If procrastination were an Olympic event, I could represent my country... eventually... aw, heck, I wouldn't get around to it. In school, like many smart kids, I discovered that I could rush my homework at the last minute and still get decent grades, so there was little need to budget time for study. As an adult, my lack of discipline around time has greater consequences. I try to combat procrastination by various means. For instance, I say I need a deadline. Without a deadline, I won't finish. But in practice, a deadline only works if it's imposed by another; if I have a deadline from someone else, it activates my dread of disappointing people, but my self-imposed deadlines have no teeth. Still, that's not a good solution; do I really want to be motivated by dread and obligation?
In the last several years, when sewing for paying clients, I kept repeating the same miserable cycle: I'd get a project with a deadline; I'd be excited about the possibilities and make plans to do something really cool; I'd get intimidated by my own perfectionism, so I'd fail to start; I'd fail to do anything else, either, because I felt guilty to work on things that were not my assigned project; I'd talk badly to myself in frustration; finally the deadline would near and I'd rush to finish, feeling a surge of creativity and pleasure in creation, but falling short of my perfect vision because of lack of time; I'd deliver the project and feel freed to do other things again.
In the winter of 2020-2021, it got really bad, as I had a perfect storm of other issues and winter depression as well. There was a jacket that might have taken me two weeks to make if I'd budgeted a few evenings here and there, but instead too nearly six months of angsting and procrastinating. I was happy with the jacket, but at my wits end with my own maladaptive behavior!
Then one day I saw a video put out by Cathy Hay, a historical costumer and researcher whom I follow. She said something that may have opened a door in my head:
There's a transition you go through when you switch from having a project to having a finished thing. And that's because you change role... from Maker to Owner of a thing. You switch, when it's finished, from being the maker of the thing to the person who's judging the finished thing. So when you're afraid of finishing, it's really the Maker in you who is afraid of the Owner, the judge, that is gonna look at the finished thing and judge it.
I've since practiced telling my maker-self what my owner self will think, even before the thing is done, so I can finish. I'll say things like "I'm going to love having this blanket", or "I will use the heck out of this, and be charmed by its quirks" or "It'll be nice to hear others admire this, and only I will know about this mistake... it'll be my little secret." My future self trying to earn the trust of my present one. I think it's helping.
Way back in early 2017, about the time I started this blog, I decided to start a simple quilt made of 3" squares, each representing a completed sewing project. I started by collecting the squares as I sewed other things. Some of the squares were a single fabric, but others were themselves pieced from the several fabrics used in a single project. I collected for a while, but never made the quilt because I didn't know how to bring the pieces together attractively.
A few months back, as I became motivated to quilt, I pulled those squares out and re-evaluated them. I discarded all the synthetic fabrics, keeping the cotton, silk, rayon, and linen. I also discarded too-heavy or too-sheer squares, paring my selection down to only things that would work well for piecing. Then I threw them together in a few days, into a very strange quilt-top. It was more an exercise in piecing and setting blocks on point than a real design. I'm fond of it, but not excited enough to finish it, so it sits now in the WIP pile.
Quilting, dressmaking, and history plied with the needle...
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