I’m happy to say my patchwork project I committed to hasn’t been lagging, like my blog posting seems to have done.

I’ve been tricking  myself into keeping on going. In both endeavors, really. Today I want to share some of these tricks with you.

My focus here is mostly creative efforts, but these tricks and similar ones work in lots of work projects, creative efforts, and even study obligations.

  • break work into stages and segments
    • (I used this one as a teacher to help students overwhelmed with a whole page full of, say, arithmetic calculations to do. With a blank sheet of white paper I covered all the problems except one row–or, for some students, one problem!–so they could focus on the task at hand and see a manageable amount of work.)
    • with something like patchwork the stages and segments seem pretty obvious. You have to start by cutting out pieces or strips of fabric, then sew them together in different stages. It’s much more time-and-energy efficient to do all the cutting at first, then work in “chains,” doing the same level task repeatedly.
      A lot of the cutting was already done in this case, because I was recycling scraps, and chose pieces that were already cut to the same width. Sewing colored strips to (often long) white ones, when I got to the end of one colored piece I didn’t stop, but just placed the next colored strip on the white and sewed. I did the same when I came to the end of the whites. The uncut threads made chains of the sewn pairs of fabric pieces (which you can see in the third photo after this one.

    • You can see the “chain” of sewings in this picture.
    • These rows were sewed together after all the finished “block” of nine patches were arranged alternately with white squares. The blue bits of paper label the rows in number sequence, left to right.
    • You can use the same principle of grouping tasks in artwork. For instance, instead of putting a first layer of background on just one mixed media collage, you might do a bunch the same day, and have the beginnings of several projects “broken open,” inviting you to go on. You can do the same kind of grouping with second and third layers as well:
      This was layers of Caran D’ache Neo Color 2 blended with gesso.
      This was pasted scraps from magazines. Looks cluttered and messy, but will be layered over and fade into the background, simply adding texture and interest.
      Old scrapbooking paper I didn’t like, cut in varied strips and rearranged, then painted over with gesso.
      Neo Color 2, then stenciled with texture paint made by mixing some baby powder with gesso.

      A bunch of layers, done at intervals, are hiding in this background piece.
    • You can even do one big collage like this below, to be cut apart into segments later, each segment becoming a single collage, which gets more embellishment and some inspiring words. (I’ll show the eight resulting collages from this one in some later post.)
    • In writing, you might invent a bunch of characters at the same time, or do several 5-minute free-writes, responding to writing prompts. 
  • limit yourself—time-wise, materials-wise, or size-wise
  • quit before you hate what you’re doing, or are getting a backache or a headache—before you actually think you have to, or even want to. This will make you more eager to get back on task later
  • Take regular breaks during your work session, usually after something like 20 or 25 minutes. This is the one I need to work on more. I get “on a roll” and lose track of time until I realize I already have a backache, or headache, or blurring vision…
  • however, before you quit, or take a break, start a new segment.
    • Here I have just finished sewing a couple rows of blocks together. But before I quit, I placed these two rows together and sewed just a little way down from the top. Then stopped.
    • Some writers do a trick like this by starting the next sentence and leaving it unfinished before they depart their writing desk for the day, or a break.
    •  Some artists “break a new page” or begin a new layer in a collage/mixed media piece, leaving something waiting and beckoning to them when they next sit down to work. Just one brush stroke or a quote cut-out will do… the trick.

These are a few of the tricks I use to keep me going. Do you have any tricks you use? If so, please share them in the comments.

And kept on tricking!


For a set of links to all the other posts in this “Meandering Forward” series, go to this page, which will be updated daily as new posts appear in the blog content.