Do you ever find yourself tired, rundown, or overwhelmed with projects? Do you have three quilts in the queue, and a half-dozen emails to respond to? It’s enough to sap anyone’s creative energy.
Those of us who like to create, often like to create a lot. We dive into new projects headfirst. We take on a ton of work— and sometimes, a ton of deadlines. We love creating, and we do so without hesitation or pause. While the enthusiasm and drive are incredible, going full-steam-ahead can also burn us out over time.
I found myself hitting a wall last week, unable to do any more creative work. When I realized I was in no shape to write new tutorials, sketch up quilt patterns, or even look at my quilty to-do list, I turned to these four strategies to refill the creative well.
Over the years, I’ve learned to make rest the foundation of my creative practice— without it, I burn out fast. These days, I try to honor my need for rest by taking a break at the first signs of exhaustion.
It can be so hard to step away from the laptop, the sewing machine, and the mountains of fabric. But at the end of the day, I know that resting pays off. I know that after enough time off, I’ll come back feeling refreshed and energized, ready to explore new ideas.
Rest can be simple.
To me, rest means taking naps, sipping my favorite tea
, and binge-watching TV shows. Sometimes I’ll go for a walk, or treat myself to a nice meal. I’ll even spend days doing absolutely nothing— it’s boring, but boredom breeds creativity.
That’s just what rest looks like for me. Your version may be completely different.
My advice for other creatives is this:
Take breaks early and often.
And don’t buy into the notion that rest has to look a certain way. Whatever feels restful to you, do that.
Creative play is one of my favorite things about quilting. I love being in the mindset of play — experimenting with shape, color, and texture, just to see what happens. Oftentimes, when I’m feeling burned out on quilting, I haven’t had nearly enough room for creative play in my practice.
I like to take on a small, playful project to exercise my creative muscles.
The project might be a bit of fabric collage, a special mini-quilt, a garment I’ve been curious about, or even watercolors and sketches of quilt ideas. Whatever the project, the goal is to let go of expectations, try out new techniques and materials, and simply see what happens.
When I'm playing creatively, I'm not trying to make something perfect and exact. I'm exploring, observing, and listening to my inner child— the voice that asks “what if” and “why not”. If I can tap into this attitude, it starts to break me out of whatever rut I’ve been in.
If you’d like to start incorporating some creative play into your quilting, I’d recommend improv. Improv quilting is all about working freely with the materials you have, putting things together without measurements or patterns, and following your intuition.
Make Something For Yourself
As quilters, we often make a ton of projects for other people. We want to share. We want other people to experience the joy and warmth of our quilts.
For those of us who are business owners in this space, we often make things “for work.” Items for commission, patterns for sale, and projects for social media.
Personally, I find myself making a lot of quilts as gifts. And those that aren’t gifts, are often samples of new patterns I’m working on. I actually love working on each and every one of these quilts. But when I’m facing exhaustion, I often need to work on something that doesn’t feel so heavy. Something that can be more free-form, less perfect, and less weighted with expectation.
For me, nothing takes that weight off quite like working on a quilt that is just for me.
When I make a quilt for myself, I get to experiment. I can try a new pattern or fabric line that I’ve been wanting to use, but haven’t been able to fit into my scheduled projects. Oftentimes I will work from other designers' patterns, because nothing says “quilty luxury” to me like getting to make a beautiful design with clear instructions and already-done math.
This week, I started working on the Scrap Mountain Quilt from The Makings of Joy
. I feel like this quilt has been on my to-make list for-ev-er.
I bought the pattern when it first came out months ago, and I’ve been saving my color-sorted fabric scraps for this quilt ever since. When I felt stuck this week, I pulled out those ziplock bags of scraps, and started cutting for my very own Scrap Mountain.
Making this quilt has been such a joy. Since I’m not worrying about perfection, or improving the pattern, I can really sink into the meditative flow of cutting, sewing, and trimming.
When this quilt is done, it’ll go on my couch — and I know I’ll treasure it for years to come.
If you don’t have any just-for-you passion projects in the pipeline right now, try one out. The next time you’re feeling creatively stuck, working on a fun project might be just what you need to get you out of a rut.
Try a New Craft
Sometimes being a beginner is refreshing.
Do you remember making your first quilt? I’m almost certain it was an adventure — first projects often are. I remember my first quilt, and the several after that. I had fun, learned new skills, made plenty of mistakes, and felt so accomplished when I got something right. Those early quilts were far from perfect, but they brought me a lot of joy.
When I feel like I’m in a funk with a craft that I know really well (like quilting), I like to turn to something new that will let me be a beginner again.
Personally, I dabble in ceramics, watercolor, illustration, and cross stitch. I’m not particularly good at any of these things. But working in these different mediums allows me to re-experience a beginner’s mindset. It’s a great way to let go of high expectations and perfectionism, and simply tap into the joy of making.
So find a new craft, or maybe an old one that you haven’t practiced in a long time. Set aside the projects you’ve been stuck on, and try something new. It just might leave you feeling more creative.
These are my four strongest strategies for getting out of a creative funk. I know they’ve helped me, and I hope they’ll help you, too! If you have other ideas for keeping the creative well full, share in the comments below.
And as always, thanks for reading!