Every family I think has their own special sayings. Once my DH got told that I made his life "too cushy". Yes, we repeat that one frequently. Usually with a smile. And I am sure we are not the only ones who have "cat alarm clocks"--they pounce on us at six in the morning to remind us that they want their breakfast NOW. One of my favorites though came from my step-son, when my DH had misplaced something one too many times. As he said, "You just need to have a system, D--a--a--d." You know how teen-agers can emphasize the word Dad.
It is a good point though. Systems work. Recently Lisa Call and I began exchanging blog posts on the systems that we use to get work done. Now, for those who don't know Lisa's work, she is a very successful quilt maker who writes a wonderful blog about how she makes her quilts. In a recent blog post, she advocated making todo lists so she knows exactly what she is going to do when she gets into the studio.
I responded that for me the lists were too limiting.http://annbrauer.blogspot.com/2010/11/opportunities-of-rejection.html I never know what will happen during the day--I just want to make sure I get something done. We agree that a dialogue would be interesting--what methods work for each of us?
Lisa begins the discussion with a wonderful blog post on how structure leads to creativity. http://blog.lisacall.com/2010/11/structure-leads-to-creativity Check it out--even the blog post shows how organized Lisa is. Basically her point is that if she has a plan for what she will do in the studio then she can just work when she is there rather than worrying about what to make. Lots of great hints as to how she works. What do you think?
I think about her posts--how do I proceed? Well, certainly my process is different--just like my circumstances are. I have been supporting myself making art quilts for 29 years. This is what I do. During this time I have gone from living by myself to marrying my wonderful DH. When I was single I would frequently work mornings and evenings and run errands during the afternoons. A regular schedule that gave me time to work and time for myself. I knew I could leave in the afternoon because I had already gotten something done.
About fifteen years ago, I got studio space in town. The town itself--Shelburne Falls--is a delightful tourist destination and while I don't get a lot of traffic through my studio, I try to be open regular hours. After all, I never know when the person who really wants to purchase a big quilt will show up. I have a found that these regular hours make it easier for galleries, designers and others to contact me. Oh I do love these set hours. I don't feel the guilt about working or not working that Lisa mentions--I just show up at work and then at 5 I leave.
I try to make it so I that I have to work when I am in the studio. No novels. No games. I can work on the Internet. Friends can visit--briefly--but I don't usually no long phone calls. I actually learned this technique from listening to authors on the radio--was it John Updike who said he had to sit by the typewriter for certain hours every morning even if he had nothing to say that day? Some authors force themselves to write even if they are going to tear it up at the end of the day. Others retype what they did the day before to get themselves going. I am constantly listening for more tips and try the ones that interest me.
I am a morning person--I like to get something done right away--it starts the day out right. Sometimes it is working on a new quilt. Sometimes it is packing an order or applying to a show. I just want that feeling of accomplishment for the rest of the day. By three I may have done as much sewing as I can for that day. Then I make potholders, placemats, fold fabric, vacuum. There is always something to do. Some days I get inspired at four--I start the project, leave myself notes. Still I almost always leave at five.
I just don't like to write it down. I don't do well with those strict charts--it makes me nervous and when I get nervous I don't get work done. Besides, what if the quilt does not cooperate? I try to remain calm--yes, I can solve this challenge or deal with that issue. Lists, charts make me feel less successful. Not good. Even when I have an order due, I may plan my schedule out in my head--calculate the number of rows of hand sewing I have to do, but rarely do I write it down. I just slog it out one stitch at a time. If I think about how much work I have to do, I get nervous--don't sleep well at night--then I get even less done the next day. Not a good approach.
I already have plenty to get nervous about as it is. There is my love-hate relationship with craft shows. Right now, I really don't want to drive down to the Washington Craft Show. It is a long drive down there and an even longer drive back home. My last long distance drive had far too many adventures to mention. The show may not even be that lucrative--ugh!!! When I get home, I will have to put the studio back together, go grocery shopping and get ready for Thanksgiving Dinner. Will I forget something? Will set-up and take-down go smoothly? What problems will I have to deal with? I try to go one step at a time--reminding myself I can deal with it. I need to sell quilts to make quilts. I love having orders and work to do. I enjoy the feedback I get from the customers browsing at the show. And of course I enjoy the energy of being around so many other great craftspeople.
Again I try to keep myself calm. I like to finish a big piece just before a show--not four days before a show, if you know what I mean. I look around the studio and try to figure out what will sell--these days, that is impossible to do. Work that I think should sell, doesn't. Work that I don't expect to sell does. A couple is planning to come to my studio to buy placemats on Tuesday. I am leaving for the show Wednesday morning--should I make more of those to replace what they may purchase? I think about it and decide--no. Placemats are fun, but not that fun. I can't anticipate what colors they will choose.
I look at the colors of quilts I have in stock--yes, there are colors I could use. But I am getting some back from a show, just after I return from Washington. I don't feel like making a quilt in the "right" colors. There is another piece I have been thinking of--now that excites me. I plan it in my mind. Not too much. I don't want the excitement to dissipate. Dark colors, greys. Dramatic. That should be fun. This morning I will go to the studio and start it--see where it takes me.
OK--that is my system. It is different from Lisa's just like our lives are different. Nothing wrong with that. The most important thing I think is to be aware of what works with you. Don't take my word for it--don't even take Lisa's. Try and see what works for you. Experiment with different systems until you are getting done the work that you want to get done.
And now I must get to work. This dialogue is fun. It reminds me of a poetry slam. Did you hear the discussion on Here and Now about the poetry slam in Chicago. Each trying to bring his or her best "game" to the competition. It was wonderful--check it out--http://www.hereandnow.org/2010/11/rundown-114-3/ No, I didn't answer all of Lisa's points--working in series will be another blog post. And you, how do you work? Feel free to comment--even create your own blog post. Let's keep the dialogue going. I know I am always hunting for more tips and methods.