Elena wrote back to tell us a little more about her situation. From her comment and her blog, it seems that it takes her a long time to make quilts because she’s doing small projects and samples (a good idea) and because her major work sits on the design wall for a long time while she tries to decide what to do next. And she admits to procrastination.
I don’t want to urge people to rush ahead and finish quilts before they know what they want to do. And I have had work on my design wall for months myself. But while I’m waiting for inspiration, I tend to work on other things.
I know there are artists who like to work on only one thing till it’s finished, then move on to the next thing. Perhaps it helps them focus, and gives them an incentive to get through the tedious work (no dessert till you finish your vegetables). But that’s not the way my head works.
I like to do something every day. It helps me maintain the discipline of regular work because I know that even if I’m blocked on Project A for a bit, I can work on Project B or C. Sometimes you’re blocked for creative reasons – you don’t know what to do next. Sometimes you’re blocked for technical reasons – your sewing machine is in the shop, or you can’t get more of the red fabric till Monday morning. Sometimes you’re blocked for personal reasons – you’re exhausted and overworked from your day job, or you’re under emotional stress, or you’re feeling sick and can’t concentrate enough for major decisions. In any case, I think you need a fallback plan so you can keep working and not lose your momentum. Otherwise, you may fall into the trap that Elena may be in – when she’s blocked, she doesn’t work. So of course it takes her months to finish a quilt.
If this is in fact one of the issues that Elena has, then perhaps she could move herself along by developing two or three tasks to do while she’s waiting for her fabric to talk to her. For instance, maybe she could have a not-important top available to practice free motion quilting. Or she could allow herself to start another piece and work on two more or less simultaneously.
I once attended a workshop with my sensei Nancy Crow in which one of the other participants had accomplished nothing after several hours of "work". She was fussing over a piece on the design wall, making minuscule changes every half hour or so and not moving along (which is a big problem at an intensive workshop where you’re expecting to make major progress during the week).
Nancy told her to start five pieces and put them all up on the design wall. She was to work on the first piece till she hit a block, and then was immediately to put that piece back on the wall, take down the second piece and work on it. It was OK to realize that she couldn’t make the decision right now, but it was not OK to stop working. By the end of the week, she had managed to work herself out of her funk and made a good quantity of acceptable work.
In the past I occasionally got myself through periods of emotional stress by having totally mindless things that I could do at the sewing machine. Sewing was my therapy, my time to go into my room and work on something comforting, but I wasn’t up to serious thinking. So I sewed bits and pieces into 2 1/2 inch squares and put the squares into a box. Eventually I had several thousand of them, and I made a quilt. At the time, just making a few squares of an evening was all I could manage, but it did give me something to do and I could feel I had accomplished something.
Suggestion #1 to Elena: when you’re stalled on a project, work on something else.
Suggestion #2 comes tomorrow.