Studio Musings

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Reigniting the Spark

In some ways, the worst part about being ill is trying to figure out how to catch up again once you're finally feeling a bit better.  At least, this is the way it is for me.  Last week I was down for the count with the stomach flu, and when I finally started feeling well enough to get back to work, things had piled up so high I felt like I was staring at a mountain of jumbled objects all piled and tangled together with a big sign on top proclaiming "Urgent". 

Getting started again, I realised I was faced with two parallel challenges.  The overwhelming size of the assorted pile of to-dos frankly made me want to hide lest it all collapse on top of me.  While a residual creative lethargy left me feeling like I didn't have much of interest to offer.  Between the two, procrastination sounded better and better, except of course it only makes the pile grow larger, which I know makes it harder to get traction once I do finally get started, which makes me want to hide even more.  One of those vicious cycles that I know all too well.

I thought I'd share my strategies for circumventing this cycle:

Start by Making Lists.  I love lists, so throughout the day on Saturday I wrote down everything that I could think of that needed to be done, organizing as I went, piling like tasks next to like.  And figuring out which tasks needed to be completed first, looking for potential bottlenecks.  This is where I get to play project manager. 

Next was figuring out what I felt I could DO first.  I found myself likening my To-Do list to a giant pile of Pick-up Sticks.  Using that analogy, I looked for the easy sticks and the high value sticks, and when I found one that matches both, I tagged it for the next day's schedule.

Beading sounded impossible on Monday, but I could go through my email and update my backer spreadsheet with all the returned surveys.  Nothing exciting, but something that needed to be done, and something I felt capable of doing.  That led me to Tuesday's work, where I decided to seriously revise one of my freeform bracelet tutorials, creating half a dozen new diagrams and expanding the tutorial by two pages.  Working on that smaller project made it easier to get back into working on my larger book project on Wednesday and suddenly I was ready to start stitching again as well. 

Straighten some part of your surroundings.  When I'm sick, I'm afraid I'm a bit of a slob.  When I'm well, the mess makes it harder to focus on what I want to do.  But at the same time, I feel so behind that I don't want to take time out for a full cleaning.  So instead, I use 'down' times when I'm not feeling up to anything else to pick up and straighten my most important work areas.  Simply the act of being in my work space, even if it's only for cleaning, makes me feel more ready to work.

Do things that support your success.  These can even be really silly little things.  Such as gold stars.

no one will accidentally mistake my laptop for theirs!
When I'm feeling particularly uninspired, I break out my stash of star stickers.  When I complete an item on my list, I give myself a gold star (okay, they are red, green, purple and blue as well as gold, but that makes them more fun).  The back of my laptop is liberally sprinkled with these guys from meeting various writing goals.  I might even give myself a star for writing this post.  The key is to celebrate in some small way my victory.  And when I see the little stars, they make me smile and remind me that I CAN.  I can write, I can stitch, I can draw, I can come up with new designs;  all of these things are possible if I simply start. 

A silly, small celebration for a little victory, but that's what life is truly made of - lot's of little decisions, little actions that taken together become one's life.

I'm also a great fan of audiobooks when I'm stitching.  Most recently, I've been listening to Lois Bujold's "Captain Vorpatril's Alliance".  It's a light-hearted, thoroughly enjoyable sci-fi romp, one of the latest in her long-running Vorkosigan series.  I was able to check the digital download out from my local library.  The story is so fun that it makes me want to stitch just a little bit longer so I can 'hear what happens next', because I'm only listening to the story while I stitch. If you're curious about the series, I recommend you start with Warrior's Apprentice

So that's my strategy for catching up and circumventing the start of an artistic dry cycle.  What are some of your most successful strategies for keeping on track? 


  1. Trying to catch up and eliminate a stack of to-dos isn't easy but it sounds like you're doing a good job of starting. Glad you're feeling better.

  2. I think catching up on all of this deserves at least a dozen gold stars! So happy to hear you're feeling better. Stomach flu is a definite no-fun way to spend a week!

  3. Oh I love the Vorksigan series- one of my all time favorites!

    I actually enjoy organizing- I find it soothing. It also makes it easier to accomplish things.

    Glad to hear you are feeling better.