for our creativity?
Clutter certainly does impede clear thoughts though!
Hell, my house is clutter central and Ive no one to blame but myself !
Fret not : )

Royal City Cooperative Preschool said...

Make a list. Tick- done! See? You feel better already :) Seriously, what you just did always gets me started.

the girlfriend gap said...

Setting the timer for 25 minutes seems to be my best friend and I have set one day, Monday , to work on something old and unfinished. I may not make great progress but on Monday I have to do something to move the project closer to the finish line. And I work on it first thing in the morning.
Remember Rest is part of the cycle of life . You were created to be creative.... it shall return.
As for the mess makers...
We use to pretend that Messy Martha made a surprise visit and left without cleaning up her mess.... then we'd have to help her clean it up. It seemed to lighten the clean up mood. Do you ever play beat the timer with your kids? I also use to have a basket called the clutter buster... One person was in charge of finding things that didn't belong in the room and put them away during a 10 minute tidy. Soon those messy Martha's will be grown and off to college. It doesn't last forever.

Being a mom takes a lot of energy
Take good care of yourself...

janita

Patti said...

I think it's natural to have these times of renewal. When I get them - having one now too - I just ride it out knowing that this too shall pass. Oh. And a little chocolate never hurts. :)

liz said...

I replied earlier but had to come back to echo:

"Weather you realize it or not your post was very creative - poetic in nature. Your creativity hasn't stopped just taken a different turn."

So true!

CitricSugar said...

You wouldn't be human if you didn't need a recharge, especially after those high volumes of input. If you never stopped or slowed ever, everything else would suffer terribly (including your work). Plus, we'd all secretly suspect you were on some sort of narcotic, or running a sweat shop in your basement, and let those destructive, post feminist-vacuum jealousies destroy our good opinions of you. Like Martha Stewart. :-)

house on hill road said...

Ah, Cheryl, I know this feeling well. Hang in there. It will pass. I find that if I just play for 20 minutes, it often turns into more and then the cumulative minutes progress into hours and I'm back at it. xo.

Anne said...

Your quilting mojo will come back full steam but in the meantime don't force it. I think the hardest thing is to sometimes just simply make ourselves take a break. Do something completely unrelated and let yourself relax. The inspiration can come in the most unlikely places as found with your day away in nature. I'm currently dealing with my own outside induced break due to unplanned emergency surgery. All is fine and I feel better but need to allow myself the time to relax and shed the "must do" list I always seem to have.

Andrea said...

You are human...ebb and flow. You've just been on such a surge, that downtime seems like a 'slump'. Sometimes that quiet space is good for you soul. It helps to fill your creativity again.

Suzanne said...

I really identify with being one who likes a less cluttered life. I appreciate your candor, Cheryl, and trust for myself what when I feel similarly that this too shall pass. Peace be with you.

Jasmine said...

I find reading quilt blogs helps me. I see what other people have finished, and it helps me to want to finish something. It is what helped me overcome postpartum depression.