Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Get Back on the Creative Track (and Out of That Rut You’re In!)

Lately, I’ve found myself stymied. I do the same-old, same-old things with my quilts and it's really frustrating! I want to break out and do the innovative and artistic quilts I envision in my head—but somehow life, my lack of space and okay, yes, my self-doubts, get in the way. I find myself not starting projects, even though I’ve bought the fabric, pattern and notions. I find myself dreading the quilting, afraid I’ll screw up a quilt I’ve come to love during cutting and piecing. I find myself making false starts with projects, yet never actually sewing a stitch. Who knew creativity came with such a price?

I asked therapist Charlotte Kasl, PhD, author of If the Buddha Got Stuck: A Handbook for Change on a Spiritual Path, about why people get stuck and she told me it’s often because they can’t handle the anxiety that comes with trying something new—and not being perfect right off the bat. But these are just negative thinking patterns we’ve learned, she says. We’ve got to fight these thoughts by replacing them with empowering statements, saying “I can do it” instead of “I’ll just screw it up.” Because as the old saying goes, where there is a will, there is a way.

Boosting Your Creative Power
Creativity isn't for sissies. You've got to put in the effort--even pros have practiced their craft for years and learned to keep going in the face of challenges. (By the way, Malcolm Gladwell's new book Outliers emphasizes this point. He says practicing something 10,000 times is what turns people like the Beatles and Bill Gates into mega-successes.) For starters, try some of the following strategies for pulling yourself out of a creative rut.

1. Approach a project from a new angle. Start in a different way than you usually do—at the side of a quilt rather than the middle, for instance. Or buy embellishments for a garment first, matching fabrics second. “Start the process differently and you’ll create a bigger space for yourself to work in,” says Diane Ericson, a California fabric artist and creativity coach (

2. Go back to the beginning. Try some basic techniques—if you're a quilter, sewing straight 1/4" seams and practicing your points can be therapeutic (and makes perfect, too).

3. Start each creative session with a practice piece. This might be a small postcard, a sampler, or simply a test scrap of material that you practice sewing your name on. But play for a few minutes to switch out of your role in daily life and into your role as a creator.

4. Organize your space and supplies. We know cleaning is far from tops on your list of things to do, but tidying your workspace and moving stuff around may help you to see projects differently. Decluttering can wipe out the cobwebs in both your craft space and your head.

5. Make an excitement list. What attracts and fascinates you? What colors, what techniques, what styles? Excitement and passion are where creativity begins, says Gail McMeekin, MSW, a Massachusetts creativity coach and author of the inspiring book, The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women. (Go to her site at

6. Meditate, take a walk, do some yoga, bake a cake—whatever relaxes you. Performing stress-reducing activities can help you flip the switch to a more creative state of mind and think through creative roadblocks. Even closing your eyes and breathing deeply for a few minutes can work wonders.

1 comment:

Janet Whitehead said...

Oh! A kindred spirit! I, too, am an advocate for the many gifts that comes with accessing our creative selves! Your book looks intriguing.

Sometimes to kick start a new idea or project.. I have to go so far as to leave home, plan some uninterrupted time away, and take only my creative mediums, or take only a medium I have never used before. It's like allowing a time frame that won't be interrupted by stops and starts of daily life, is just what I need to really get a new concept rolling.

Looking forward to reading your blog.. creatives really need to know they are not alone in the world! Somehow things feel so much better just by knowing that others have similar experiences... and that no, as matter of fact, you're not crazy, after all!