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Time to Make: a Book to Kick Your Creative Butt Into Gear
I'm excited to share this book with you for several reasons. Ginger Hendrix runs a fun blog, Wienerdog Tricks. I love her honest and irreverent brand of creativity. She self-published Time to Make under her own imprint, American Rookie Books. (Best self-publishing imprint name ever!)
It's a book of ruminations and creative exercises to help anyone who struggles with creating to get past those blocks and make spaces in even the busiest life for pure acts of making.
(As Ginger so aptly puts it in the video below, "My creative life saves my bacon every day."
You should absolutely watch this "commercial," in which Ginger talks about why and how she made the book. She's hilarious – any author who says about her own book, "It can't be any worse than the books you get at the grocery store, anyway." is my hero.
Throughout the book, Ginger's voice is encouraging and human and warm. It's tempting to think of Time to Make as a creative self-help book, but to me, it's more like inviting Ginger over to your house for afternoon coffee, and having her lay out a tempting banqiet of creative possibilities and then ever-so-gently kick you in the patootie.
I felt like my saying things about this book wouldn't really get across its unique energy, so I asked Ginger if I could share an excerpt. And she graciously agreed! So here it is, illustrated with some random Instagram shots of my making-times…
I've Got Too Many Unfinished Projects
By Ginger Hendrix
I talked with a mom's group not long ago about the worth of maintaining your Creative Life while you're up to your neck in Mom Life. They all nodded, but I could tell that they thought I was batty. They all had that You have no idea look in their eye. And then I asked them to share about the state of their own creative lives. And this one woman said, "I have so many unfinished projects." But she said it like she was saying, "I have so many moles on my A," or "I have so many unplucked whiskers on my chin." You know – with some sort of Lady Shame.
And it led to this discussion (well, that's not true because it was just me jumping up and down and talking excitedly) about how a creative life worth having isn't measured by final products. The goal of a life making things isn't supposed to be about what we make – it's supposed to be about making something. And a life spent making is a good life: it's a life where we learn about how screwing things up is inevitable. And that seeing pieces and turning them into whole things is incredibly gratifying. And that any life that includes doing something that we lose time to is a good life. And that when our souls slow down and stop hovering above ourselves to analyze our worth (or the size of our butts), that's time well spent.
Some of them got what I was talking about. Some of the others looked at me like they thought I was a really friendly nut job.
One of them asked me, "Do you finish any of them?"
And then I told her that sometimes I don't, but that I usually have upwards of 10 projects in play at a time. I do finish them, but not all of them. What I never do is wait to finish one thing before starting the next.
Then she looked at me like she wondered if I let the dishes stay in my sink for three or four days at a time too.
It's easy to believe that in order to allow ourselves to go forward, we need to finish what we haven't. This seems the most true, I notice, for people whose projects have been sitting for a long time.
Often, stuck projects are stuck for a really good reason, though. We may believe that we're the problem, but really the problem is with the project itself.
One of the reasons that I have unfinished projects is that I am likely trying to turn the project into something that it doesn't want to be. Sometimes projects just don't want to be what I want them to be. And when this happens, I am generally stubborn.
When the western shirt that I tried to remake out of pink cotton and an awkwardly-cute, pink skunk print did not come together as I'd imagined it would, I set it aside. I think I even put it in a baggie and marked it with a sharpie – shoved it in a closet. When I did this, I believed that the difficulty with the project was just that I am not good at following patterns. I figured I'd set it aside until I was better at making shirts.
When I pulled the thing out of the baggie a year later [*cough* idon'talwayscleanoutmyclosetsthatoften *cough*], the pink skunk shirt and I were at exactly the same stand off we'd been at when I shoved it into the bag.
This wasn't because I'm no good at sewing with a pattern, though. I'm sure of it now.
What I really think is that two hours into staring at that skunk fabric – which I'd hoped to be somehow ironic in its use for a western shirt – I realized that I didn't like it. It would've been perfect for dental scrubs. But not on a shirt that I'd actually end up wearing.
My insides had a tiny revolt that I didn't pay attention to.
The agitation wasn't from the tedious nature of the work: it was from my annoyance that I didn't actually like the fabric I'd chosen. But rather than listen to it talking to me, …I told myself I was no good at working with patterns.
Sometimes this is the case: our unfinished projects are often unfinished for a really good reason that we just really don't want to hear because we've spent so much time on them already.
I've found that it's much more likely that I will take the time to finish a project that actually wants to be what I want it to be. Said another way, if I'd let the shirt turn into a ditty bag – which it would have been a really great combo of colors and textures and weird patterns for – then I probably would have been willing to learn the difficult-for-me-to-follow instructions for making the bag.
There's always a good reason a project is unfinished. Better to get honest about the reason and either backtrack the project to a spot where you do want to go forward or let it turn itself into something it actually wants to be. Don't wait for stuck projects to magically resolve themselves. I think you might be wasting a lot of the time you could be spending making something.
If you know someone who'd benefit from more creativity in their lives, I highly recommend laying a copy of Time to Make on them.