Phrase for the Year 2023
When I re-read my yearly posts on goal setting, I have to admit my goals stay the same from year to year, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. 🙂
For my guiding phrase this year, I am indebted to a string of people — late last year Karen Brown of Just Get It Done Quilts had a YouTube video on gifts for quilters, where she recommended UPPERCASE magazine (for the creative and curious). I followed through and ordered myself a whole batch of back issues — In the issue on hand-lettering, Kendra Dosenbach, owner of All Hands Workshop**, said, “All Hands’ mission is to build creative capacity through the teaching and learning of handcrafts, art, and design.”
The phrase “build creative capacity” leaped out at me. What a concise way to express a continuum of both goals and obstacles.
First, the goal.
To further quote Kendra, “Creative handwork is tremendously restorative and healing thanks to its ability to focus our attention on a challenging but achievable task, and thereby silence our mental chatter.”
I fully agree, and I love turning my attention to a creative task as often as possible.
To define what “creative capacity” means to me, let me share an example from that same hand-lettering magazine issue. As the publisher Janine Vangool puts together each issue, she asks her subscribers to participate and send in something topical to be considered for publication. For the hand-lettering issue, she asked people to “perform their own handwriting analysis by writing a paragraph about their relationship with their handwriting.”
So just picture to yourself how you would answer that prompt, what you might have sent in.
This became a 14-page spread in the magazine. 76 entries were published, and the great majority of them were written in blue or black ink, on a plain white postcard or index card. Knowing they might be published, in a magazine promoting creativity, they just answered the prompt in a straightforward fashion. And I bet that’s what I would have done as well.
But then I noticed more creative submissions —
Two people wrote in white on black cards. Oh, I start to think of this prompt in a different way.
One person wrote in red, one in green. One person changed colors with every sentence. Small changes, but more creative than the majority.
One person added little ink flourishes, and only one added tiny illustrations. No one said it had to be ONLY handwriting.
And only one person hand-painted the background of their card, and then drew a sketch of their own hand, writing about writing! This opens my eyes to a realm of possibilities.
So for me this goal, Build Creative Capacity, means seeing where I can push my creativity beyond my initial impulse, to something more interesting, and seeing where I can spark more creativity for other people too.
And overcoming obstacles.
This phrase also reveals why my own behavior causes obstacles to my goal:
- I spend a lot of time following interesting rabbit trails in books, magazines, podcasts, and videos. I get so lost in other people’s creative capacity, that I don’t use my time to complete my own projects. Or, I think, someone has already done this, so I shouldn’t.
- I have art and craft supplies that I don’t have room for, and that I never use — but I see their creative capacity, and I know that they could be turned into something useful or beautiful some day.
- I start a lot of projects just to see what will happen — how will this pink print look next to this green one? Can I make this block with strip piecing or should I use a template? Will this thread complement the piecing, or overpower it? And then when I have done enough to the project to stretch my creative capacity a little bit, I lose interest in it, and pick up another project that intrigues me.
The time spent shifting supplies and unfinished projects around, robs me of the enjoyable time of actually creating. That is not a unique insight, but I hadn’t thought about it before, that I often flounder in the shallows of creativity and I would rather channel my efforts.
I think recognizing these tendencies will help me increase my creative capacity. I can allow myself time to enjoy looking at others’ creative work, without starting similar projects. When I have to move a pile of art supplies out of the way so I can find what I am hunting for, I can pass those supplies on, and know that someone else can surely use their creative capacity as well as I can. And whenever I am about to set a project aside, I can ask myself what steps I could take to build more interest into it.
So that is my guiding phrase for 2023. I look forward to reading your thinking on guidance for the year!
* I love UPPERCASE magazine. I own about a dozen issues and I find inspiring things in all of them. Just before Christmas, the warehouse where Janine stores and ships her back stock, notified her that they were terminating their agreement with her, and she has just until Feb. 1 to get all her inventory out or they will destroy it. So there is a huge sale. I don’t think I have ever promoted a product here in any way, but this is an extreme case.
** This article was published in late 2019, and sadly, All Hands Workshop was closed permanently due to the pandemic.
Happy New Year! I certainly do know rabbit trails/Holes and oh look at this, must try. Sometimes I wonder if I have AADD. Keeps me off the streets ! be well, keep ferreting out new things.
Thanks, Susan! As I was re-reading my old posts about goals, I saw your comments on those posts and enjoyed them all over again. Your comments are always so refreshing and I look forward to them! Happy 2023!
I am so lame at leaving coherent or ‘brilliant’ comments that I was happy to hear from you.
I love reading others though.
No, I always love your comments. We have never met but your kind and funny personality shines through in your comments, so I feel like we are old friends!
You are just the kindest blogger ever. Thank you for all your reply’s!
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Muslim_conquests and /wiki/Sasanian_Empire Sigh, it would take years of study and one would never be satisfied…
Thank you for sending me/us out into another amazing yet brutal world.
I had some time this morning to look at the wiki on the Sasanian Empire — so much good information! I will definitely be getting lost there for a while…
Do those rabbit trails impact what you do finish in some way? I’m thinking about that a bit as I assess the coming year. I get frustrated with myself because I don’t really seem to have a focus in my quilting, I just do whatever appeals. Trying something new, other than quilting – like making Harry the Crow, feeds any boredom that comes from all the quilting I do, but also gives me more knowledge that might be useful in another project down the road. Does that make sense?
Great question! You got me thinking…
I think I would finish more quilts if people would stop giving me pre-cut fabric. I feel anxious about all those raw edges and I see fun ways to combine them into a quilt. Then after I get to the top stage, the next set of squares is calling so loud I move on to it.
I don’t have a focus in my quilting either — I was always reading and watching videos about finding one’s artistic voice. And then one day I decided I am happy to voice what other people will like, as in, if someone donates motorcycle fabric, I will make it into a quilt and donate it, and hope a motorcycle-crazy kid gets it. 🙂 That fabric is not my top choice but I get the fun of putting it together.
For me the rabbit trails are more about blogging topics. For example,in one textile book, I saw a reference to the Sassanian culture, and I was like, “What? I have never heard of these people and their fabulous textiles! I must know more and share it!” So that led me to the Sogdian culture, and the theory that some of the most common Renaissance textile designs may have been a way of teaching math concepts, and that (if I remember correctly) at one point the Mongolians picked up whole towns of craftspeople and shifted them around to purposely share skills — and it’s all fascinating, but none of it has ever made its way into a blog post!
Here’s another little rabbit trail for you. Go to reproductionfabrics.com and sign up for Margo’s newsletter. She gives little histories on textiles in her newsletters and I find them completely fascinating. If you want to know more, contact her, and ask. Her little shop is in my town, and I’ve learned so much from her.
Thanks, Wendy! I got her catalog years ago when I worked in a historical park, but I didn’t know she had a newsletter!
Oh STOP! Sassanian culture and Sogdian culture? And away ‘we’ go. Thanks, I think 🙂
I know!! And they are fascinating! Apparently the Sassanians were so influential in textile design, that we still use their patterns, like in traditional furnishing fabrics and so on, but none of the originals exist. We just know that they originated the designs from what other people wrote at the time, or what they copies, etc. Why did my teachers go over the Greeks and Romans repetitively, and never spare one lecture session for the Sassanians?!
I go off on a lot of tangents too, for which I mostly blame the internet. But it’s surprising how often that supposedly useless information is indeed useful later. And it’s better than binge-watching the news, which some people do.
That is a good point. I know it is better for my mental health to be following creative and constructive people.
You definitely sounds like you are a great path to increase your creativity capacity! I have a couple issues of Uppercase magazine and it is awesome! The biggest challenge as a crafter is always not to “squirrel” or look at the next shiny new object – ha!
Thanks, Tierney! I am in awe of the artists in Uppercase — they come up with lots of shiny objects that I would have never thought of in decades. 🙂
Talking of rabbit trails, I think I should put some sort of lock on my Pinterest account so I can only access it a couple of times a month….
Yes, thankfully that is one small area where I have self-control. Now turn me loose in the Internet Archive, where I can look at books from the 1800s that no one has ever heard of, like Lady Brassey’s Three Voyages on the Sunbeam, and I am gone for hours. 🙂
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I can’t wait to see how you carry out your goal in 2023. I think the true reason to view the creative interpretations of others is to free yourself to ask “is there a different way to see this?” While you may do some creative stealing (I certainly do) it will be done with your unique insight.