Baby Quilts & Business Breakthroughs

Creatively Sustained Quilt Collage

My sister in law is due to have her first child in a couple of days, and this morning I woke up to 29 text messages waiting on a family thread that touched on the topics of: false labor, watching GLOW on Netflix, whether or not my brother will faint in the delivery room, and what kind of wrestling handle the little tyke might be given instead of a traditional name.

No this kind of conversation is not out of the ordinary for us. Fun Fact: the only time I made my brother ugly cry when we were kids - was by cutting the fingers and toes off his rubber wrestling figures in retaliation for him giving my cabbage patch a hair cut (or was it after he demonstrated how the 'figure-four' works using me as his ignorant opponent? ...it was the 80's I can't quite remember...)

Wrestling jokes aside, as of July we are half way through the calendar year, and earlier this month the topic of a mid-year evaluation landed in my inbox from more than one of the creative/business bloggers that I subscribe to.

In thinking about where I am in my creative business right now vs. where I thought I would be - I started to feel a bit of panic. And when looking at all the things I still have to prepare for and what I want to accomplish by the end of this year, I started to feel physically anxious. Then I felt bad for being so hard on myself, which still isn't a great alternative feeling.

So the last 2 weeks I've been literally stuck. A bit paralyzed by the overwhleming list of things I set out for myself, doubting whether or not I can do it all, too afraid to even start.

I also decided to take a break from social media this month because I feel like a lot of my time this year has been spent 'sharing my process' which can be code for wasting time on smaller things - and not the important activities that will move my business forward (more on that later...)

After removing social media from the picture - my new distraction has been to come up with a better plan. Think this business model through some more, work smarter not harder right? So I write out a strategy, and list some of the things I can work on first. Then after a day or two of waffling - I come up with a better plan, one that doesn't feel so scary (one that also doesn't feel like it will move me forward.) Continue to feel scared and stuck for another few days (as well as alone, because I've been great at my plan to stay off social media, only to realize how little I reach out to people in real ways anymore.)

Fed up with this cycle of indecision this week I finally said screw it - I wasn't going to sit at my desk going over the same tutorials trying to figure out my issues with Adobe Illustrator again. I needed a break from the google docs and digital creating - I needed to make something tangible with my hands. I also had something exciting to look forward - a special quilt project. 

I pulled out my fabric stash and my sewing machine and I dove straight into the process of putting together a baby quilt for my new niece/nephew. And while cutting, sewing and ironing (ironing is one of my favorite things to do!) I started to feel lighter and have a bit more compassion for myself. 

If I have maker work to do - like drawing, sewing, cooking, etc - I love to put on a podcast or even stream videos, just to hear them in the background. So I had some back-to-basics content that was playing (Invisible Office Hours + Raise Your Hand Say Yes podcasts!) while I pieced together the baby quilt.

Some of the content I was listening to was about creative business and personal branding - figuring out your big WHY, who your audience is and why you want to connect with them, and figuring out the things you want to create in the world because you know they make a difference. And I wouldn't say I had a shining epiphany moment, but I did realize I have done a lot of ground work this year, and I shouldn't get so discouraged. I have been building a foundation and with a few tweaks it's starting to feel super solid. It's all starting to grow and take shape.

Here's some of the things working on this baby quilt helped me to see more clearly:

  • Through the process of improvising and working with the materials & fabric I already had on hand - I realized I can trust my instincts and find a way to make it work. I don't have to run to the store for the perfect color thread, or more fabric. I have already collected everything I need to create the quilt (AND the business) I want to create.
  • I don't have to put things off to the last minute. I've always been a huge procrastinator, and I think that is firmly rooted in my own fears and perfectionism. I was going to start the quilt next Monday, because I'm planning on driving home next Wednesday. This would make perfect sense to the old me. But starting and finishing this quilt BEFORE the baby is even born (if only a few days before!) feels like a huge win for me.
  • Deciding not to stay stuck for the rest of the week, to change course and just start making with my hands - that also feels like a win, because I was following my own intuition - I knew that moving forward on a project - any project - would make me 'feel' better and like I had some forward momentum again.
  • I also don't have to plan so much that it feels stifling. I don't have to be fully prepared to still pull this off. I sat down to look at my blocks and scraps and put together a plan, measure a few things out, but then I put the pen and paper aside too and just started joining my pieces where it felt right. I realize this is actually one of the ways I work best - moving quickly, figuring out obstacles on the fly, adapting, and then admiring my ability to problem solve and still fall in love with the results.
  • I don't have to wait any longer to feel 'ready' for this. I'm ready now, I was ready last year, and I'll be ready for new things again 6 months from now. I realize now that the biggest obstacle for me this year has been and will be my mindset. I feel like things should be well thought out, that my ideas or plans won't happen quickly, or that if they do, they are not sound enough to be trusted. I have this long standing idea that work should be hard or that I am proudly 'hard-working.' But if I give myself permission to do things the easy way, the fast way, MY OWN WAY - I can still get to where I want to go - FASTER and EASIER.
  • That's not to say that it won't be A LOT of work. There is still so much to do - but if I continue to feel like it's hard work or like it's not achievable - I am definitely not improving my odds of meeting my goals. I was also expecting this quilt to take me many more hours to finish than it did but it came together quickly because...
  • I had already done a ton of the prep work: all of my scraps were pre-cut waiting in a bag, and I had enough batting, backing, AND pre-folded and pressed binding fabric left over from my Creatively Sustained quilt this winter. I had already done the foundational/ground work, and all it needed was for me to assemble the parts into something special and unique, made by me. I love the way it turned out, I love where it's going, and I love that it represents a really positive turning point for me this year.

So, the biggest thing I'm taking away from this getting unstuck experience, is to keep taking small steps forward. Recognize that it's the little things that make the big things possible. Trust that I am doing enough of the 'right' things in the right amount of time. Be a bit easier on myself. And remind myself that yes, I CAN DO THIS.

Just like my brother and sister-in-law will have to trust their own instincts as new parents when this bundle of wonder and joy arrives this week - I know we are each strong enough to face our changing circumstances - whether we are new parents or a fledgling surface designer - I know we will grow more into who we truly are with each step forward.

UPDATE:

I finished the quilt before the baby arrived - but didn't hit publish on the blog post fast enough! Aiden arrived quickly without complications on July 17th and within a few days I was there to meet him and give him his first hand made quilt. Maybe he'll appreciate his gift a bit more when he's older :)