This morning, I came across a note to myself that says: “Maybe I should give up quilting.”

This was a scary thought for me. I’ve been quilting for over two decades. I have a studio full of fabric, thread, batts, and unfinished quilts.

It’s not uncommon for me to think I need to cut back on my creative pursuits. I’m interested in so many fiber arts: soft sculpture, knitting, spinning, crochet, embroidery, and of course quilting. I’d like to learn how to make lace by hand, too. Then there’s drawing and painting, art journaling and book binding. And of course, I write whenever I can.

As a result, I’m constantly telling myself I would be do better work if I stopped spreading myself so thin and just focused on one thing. Wouldn’t I get more writing done if I stopped making quilts, spinning wool, and knitting sweaters for dinosaurs?

Whenever I consider cutting back so I can focus, resistance swells in me. I don’t want to cut back. I like variety. I like doing different things throughout the day or week. And I get different things from my various interests. The satisfaction I get from writing is very different from the more tactile activity of sewing.

Fortunately, I never acted on the idea of getting all the quilting supplies out of the house.

Recently, I’ve had bouts of insomnia that have left me drained. I always want to be making things, but when I hit a certain level of fatigue, I make more mistakes than stuff. When I go through a period like this, dragging around too tired to move, I need something that is repetitive and automatic, no serious thinking involved.

This is why I love to quilt.

Some stages of making a quilt take tons of thought and energy. Planning the project and choosing the fabrics are high-energy tasks for me. But once all the decisions are made and it’s time to just sew fabric together? That’s the sweet spot in the project when I’m tired. The mindless stuff that is boring when I’m feeling good is restful and restorative when I’m feeling bad.

My current project: The Scrap-o-lator Quilt Pattern by Dianne Springer

Danny Gregory said it best in his book The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be the Artist You Truly Are. He tells us to dabble in the things we’re interested in, instead of expecting to become experts or professionals. We’re free to spend as much — or more importantly, as little — time as we want on our passions.

If I had gotten rid of my quilting stuff, I would be looking for something to do, to help me rest when I can’t sleep. I’m so glad my sewing machine and fabric scraps are willing to wait around until it’s the right time for me to work with them.

What about you? Are you interested in more things than you can learn in one lifetime? What do you make when you are super tired?

8 thoughts on “It’s OK to Spread Yourself Thin Creatively”

  1. I relate to this very much. But I heard somewhere that when you’re a creative person, you need a variety of sources to draw inspiration from. So I take that as full license to pursue all my interests as I’m able. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 🙂

    1. I do think there’s lots of cross-fertilization between my different pursuits. However, my cranky Critic brain is always looking down its nose and thinking “you haven’t finished x!” when I’m working on y and z.

  2. I am an artist and do my art during the day and at night I crochet. There are times when inspiration has taken a break so I crochet, read Christian fiction stories, and read the Bible. Over the years I did gather quilting supplies and jewelry supplies which sadly I actually never used. I donated them to either a charity or to a friend who makes jewelry. I have a ton of yarn and thread for crochet and do fine. Next time I get the urge to quilt I will make sure I don’t buy anything I won’t need.

    1. I also have activities I am determined NOT to buy supplies for, like weaving! I like a balance of activities that require different levels of energy/effort/thinking, so I can match the activity to my energy level of the moment. Unfortunately, that level has been pretty low this summer.

  3. I was thinking about this very thing a couple of weeks ago. I go through knitting spells, writing spells, reading spells. And now trying to learn about book making and paper making. I think I could have a full time job between all my hobbies. Lol.

    1. I’m so glad I’m not alone in this! I also go through things in phases. It’s easy to feel guilty for hopping around instead of “mastering” just one thing.

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