Thursday, March 07, 2013

Little Bites


I squeeze my creative endeavors into my life in little bites. Once or twice a year I might have an uninterrupted half-day to myself, but generally all my sewing, writing, painting, and decorating get squeezed in among the daily things of caring for a family and home.

And here's how.

1. I don't like a lot of projects going at once. One machine sewing project and one hand-sewing project, *maybe*. I like to start something, keep after it, finish it, bask in the glory for a moment, then start something else. (In the winter I always have two things going because sometimes the sewing room is just too cold to hang out in. Then I have to do handwork by the fire.) If you stick with just one or two sewing projects, and do something on them every day, you will come to the end eventually. Finishing creates its own energy!

2. Every morning, I sit and write three pages of longhand in a notebook. Far from recording anything profound, I tend to note the tiny creative achievements of the day before, and mull over what I might get to do today. This makes a huge difference in helping me to spend my free moments productively: I planned them at dawn!

3. I am so not a perfectionist. More and more I love the process, but I have never held myself to some impossible standard of precision or accuracy. I love almost everything I make, forgive the discrepancies, and move on.

4. I don't mind taking tiny bites. Five minutes of hand-stitching. Reading over my current writing and thinking about it while I go for a run. Stitching in a dart. There's always tomorrow, and I know that I *will* get back to my dear projects.

What works for you?

35 comments:

seashoreknits said...

Anna, this was such an interesting post. I have often marveled at how much you seem to get done in the way of projects, especially knowing you have a family to tend to. So thank you for sharing your "little bites". I tend to approach my knitting projects in the same way you indicate for sewing - content to pick it up when I can, steadily working on it until magically it is just done. Knitting seems just made for this. However, I don't seem to be able to do this with my sewing projects, I dislike leaving everything "out" in the sewing room and also dislike putting it all away at the end of the day. Sewing is frankly, messy, and the mess makes me anxious to wrap it up which in turn makes me anxious about spending little bites at it. I haven't quite resolved this, but I wish I could, as I often procrastinate on sewing projects because I don't feel up to big deal of starting a "mess" again. Perhaps I should simply just tidy up a bit and then close the door! :)

Denise said...

this is exactly how I create - no rush and in little bits just like you describe. I too can't worry about perfection - I'm just learning how to sew really. I do love your work. Thanks for sharing these thoughts especially your morning pages.

Lilian said...

Sigh... I need to take a leaf out of your book Anna. I have far too many projects on my 'to do' list and it does lead to chaos as a result because the house then gets littered with half done projects. I'm learning this year to cull a lot of them and just focus on a few at a time. I still think I overdo it because I start another before I get to the end of the existing one. I need to finish (like you do) before I start another. Thank you for the reminder.

Cassadie said...

Yup, totally agree with sewing projects being done in bits and pieces. I try to sew a seam here and there, thread the machine while the kids are in the bath, cut fabric while drinking wine with a friend, etc.
I also get a lot of satisfaction out of planning the dinner menu while I am eating breakfast. Is it wrong to start looking forward to dinner at 7am?

Eileen said...

I keep a hand project with me all the time. A little stitching while sitting at violin or gymnastics lessons gets a project done over time. Having a little something to stitch on my lunch break gives me a nice break during my night shifts also. Machine sewing gets done whenever I have a little time. Since my sewing room is upstairs, I am close to my girls during evening/bedtime and they like to come in and talk or see what I am working on when they are getting ready for bed.

Libby said...

Thank you, dear internet friend. This was just what I needed to hear today. Yes. Thank you thank you thank you!

rachel said...

I am in awe of your ability to stick to just a project or two! I always have a bunch of things going at once, I get bored easily so I like to switch it up. Im also grateful for things like knitting and crochet which I can do while watching TV/listening to the radio/talking to friends. Easy and portable crafts are my go-to!
I love your idea of writing in the morning though, I may have to start that myself!

Anonymous said...

Dearest Anna, your post is so encouraging to me. Thank you.

Mrs M (Australia)

HISchild said...

What a wonderful, timely post! This is the perfect example of creating the control we crave and understanding that we must be content with what is ours for the moment.

THANK YOU!

kath said...

Doing things in small bites (I call them baby steps) is what helps me keep my sanity in my constantly evolving household. I usually have one machine sewing project and one portable hand project (knit, crochet, embroidery) going at any given time. I love the idea about the notebook. My early morning time is usually spent quietly with my cup of tea and my laptop, answering emails and reading blogs like yours! It's a nice way to stay connected and learn something new each day.

Lisa said...

I also work on things a little at a time. Just yesterday I was deep cleaning in my room and found two sewing projects I'd forgotten about! This is very well-timed, Anna - I am going to TRY to focus more and stick with things.

Thanks a lot for this post!

Lisaeresa

Karen said...

Yep. I get so frazzled with too many things going at once, as well. My knitting basket presently holds three skeins of yarn for making leg warmers. They will obviously be for next year, now. Oh dear.....

Sarah : ) www.crumbsundermytable.blogspot.com said...

Love it. As a new homeschooling mom with a 5 yr., 2yr. old, and 6 month old, I really struggle with feeling inadequate and as if nothing will ever get done. Little bits here and there keep me going whether it be reading, sewing, or laundry. Thanks for the reminder that none of us are perfect oe have it all figured out, but we can get it done.

Eva Girl said...

I'll sometimes double up on the housework and catch up on laundry, etc. so that I'll have the next day to devote to a sewing project. I like to work something through all in one day if I can - but I don't mind having projects that get done in little bits here and there over a long period of time - it depends on the project and what it's for : )

Jennifer said...

I agree~little bites.
It's the only way for me to actually complete something!

Kate at Wonderful Life Farm said...

Great posting!

I completely agree that by taking little bites, you eventually finish the whole cookie! And I too tend to stick with a project to completion. I decided when I was a young mom that I was not going to be one of those people with 60 unfinished projects in her work basket. Start it. Work it. Finish it. = No stress. No guilt.

I am always taking little bites. But lately, I've experimented with chomping too. I've tried to discipline myself to sew most of Mondays and Fridays. But sometimes the Lord just brings other responsibilities on those days, and that is just FINE, and I just return to taking little bites. It's working.

Anonymous said...

Loved reading your post this morning. I like to have several projects going at once. Some are long-term for me, such as refinishing a piece of furniture or stitching a large cross-stitch sampler. Projects like these I might work on in spurts over longer periods of time. The rest of the time I work on smaller projects that don't require as much time. A little here, a little there. The process is as important to me as the finished project, and this approach energizes me and keeps me interested. One thing I don't do is start a project I don't love! Thank you for your thoughts.

Aimee said...

I think the best part of this post is the journaling. When we write about our creative endeavors, it gets our mind focused on a daily creative lifestyle!

WendyBee said...

I think you are very wise. I find that I am not very disciplined, and my life is chaotic as a result. I don't have an approach that I stick with for too many things, but I am always trying. There are some people who are seen as perfectionists because they do what they do so well. But a real perfectionist rarely gets anything done because it's never good enough, and beset by do-overs and re-starts, and what my DH the engineer calls "creeping elegance". That is when a project starts with one set of functional criteria, but during the process acquires more and more bits and bobs and doodahs that don't really enhance the functionality, just the aesthetics. I envy people who can define their objectives and stick to them.

Polly said...

I love this post! Morning pages provide a surprising amount of clarity/direction for me as well.

I'm terrible about being an idea-girl who begins many ideas, or conceives them and begins to lay mental plans, only to get sidetracked by the slowness of accomplishing much when I've got little ones running around! I do bring them to fruition, though, and soon I will have a dedicated sewing space where I can leave my machine out instead of cleaning it up off of the dining table after every little seam I sew. I think that will be a great boon to me!

I can knit and purl a few rows while watching Downton Abbey and before the season is over I've got a baby hat or sweater....doing things in bits and pieces (and sometimes, fits and spurts) is the only way to go when you've got limited chunks of time!

Fiona said...

I often wondered how you fitted in your beautiful creative works around your family and home, so thank you for this post.

theygrowuptoofast said...

I need to get better at this. I am such a black and white person. I have a hard time walking away from my sewing- I want to sit there all day. And if I don't have all day, then I don't even want to start. With 3 kids, all day is impossible, so I often feel defeated. I really need to make the most of "little bites". What I really need to do is stay off the computer during those "little bites" and do something more fulfilling, like sewing or knitting.

Foxburrow Vintage said...

Your blog is so inspiring! I have a million projects always. Some started, and some not started, but always there. I almost never feel bored, and I am thankful for that.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting about your "little bites". I've been amazed over the years seeing how much you get done with kids at home and homeschooling. I completely agree with 1, 3 and 4. My projects are scrapbooking (which is ongoing) and smaller sewing projects like appliqued dishtowels and Christmas stockings. One at the time. My dream is to make my own a-line skirts and some of the skirts and dresses from Sew Serendipity. One day, one day.

And as for #2, well I might try that. I have 30 minutes before everyone gets up and it only takes me 5 minutes or so to check email and internet news. Then I don't want to do anything "official" for the day so I surf the internet for the remaining time as "my" time. Perhaps some writing and planning would be beneficial. Just a little bit.

Thank you for all the loveliness you share.
Katherine in Atlanta

Laura said...

Hi Anna,
I read your blog in Google Reader so I rarely click over to comment but it is my favorite blog - so gentle and peaceful. Thanks for sharing how you get so much done. I have a question - do you watch much TV or read many blogs? I don't have regular TV, only DVDs sometimes but blogs (and Facebook) are my biggest time drains. Even though I get good ideas from them, I've realized that I am spending more time reading about activities than doing the activities (cooking, crafting, cleaning, etc.). Anyway, I am not a great finisher and have realized how much I work in fits and starts, really productive for a couple days at a time, then really not productive at all! Blessings, Laura

Holly said...

I don't think that there is a more inspiring and disciplined blogger out there right now than you are, Anna. I love your posts. I check your blog every day and live in fear (well, that's a little extreme, but maybe we could say apprehension?) that you will take another hiatus. Who could blame you? None of us - but I still hope you will continue for a long time. You are daily inspiration and you write so uniquely and well. I'd buy your book, if you ever published one.

As far as projects...with work and mothering (yay!) and finally realizing the dream of becoming a horse owner, I'm lucky to finish anything. But yes - you do what you can when you can. Including housework. I always loved your post "One Tiny Thing" for that reason...it gave me permission to know that tidying up in small batches was absolutely fine.

You're great! :)

Anna said...

I'm glad you all found this helpful!

TV--don't have it. We do have a DVD setup, of course, but I find that by the time the girls have gone to bed it's usually too late to start watching anything!

What we do have from Netflix is most likely subtitled (sigh) and won't support handwork.

Karla A. said...

Thanks so much for this post. Please, please write a book!! ;)

The Mayo Family said...

Morning Anna,
I am a day behind in reading,
well as you posted the time I am able :) I am in agreement with the other readers,
your blog = peaceful & calm!
Thanks for sharing.
We are keeping the boys in prayer & hope all is still going well.
Off the subject here
(while I am on though)
on your quilts when you or your Mom are quilting....do you just lay them out, frame them, use a hoop? I have wondered that and forget to ask. Thanks & have a blessed weekend!
Blessings~
Lori

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I write in between cooking, laundry, and other housework.

My sewing-crafting-writing room is also cold in the winter. Perhaps next year I will get a small heater for the room.

I am way behind in handwork projects I wanted to do this winter.

The Hobbit said...

Actually I work in a similar pattern. In our family we refer to it as "baby steps" My sewing machine is in the cellar and in New England it is never warm down there. However the sun manages to come in on the south side of the house and when it does I head downstairs to get 'er done.I managed to getin 1 Christmas pillowcase one for a grandchild french seams and binding insert.....yeah I did a little basking in the moment.

Kate J said...

I let go of perfectionism a few years ago, and I keep reminding myself of that fact throughout my day. I keep a corner of my house alive with a project or five. I fill it with the grace to make mistakes, to look messy and cluttered, and visit it when I'm not feeling perfectionistic.
I just ruined a watercolor today. It was on one giant sheet of deckle-edged, 300 pound, cold-pressed beauty that costs too much money. My kids were surprised when I didn seem to kerfuffled about it. They giggled when I said it was truly hideous and I was going to just have fun with it now ~ like a giant experiment. I love how experiment and experience both start with the same root word.
I love how you, Anna, don't start something until the other thing is finished. I need to work on that very thing.
Thanks for sharing!
Kate

Farrah said...

Now this, Anna dear, is what I have been requesting! Thank you for sharing this aspect of your organizational life.

Anonymous said...

My favorite posts are when you explain how you explain how you accomplish things, and include your philosophy that motivates you.

But, having said that, I'm a firm believer in Meyers-Briggs...and I'll never be you. Viva la difference!

dm

Rose said...

It's very interesting to read about you doing the three pages of longhand writing about things creative Anna. I have just started reading Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way and decided to commit to the twelve weeks. I've never considered my self an "artist" (though DH is) but maybe I've been wrong about that. It will be interesting to find out.

I do little bites with knitting, gardening and longer term cooing projects.

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