Thursday, January 27, 2005

The vision, frustrated...

I came to a realization today. Here's a common process for me: I have an idea that really excites me, with a pretty clear vision of what I want to do and where I want to go with a piece. I crave the time to get started, and am excited when I finally am able to jump in. I start, and work happily for a while until I'm well into the piece. It starts looking what I envisioned, roughly... but not quite.

Frequently, at this point, life interrupts. The day ends, family needs beckon, "real" work rears its ugly and demanding head, and I have to stop to attend to things. My piece sits, mid-progress, on the design wall. It's enough like what I want to do that it's encouraging me, but it's also UNlike my vision enough that it's vaguely frustrating.

Here's the place where, very easily, I can stall the project. My discipline is variable enough that at times I push on, and I'm happy with the end other times, I'm, well, just stalled. No interest in continuing, the excitement that got me started has waned, and the thing looks plain stupid and uninteresting up there.

There are times when I need to mull things over. A solution isn't immediately apparent, but letting the piece percolate in my mind will eventually give rise to the decision about what to do next. But, at other times, I just lose connection to the piece and don't have much interest in going further.

Sometimes, the basic fact of a deadline for a challenge or specific deadline is what pushes me forward to finish it. And I'm always pleased that I did push forward to do the work to finish it. This middle stage is where things look worst...the piece is well enough defined to vaguely satifsy that initial creative impulse, but it's far enough away so that it's not good.

So, here's my revelation. I either have to use challenges or other external deadlines to push me to finish things, or I have to impose the discipline on myself to just keep working on the piece until it's done. I think it's been too easy for me to let myself stall on a project that I liked at the outset, and I have to pay attention and not let myself do that.

This doesn't sound like a major revelation, does it? It sounds like common sense. I know. You're thinking, "well, DUH." Well, today I started a piece I've been thinking about for months. I spent several happy hours working on it, so that it's at a place where it's beginning to look like what I envision. But I had to stop for family life--and I know that it's going to be a few days, at least, before I have a chunk of time to work on it again. I can already feel the excitement starting to fade.

I'm not sure if the solution is to NOT put it on my wall, so I'm happily surprised when I put it up again in a few days...Or if I should leave it up with the idea that it'll keep me thinking about how to achieve the look I want. For now, it's up. And maybe I can steal a few hours tonight to keep moving forward.

Maybe this blog will keep me honest!


  1. Diane,

    An older, experienced quilter told me, when I was beginning back in the early '80s, that all quilts go through an "awkward" stage about 1/2 way through their construction. Since I was teaching jr. high school students at the time, we called this time the adolescent years.

    However, like you, I often see a project at the part way point (or at the end of a day) and get that niggling little feeling that it's NOT what I imagined. And if I let it sit, I often leave it.

    Like you, I'm hoping that this blog process will help to keep me honest. So let's work together at this.

    BTW, what are you working on now?

  2. I agree with Dar.
    Also it helps me to finish something even if I am not thrilled with what is happening. A finished so-so piece is better than nothing and it proves that I am working. Just because my vision isn't fullfilled with that piece, doesn't mean it doesn't have a value. Recently I have sold two such pieces. The owners saw something that I didn't and I am convinced that giving those works their 'lives' was a good thing for all of us.

  3. Perhaps I'm weird, but...

    Yes, I have occasional pieces that take a sharp left turn about midway through the journey, but it doesn't usually dismay me. It's like writing a novel. You can plot what will happen to a character in great detail, and then the character comes to life on the page and starts saying his own words and doing things you never would have imagined.

    In such cases, whether verbal or visual, I stand back in delight and watch my "creation" take off in its own direction.

    The finished piece is always, always stronger for it.

  4. Oh, sing it, Sister, sing it!!! Every word you wrote is the same angst i go through with my work too! I *need* deadlines, i thrive under pressure and i crave tension filled days and sleepless nights to finish things---well, that's damn close to what it feels like...Hallelujah,Ain't that the truth, Amen, Sister!