As many people do, I chose a guiding word for 2016. I have done this in the past with varying degrees of success and really was unsure if I wanted to go down that path again this year. Then I figured, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I set about choosing a word. Or, maybe more precisely, a word chose me. It popped in my head and would not get out. It reappeared again and again. Every time I thought about a guiding word for the year ahead, this was the word that came to mind. It was not the word I wanted, but it was a persistent little bugger. I stopped fighting it and embraced that word. That word? WORK.
I tried and tried to come up with something different. Really, I did. Work has a negative connotation for so many people. It can sound like soul-sucking drudgery and the exact opposite of fun and relaxation. There are certainly many examples of that kind of work – cleaning toilets and doing taxes come to my mind. BUT! There is a positive side to work, especially fulfilling, creative work. And that is the work that I am talking about.
It's no secret that I like to make things. Obviously. This blog is a testament to my making. I sew. I knit. I cook. I bake. I crochet. I paint. I garden. I even sometimes write. I make, plain and simple. And I love making. I do. My day is better for it. My heart is happier when my hands are busy and my mind is working and I am creating.
Yet, I have never approached my making with an attitude of work, where the making itself becomes more job-like with specific studio hours or long-term goals. Rather, my making has always been born from my heart. If I want to make it, I generally do. If I don't, I don't. I can go weeks without picking up a pair of scissors and cutting into fabric. My sewing machine has sat idle for long periods of time. There is a benefit of making in this way. It is almost always satisfying and filled with excitement. Each project is fresh and new and full of possibilities. It is free of time constraints and deadlines. If it becomes boring or no longer fun, I can choose to let it sit, or maybe even to let it go. And all of this is fine and good. It is creative and it is making and it fulfills me.
Until, it doesn't.
I find it very easy to let life and living get in the way of making. I'm talking about the every day demands on time and energy that we all face. Most of these things are good things – family! friends! cooking! exercising! traveling! – and I certainly don't want to come off as not appreciating the wonderful life that I am blessed with. I enjoy spending time with my loved ones and taking care of them and the things (groceries, pets, gardens, even paying the bills) that need attending to. But, I also really enjoy making. It fills my soul and gives me a happy heart. I have just come to the realization that when faced to choose between the two, I am more apt to wait until everything else and everyone else is taken care of before I tend to myself and my creativity. As a result, I suffer and everyone around me suffers. Happy wife, happy life? No one is happy unless Mom is happy? Yeah, that.
Why make the distinction? "Work" and "make" are both words that imply action, but they are different. Making is about creating something. Work is creating something, too, but, for me, it means showing up and putting in the time even when I may not feel like it. It's about taking my creativity and prioritizing it just as I would any paying job. It's about exerting effort and holding myself accountable to allow time to make. It's about taking the inspiration and running with it and going through the motions when inspiration doesn't show up. It's about practicing, maybe failing, picking up the pieces and coming out on the other side. It's about being available to myself so that when the light bulb goes off and inspiration calls, I am in the practice of working. If I can do that, then when inspiration asserts itself, I can respond to it and make, make, make. If I am lucky, at the end, I will have made something beautiful and I will be creatively fulfilled. I really can't ask more than that.
I have more thoughts on this, but I think I will save them for another post. I leave you with this needle turned applique pillow that I made over the course of the weekend. The pattern is from Carolyn Friedlander's new class, Hand-Stitched Applique Quilts, on Creativebug and all of the fabrics are Cotton and Steel. Cut out on Friday night, I basted it and started the applique on Saturday. I finished up the hand sewing just as the Oscars started Sunday night. Monday I sandwiched and quilted the front, cut the back pieces and inserted a zipper before assembling and hand binding the whole thing. Tuesday it went in the mail to someone I have never met, but needed an angel in a pillow swap on Instagram. I loved sewing this! It really didn't feel like work even though that is exactly what it was.