Slow Quilt Monday--The Crappy First Draft

I took a rather unintentional hiatus from my blog schedule of Slow Quilt Monday, Donation Quilt Wednesdays, and Food Fridays because I needed some time to regroup after getting back into my workaday schedule. However, that hiatus also gave me some time to ponder and process, so it turned out to be a good thing!

One of the things I worked on mentally while I was on sabbatical was, with credit to Anne Lamott for the wording, the concept of the "crappy first draft." (I apologize to any for whom that may be a distasteful word, but it's the best one to really describe the concept!) Lamott's book about writing, Bird by Bird, can apply to our entire creative lives, really. She talks about how our first responsibility is to get the story on the page, let the characters tell us who they want to be, and let the plot reveal itself to us--no matter how messy it is to start. That when we start worrying about who will want to read it, or whether it'll ever get published, we stymie ourselves and the creative spirit within us. First things first. Just write that crappy first draft, and worry about everything else later.

That really spoke to me.

I do have perfectionist tendencies but, then, I think most of us do. We don't like to start something unless we're pretty sure it'll turn out well in the end. When it comes to making quilts, we convince ourselves that fabric is too expensive to waste, so we shouldn't cut into it unless we know the color combination is just right, or the design will have exactly the impact we want, or whatever. And so, there are a lot of quilts in our heads that never come into being because we don't have enough faith in ourselves that they'll actually work.

I have since developed a remarkably devil-may-care attitude towards my fabric.

I have come to the following understandings of my quilting:
  • There are a lot of projects that will hit the trash can. I'm okay with that, because they will have been valuable learning tools. (General wisdom always says those projects should be saved into a book with copious notes about what worked and what didn't. But I have limited space, so probably not.)
  • There are a lot of projects I'll make that I'll really like but no one else will "get." I'm okay with that too. If I enjoy it, that's the main thing. As for everything else, see next items.
  • I'm not making projects to get applause at my guild's show n' tell. (Although I'll get that applause--they're very kind that way, fortunately. Everyone gets cheered on. Love my quilt peeps.)
  • I'm not making projects to put in a show. I might decide to do that later, but that's not why I set out to make them in the first place.
  • I'm not making projects to turn out a masterpiece. One might become that eventually. But I don't need that pressure in my head.
  • I'm making projects to have fun. I'm making projects to play with a new technique, color combination, design principle, or whatever. (Note the very intentional use of the word "play.")
  • I'm also a storyteller. I want my quilts, more than anything, to tell a story. Or convey a mood or a concept.
  • And, yes, my quilts will be made slowly.
Awhile back, there was some conversation that floated around between a few of our quilty podcasts (mine and others) about the difference between product and process in the quilting world, and whether or not you're a product or process quilter. I'm definitely in the process camp now.

Slow quilting doesn't necessarily mean you can't get a project done because you're really busy--although if that's the case with you, cut yourself some slack. Who's got a timer on you, anyway? We create within ourselves a sense of obligation because we think people expect things of us (that perhaps they're not really expecting), or we can't say no. That's a topic for another blog.

Slow quilting, rather, means allowing a quilt time to breathe, time to reveal itself to you.

It means making thirty-five sketches of something before one jumps out at you and you get that little tingle down the back of your neck: "Me! I'm the one you need to make! Make me me me me!"

It means having fabrics laying on your cutting table or design wall for several days in a row as you audition one to another, collecting, editing, collecting again, until a particular combination reveals itself as the one.

It means buying a lot of fabric. You need a lot of options for all that, don't you?

I've been working on a project for the last five months. I started out one night just cutting shapes out of fabric and laying them down to see what they'd turn into. It has become a quilt that tells a story. It does have several problems with it. Awhile back, I'd have set it aside--or thrown it aside in frustration--because it wasn't "good enough." Now, rather than seeing it as the enemy, I'm looking at it as a friend who is encouraging me to move forward, to experiment, to have faith in myself. I'm still working away at it, looking at it as a chance to continue learning, to continue trying new things, to continue to experiment with techniques or methods to see how they turn out. The end result may still end up hitting the trash can, but it may not. It might work itself out. In either case, it's a slow process but an extremely valuable one. That quilt has told me, every step of the way, what I needed to do next. I still don't entirely know what the end product will look like. And that's the fun of it.

Would it help you in your quiltmaking if you could accept the concept of "the crappy first draft?" Can you be okay with something that doesn't turn out perfectly but helped you learn along the way? Is there a project in your head that you've been afraid to start because, frankly, you're afraid you'll screw it up? Could you use a little slow quilting in your life?