Believe it or not, I have actually completed the design of my legacy quilt. The quilt that will tell my story. The quilt that will be the patchwork that I apply and follow all of the tenets of The Slow Stitching Movement.
It wasn’t easy. Sometimes, however, easy or not, you just have to begin.
The Key to My Beginning Slow Stitch Creativity
I think the key to my beginning my ‘Important Quilt’ lays in the process of spontaneous and visceral writing exercises. Again, intuitive writing is not my idea. I have, throughout the years, read several books on intuitive writing and automatic writing (Automatic writing and intuitive writing are different. Automatic writing is a kind of goofy and airy/fairy and New Agey unbelievable writing) and how it affects your creativity. And I gave it a shot, on and off over the years — mostly off — until it became too painful to be creatively bottled up.
It wasn’t that I wanted to write every morning. It wasn’t like I wanted to get up earlier than I had to, pen and paper in front of me, and pour out whatever came to my mind without thinking first. Who, in their right mind would want to do that?
It’s just that I really had no choice. I knew on some very deep level that if I didn’t get my ass in gear and start working on the development of my innate creative self, I might have nothing more to offer. That doesn’t mean, that I couldn’t make dozens of quilts, by pattern books for ideas, or push out mediocre crap. I could do all of that, but that wouldn’t make me creative, would it? By my mind, that would only make me someone who knew how to write or read a pattern that I could put together with one arm tied behind my back. I wanted more than that for myself. I want to make a quilt, a piece of art, that would leave a legacy. I expect and demand more from myself. I deserve more for myself.
Yeah, I had no choice but to roll my fat bottom out of bed, grab some ink, and start processing what was going on in this often empty, jumbled or confused, noggin of mine – every single morning before I do anything else.
One of the books that I found my answers to my creative process and courage to begin, and a book that gently propelled me forward, was John Lee’s; “Writing from the Body: For writers, artists and dreamers who long to free their voice
I have tried to get in touch with my creativity before through writing. Until I began writing longhand pages, 3 pages a day, as suggested by Julia Cameron in her book, “The Artists Way: a Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” I saw very little growth i any part of my life. I felt little inspiration or clarity in anything… Most especially when I attempted to write my feelings, fears, dreams, experiences, expectations and/or charting my creative process on my computer keyboard. It just didn’t work. It had to be written in longhand.
In The Artist’s Way, Cameron stresses that what she calls ‘morning pages’ is nonnegotiable. Look, if you’re creative, you want to negotiate everything and you want to take control. Sometimes it just doesn’t work and, in the case of intuitive writing, it’s all about letting go and discovering your creative process – both in your writing and then reflected in your stitching.
I follow Julia Cameron suggestions of morning pages.
According to Cameron, “Put simply, the morning pages are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness: ‘Oh, God, another morning. I have nothing to say. I need to wash the curtains. Did I get my laundry yesterday? Blah blah blah…’ they might also, more ingloriously, be called brain drain, since that is one of their main functions.”
Here’s an example of what I had written in my daily pages (unedited and a little nasty — so skip the italicized AQUA TEXT if cursing offends you ). And to be honest, I never ever EVER go back to reread what I have written (having to transcribe this for you is the very first time). Once I put it all out on paper, all my mind junk, it’s over. I don’t even remember writing any of this. It doesn’t mater. The benefits of writing it come to me. Rereading is like wallowing in your own crap. Spit it out, close your notebook or throw away or shred the pages you just wrote, and allow your creative life to unfold.
“I didn’t sleep well last night. And I have no idea what to write this morning. Everything seems to be going well and I’m just drawing a blank as to what is important and what is not important. I hate writing these pages some days because I just can’t think of anything to write. Doesn’t matter onward I write. My coffee sucks. I tried cinnamon flavoring and extract and it tastes like medicine. So far I’m off to a good start. Happy I’m not the only one who can suffer a group meeting burnout. I have to admit I am liking the journaling or whatever this is. I need to do some writings on some daily readings, too, I think. I’m thinking about the Al-Anon meeting that I attended the other night and boy what pain are in those rooms. I guess that will be my turn to speak at some point and I think I would like to talk about The Promises. I kind of feel like a fraud because I don’t have any drug or alcohol issues in my family. What will they think of me when they find out? Do I really give a shit? I’m there for me and not for them anyway. Being there for them, I guess, is just a benefit of my being there for myself. Showing up is what counts. Showing up for myself is what counts, to. I have a hard time with that. I care too much about what everybody fucking thinks instead of what I think. Too often I let their opinions tell me what I’m supported to think. Fuck that. But how to change it? What else is going on? I think I’d like to paint the color of my office a different color. I like yellow but I think I’m tired of it. I also need to get rid of a lot of should in this office. I’m being drowned in books. Most of them suck anyway. Sometimes I hate writing this shit. . . “
You see, I started out not knowing what to write that morning in November and within a couple of lines I wrote about a lot of different things. It wasn’t long before I had three pages finished that morning, full of a lot of things that were not necessarily related that seemed to magically bubble up to the top of my consciousness. Some of it makes no sense. Some of it isn’t valid. Some of it is an exaggeration. Some of it was just because I was tired and cranky. In the end, all of that was helpful to getting in touch with my creative self and freeing my creativity.
That’s what I’m asking of you. Write. Even if you have never written anything more than your address on a job application while you were in high school. Write. Don’t worry about capitalization or punctuation or paragraphs. Write. Don’t worry if you sound like an idiot or you can’t spell every other word, pay no attention to how pretty or nice the pages look when you’re finished. Write.
For some of us, the creativity begins the flow almost immediately once we put down our pens. For others, you might not feel anything for weeks or even after months of daily writing. But one day, a small part of your creativity will be awakened. Or, like me, you will think you know it all and will stop writing. Only then you will feel the incredible loss and will find yourself picking up your 3-pages-a-day habit again. Then, subtly, or not so subtly, you will find yourself being more open to your own creative process and the inspiration around you.
Here’s the notebook in which I faithfully write my morning pages (Of course, I blurred the words! If I don’t read my own unconscious thoughts, there is no way I’m allowing you to read them!):
I ART JOURNAL
Another ‘paper’ exercise that helps me immensely in the development of my creative process, and thus my stitching, is another form of journaling.On the surface (no pun intended) painting and gluing has little to nothing to do with stitching. I’m talking about Art Journaling. Simply putting my feelings and my life onto paper with paint, and words and images.
I’m no artist, so art journaling isn’t so easy for me. But I do love color. I do love art supplies (just try to pull me from a Dick Blick store). I do love office supplies (you can’t drag me out of Staples, either). As I had mentioned in my THE SLOW STITCHING MOVEMENT webinar, the more we practice other kinds of unrelated (to our stitching) creativity, the better our stitching vision becomes. Here’s 2 pages from my art journal.
At the time I worked on this art journaling piece, I was having teenage drama issues with my son. Without revealing too much, I needed to set some boundaries and he, in his infinite adolescent wisdom, was forcing my hand to make a decision that I did not want to have to make. I have found that often times, in my parenting, or in my work life, or even in some social situations, I felt like my hands were being tied. Opening up my art journal and painting and drawing out my feelings was another way that I was both depending on my innate creativity to cure me, and calling it out to help me process some feelings that were literally “tying me up” in other areas of my creative process. You might want to try buying an art pad, some cheap acrylics or watercolors and allowing something like this to move through you. It might work for you, as a tool toward your slow stitching goals…
And sometimes I just play with paint and paper and color and shape just because . . .
I COLLECT PRETTY PICTURES
I keep what I call a “Creativity Book.” It’s a record, like a scrapbook, of all of the things I find in books and magazines, and in mail flyers or catalogs that I find inspiring to me. Products or colors or fashion or graphics that speak to me. Pictures or drawings or designs and lines of things I might be able to adapt into my own stitched creations, or art. I pull things as often as I see them, put them into a basket, then glue stick them into a sketchbook for future reference whenever I have some time (not as often as I’d like). You would not believe how many times that when I am feeling as creative as a stick, I simply have to leaf through this book of pasted papers (something a kindergartener could do), to find my mood elevated and my creativity gears starting to spin. It’s worth a try, isn’t it? Here are a few pages that I just snapped with my iPhone:
Slow Stitching in Progress
Here’s what I have been working on. A combination of my vision for a needle turned and hand raw edge appliqué for my important quilt. I used black silk thread (www.gloriouscolor.com) to hand raw-edge appliqué the fused the Michael Miller Jet Black fabric (www.michaelmillerfabrics.com).
I used a pink cotton Aurifil thread to needle turn appliqué the pink triangle.
I’m finishing up the hand raw edge appliqué this morning. There is more to this block, but I don’t want to give away all of the quilt idea yet.
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Inspiration! Makes me want to drag my tired body into my studio right now. Thank you, Mark, for sharing.
Excellent suggestions, I love making zentangle tiles to work out my minds creativity and to release daily crap. I am making an art journal of tangles and doodles. The writing is a bit daunting
I am trying to get my inspiration. My grand daughter was born this May and I had the idea to create a quilt for her made from all the strong women who would be in her life. I had everyone write something on a plain square now I have to gather my courage and think of a meaningful to put it together.
I try to get my morning pages in every day too. Most of the time I just use them to bitch about all of the things I have to do that day. I have had small bursts of creativity from these pages but mostly I benefit by getting all of my complaining out in one shot and then I can close the book on it for the day. I also feel less anxiety on the days that I write. That in itself is worth it’s weight in gold. I also keep “creativity books.” I’m always ripping things out of magazines because I like the colors or want to make a quilt or project. Instead of loose pages all over the place, I’m putting them in cheap scrap books I pick up in B&N. I love to sit down with a pile of pictures, a scrap book and a glue stick.
Thanks for sharing about the morning pages and how you struggled with them. I do not like doing them at all, but I find that I am anxious if I don’t do them. I think that’s a good thing.
I l-o-v-e looking over my old scrap book of my magazine cut outs. It’s really interesting to see personal themes develop, change or remain constant. Thanks! Pam
I have been collecting pictures for a project I have been dreaming about for years. Now, because of your inspiration, I have the courage to begin and not care what other quilters think. I have been consumed with doing whatever everyone else is doing just to be a part and to be accepted. It is time to let go and fly. Thank you.
I am a detailed person, the more detail the more I love it. I am inspired by the smallest of details that are put into paintings with all of the different shades of color. I am now more motivated to begin my legacy quilt and have had several ideas, but cannot seem to put them together. So I am going to try the morning writing thingy to maybe see who I am and what do I want to leave behind. Thank you Mark for all of the inspiration, I look forward to seeing more from you. Make your heart sing every day.