When Creativity Becomes Work

Last night I was watching TV and trying to crochet a baby blanket. I say trying because, despite the fact that I have made several baby blankets with this pattern, it is my go-to–a simple yet charming finished product if I do say so myself–, I kept making mistakes. I had to rip out a couple rows three times. (“S*!$, I have to rip it,” my mother-in-law used to say.) I turned to my husband, “I can’t seem to do this right tonight.” “Maybe you’re tired.” Maybe? He hit the nail on the head. I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open, so I put the yarn aside and went to bed. But still I’m thinking about that blanket and whether it will be done in time. The baby it is for will be born any day now, and while I won’t see the family till Christmas time, I feel pressure to finish the blanket. I am notoriously slow in my crafts. I love to crochet, to write, to bake, to paint, but everything I do takes me what seems like forever.

Normally, I don’t mind my pace. I do my crafts for myself, my psyche. When they get done, they get done. But then there’s Christmas. I also do my crafts for others. Sometimes I think of something I think someone else will like and I try to make it for them. That puts my crafts on a deadline. And Christmas time becomes a big deadline. There are more people to create for. I WANT to do it. This is not a chore. I believe a hand crafted gift expresses a high level of love and care for the recipient. You not only receive and item, you have also received the maker’s time and thoughts as she made it. But deadlines for the maker can cause stress–the exact opposite of what crafting usually does for me.

And, quite honestly, while I am crafting, I am still relaxed. I become absorbed. I am lost in the materials, the pattern, the idea, the person it is for, but when I am not crafting, I become worried about when will I find the time to get back to “work on it,” to finish “in time.”

To add to this conundrum, a friend and I have decided to start a home-made accessories business: scarves, blankets, table runners, pot holders, place mats, and the like. We both love crafts: for me crocheting and sewing, for her quilting, sewing, and knitting. We both love fabric; you should see the piles we each couldn’t resist buying even before we decided on the business–one of the reasons we decided to start the business to tell the truth. There is only one way to justify having, and taking up the storage space in a two-bedroom apartment for, all that fabric: use it. So we do. And we love it. But…

(There had to be a but, right?) There is also much other work involved in starting a business: booking, federal filing, promotion, website design, etc. etc. And it is a side business, a cottage industry. Neither one of us is quitting our day jobs over this. So we are back again to the question of time. When do we create? We carve out minutes here and there in the evening. We spend time on the weekend. But time management becomes an issue. We have families, friends, commitments, and only so much energy. And then there are the gifts.

Christmas adds to the time crunch because we want to not only create for our store, but also for our family and friends. How to prioritize? That is the essential question. I do not yet know the answer. Should I mention that a couple of months ago I bought a book on time management, but I haven’t had the time to read it yet? What I do know is that I will continue to craft. I will write here more often (I promise); I will crochet; I will paint; I will sew; and I will bake. And I will get tired. But even when we have our store up and running (keep an eye out for an announcement soon!), I will never consider crafting “work.” Creativity is an essential part of our lives that we should all nurture in whatever minutes we have. Enjoy.