January 25, 2014

Know Your Goal

Happy late New Year, everyone. How are your resolutions going almost a month in?

I've been thinking about realistic goals again lately. It all started when I decided to make a @#$% quilt for Tally's room last November---also my excuse for not blogging. Apparently it's not a realistic goal to blog regularly AND be working on a @#$% quilt. Goal for 2014? Blog whenever I feel like it and never quilt again.

Anyway, let me just say I have no sewing ambitions whatsoever. I started shopping for fabric glue at the same time I started shopping for fabric. I wanted to make a quilt rather than buy one only because my daughter is crazy about Disney's Snow White, and Snow White is not popular enough to come in a bed-in-a-bag.

I bought fabric from Etsy, cut out squares with the dull sewing scissors I used in 4-H as a ten-year-old, sewed said "squares" together on a borrowed machine that barely works, and glued the patchwork to an existing quilt my mom made and had never used. I hand-stitched around the edges when I ran out of glue. The quilt looks FUNNY. (Hence no photos on the blog.)

What was my goal? To make a Snow White quilt fit for a toddler. She will use it for maybe six months, a year if I'm lucky. I did not think it would be a wise investment to actually learn how to sew or quilt first, since Tally would have outgrown Snow White by then. The quilt I made serves exactly the purpose I set out for it to serve. But were my efforts worth it? I dunno.

I feel kinda sad looking at the puckered hem and parts of light fabric where the glue shoes through. This project took about three times as many hours and twice as much money as I'd hoped (why is fabric EXPENSIVE when sewing is so miserable??). It took blood---I managed to stick a needle clear through my index finger like a post. For all the time and effort I put in, I wish poor Snow White were good enough for a quilt show. But I decided in the beginning I don't like quilting enough to bother aspiring for excellence, so shoddy is the outcome.

I sometimes meet aspiring writers who feel similarly about writing. Sometimes I'm one of them. Putting in so many hours, I want my manuscripts to be fit for the Printz instead of my bottom drawer. I feel like the *amount* of hours put in should equal the kind of results I want. But if I'm not willing to really take the time to learn the craft and norms of the industry, I can't expect much. If I want to take shortcuts, my goal should be to enjoy my time writing. That is all. And that's fine. It's not a sin to decide you don't like writing (or painting or basket-weaving or whatever) enough to put in the amount of homework excellence requires. I know my manuscripts will never be ready for fancy bookstores if I'm educating myself only well enough to staple some pieces of paper together and impress a two-year-old.

I love writing enough to do more---plumb the depths of what I'm capable of. That's why another 2014 goal of mine is to read a whole heck of a lot more books to see what makes excellent writing. I've been slacking in my homework.

Are your creative goals to enjoy yourself without having to invest too much? If your goal goes beyond personal enjoyment and stretches into the realms of marketability and/or excellence, what do you do differently than you would if you were content to keep your art a little hobby?

And if you are content with a little hobby, how do you remind yourself of that when you don't win the blue ribbon at the quilt show?

Sorry to be wordy. I guess I've sort of missed blogging.


Anonymous said...

I should make some creative goals. I have a few in mind. I have spent some time with a professional interior designer lately and have a whole bunch of ideas for my house i want to buy... but I guess you are thinking of writing goals? I write in my blog once a week (thats the ideal) and I write about what ever happens to be on my mind at the moment. there is no order, rhyme or reason. Just raw me! ps: love this post... its fun to hear what you are up to :)

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Aww, I loved this. If I tried to do a quilt, it would probably be five billion times worse than the one you've described. But it's the fact that you took the time and love to do it that matters the most. THAT'S what your daughter will remember. :)

As far as my goals go, I'm always trying to learn more and get better. I think I'd be bored out of my mind if I didn't. It's hard not to win blue ribbons, but that's when you have to remind yourself that most of this life should only be comparing yourself against yourself, not others. :)