There is just something about natural breaks in time that force many people to take a step back and reassess their situations. If you are a Daydream House regular, you know things have been a bit crazy here. The effects of continual stress have become very apparent lately; combine that with summer starting, and it’s time for me to review what I want to do with my creative energies and examine if I am really working towards them. I know many of you are currently facing the same stresses — kids, a full-time job, other responsibilities or a tight budget can make it too easy to give up on something you love. But as I am always saying, you need to stick with it.
So my theme for this month is Make Changes. This is the first in a three-part series on figuring out what is slowing you down on the road to reaching your potential, and then fixing it. I am by no means a professional therapist, organizer or life coach, but I have a lot of experience to share. Today I will talk about different blocks you may be experiencing and the initial steps in breaking down those barriers.
The roadblocks we face are so varied, someone could probably do an entire blog on that topic alone. But there are some biggies that are very common to so-called “creative types”. Difficulty focusing, lack of organization or overextending yourself and your resources are all common. Me? I’m a little bit of each, but I’ll talk about that in a bit. How often have you found yourself ready to make the world’s greatest lemon-lime cheesecake, only to find you are totally out of butter? You KNEW you bought four boxes and can’t imagine where you used it all. Or you build up grand plans to paint a really sweet mural on your living room wall, but once the pencil drawing is done, you get cold feet. What about one of the worst offenders in the art or craft world; you have a loooooong list of projects that you have promised for friends and family members, but you can’t possibly finish them, and you feel bad.
What is the deal with creative types and why can’t we control the madness? I could get into some left brain vs. right brain chatter, but I’ll boil it down even more. We are human. We have faults that are automatic and we have honed defenses for them over years of practice. I am a world-class planner. I can make lists and draw sketches for the biggest, coolest things that everyone in the world will love. But how often do I execute them — not so much. I have my own pattern of procrastination and excuse making that slow me down. ” The idea of “just buckle down and do it is far easier said than done. If you really want to change, you need a plan instead. And since I love breaking things down step-by-step, here is your list.
- Know the issue. Barring some deep, psychological (i.e., very real) problems, you don’t need a professional to help you figure out why you never finish a project you start. You need some quiet. If you can manage it, find 15 minutes of quiet with no distractions and grab a pen and paper. Make a list of everything you feel is getting in your way. Or freewrite about what’s bugging you. Just get onto paper everything you feel is troubling you. Even if you don’t start with an exact handle on the problem, this will start to give you an idea.
- Be pragmatic and set priorities. For me, sitting down and writing everything out made me realize a few things. One, I constantly overplan and overextend myself, and not just in the crafting world. Second, I am terrible at delegating, mostly because I feel I am a bit of a control freak. Finally, clutter really gets to me when I am already stressed. To get a handle on your problems, you need to look at your own situation with a calm, non-emotional state of mind. Instead of feeding your family an awesome home-cooked meal every night without fail, can someone else in the family cover that job one night a week while you spend some time stretching and gessoing a canvas? Can you delegate more at work so you aren’t stuck taking a stack of paperwork home every Friday night? If you need to, write another list of the things you “need” to do, and see how true those needs are.
- Create actionable goals. If you are always saying you will do something someday, it will never happen. Get out your handy notepad one more time and write down a specific goal with a specific time frame. For example, I was guilty of always putting projects off the get housework done. Guess what? Housework never ends. So now, Wednesdays are a chore-free zone so I can paint, sew or do whatever I want. It’s very important to keep in mind nothing will change overnight. You need to stay logical, and take baby steps. Only tackling one issue at a time means your changes will stick. Try to take them all on at once, and you will likely fail — and feel even worse. Also, don’t forget a reward! If there is no carrot dangling to motivate you, it makes it even harder to get where you want to go.
Here is the very boiled down version of my three steps.
- My issues are: I overextend myself and clutter really bugs me.
- Priorities: I have already spent two years cutting back on projects. If people ask me to make them something, I am upfront about the fact they need to pay for materials and my time. Obviously, there are exceptions for close friends, family, etc. But this has led to greater satisfaction for me. So my big priority now is clutter.
- Actionable goals: I will get rid of one thing every day for all of July. I will also re-sort my craft supplies and find good homes for the unwanted stuff. My reward will be one of the books I am lusting after; Sew Wild by Alisa Burke or Design Sponge at Home by Grace Bonney.
So there’s the start! Now you guys need to take a break, think about what’s really bugging you, and start to take control. As I said, this will be a three-part topic, but I am spreading it out over all of July. Next week will be a fun photo post, and the following week will be part two of Make Changes. This will give everyone a good window of time to get started on assessing their roadblocks. I will share some of my progress, as well as a good list of resources for deeper problem solving.
See you again tomorrow!