Sensing a sewjo downturn? The ebb and flow of creativity is a natural part of the process, so it’s good to understand what is happening before throwing in the towel. Read on for ten top tips on how to stay motivated and build a creative habit.
The best way to invest in your hobby is by developing a habit. A habit will carry your sewing, or whatever craft you enjoy, with you through life. A habit will encourage practice (see point 3), but even if you just go to your sewing space and stroke your fabric, imposing structure on your free time will, in the long run, make it easier to get back to making.
Whether it’s a language, a musical instrument, landscape painting or sewing up a dress, practice is what makes a habit. The key is a combination of regularity and duration. Set yourself a regular time slot where the interruption of everyday life will be at a minimum and try your best to stick to it.
The amazing thing about setting a regular slot – however slim that time frame may be – is that it often increases exponentially. Allow yourself ten minutes a day, or 30 minutes three times a week, and you will find this grows to 20 minutes, an hour or more. Maybe not every time, but when you add up the week’s devotion, you may surprise yourself. Recording how much you have actually done can sometimes give you a real boost and spur you on to do even more.
Sometimes it helps to look over what you have actually made. It’s common to underestimate how productive we actually are. Once you start to keep track of your makes – and yes, include even the smallest incursions into your to-do list, it all counts! – you might surprise yourself and realise your creativity hasn’t stalled, it’s just wriggled itself into a different form.
Create some sort of commitment device to hold you to your making goals. Whether that’s ten minutes a day, an hour a week, or specific tasks like unpicking a seam the night before a free morning, give yourself goals and a carrot – or a stick – to guide yourself towards achieving it.
It’s an oldie but a goodie – you don’t have to be banging out perfect garments all the time. Sometimes a bit of slapdash who-cares sewing is just the tonic. Find projects that don’t matter so much – quick wins like face wipes or a tea towel or napkins are just the ticket – and bang them out to your heart’s content. These palate cleansers can pave the way for more substantial makes and ease you into projects you might have been putting off.
We’ve all heard the saying ‘creativity is 99 per cent perspiration and one per cent inspiration’. While there is some truth in this, the fact is you can’t work away at something if you’re drained and disinterested. If you’re not feeling it, there’s no point beating yourself up. You still need the one per cent to feel able to commit the 99. Yes, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. My suggestion? Read. Flick through magazines, look through your books, surf the internet let yourself explore and absorb and be inspired.
If you’re not feeling it, sometimes it helps to just go and have a little potter in your sewing space or with your sewing bits and bobs. A bit of cathartic sorting can work wonders – organising a button tin is a real soother – and can spark ideas and solutions at the same time. I recently sorted a sack of tangled vintage ribbons while watching box sets – though it wasn’t my intention, I came up with ideas for new projects and it was a great way to engage with my stash.
Too much time, and you can feel like a rabbit in the headlights and not know where to start with what. Too little time and you feel harassed and unable to get down to what you know you need to do. The trick is to play with time in a way that makes you feel like you are moving forward. A sense that time is finite can help – by building a specific window for our creativity we make our plans fit the time allocated. So if that’s ten minutes a day, so be it. It’s amazing how far a project can move on very little time spent in ritualistic regularity. Divide and annex your free time, however much or little you have. For each slot, set yourself a defined goal. Sometimes, I consider it a win simply to have rethreaded my overlocker. It means next time I sit down I’m one step closer to actually sewing.
Having said all this, now here’s the entirely contrary advice: sometimes the best thing to do is take a deep breath and walk away. There’s nothing worse for sewjo, creativity, whatever you want to call it, than pushing yourself to do something when your heart is not in it. For most of us, this is a hobby. Hobbies do not thrive under duress. If you’ve tried taking sewing-related time out, but really you just want to forget about it for a bit, then don’t torture yourself. It’s fine to pack the machine away and tell yourself you will return to it if and when you feel like it.
Feel good about your decision, because this does more for your creativity and affection for sewing than any amount of self-flagellation. Breaks are a natural part of the creative process – known as the gestational phase. So when you allow your ideas – or lack thereof – to gestate, without overthinking and worrying about where your sewjo went, you may find inspiration will strike at an unlikely moment and you’re back on the wagon before you know it.
10. Be kind
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, creativity is a form of self-actualisation. You need to take care of yourself and those around you first. It’s important we are kind to one another and that starts with being kind to ourselves. Sewing isn’t going anywhere, and when you’re ready you can return to it and enjoy the satisfaction and joy of creating your own clothes once again.
How do you get yourself back into the creative swing? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear about it!