Friday, February 10, 2006

Deterrents to Creativity: Illness

Yesterday I woke to the beginnings of a sore throat. I didn't want to think I might be coming down with something, so hoped it was because of yelling at the dog, or the fact that I'd talked several hours on the phone with several people the day before (when you live alone and don't exercise your voice, normal interaction with the world can leave it scratchy - how pitiful is that?). I went about my business and didn't notice it again until I plopped down on the couch after dinner. Yes, that faint soreness was back and I was more exhausted than the day's activities would explain away. There was an achiness that I'd attributed to the bending and tugging while tying that quilt (see previous post) that now seemed part and parcel of a cold or virus. I dug out my zinc tablets and mentally prepared for a few days of feeling under the weather.

After hitting the snooze alarm a few times this morning, I decided to stay in bed for a bit, the throat feeling a bit worse. It's Friday, I kept reminding myself, a play day it was to be and still could be. Nothing important has to happen so take it easy. When I did roust myself out, I really did feel off. Definitely a battle going on with my body fighting off whatever this is. Illness saps not only our physical strength but our mental sharpness as well so it is no wonder it's a struggle to do anything when we don't feel well. Creativity may as well take a sabbatical.

My mother used to say that sickness was God's way of telling us to slow down. Ok, Mom, today I will take it slow. I don't feel bad enough to have to lie down, just don't do so well standing. The dog had the good graces to go out on her own to attend to business instead of waiting for our walk, so we settled in on the couch under a quilt after I'd had some breakfast. I pulled out the 2005 Quilt National book I'd gotten a few weeks ago and started through it. It was a lovely late morning indulgence. Since I didn't have the wherewithal to push my own creative envelop today, I could more easily enjoy and study, ponder and marvel at the creations before me. Another advantage of the late start...My neighbor shoveled the 2 inches of new snow from my sidewalk before I got around to taking that morning walk. I certainly didn't feel like doing that, so what a blessing!

The day was not a total loss. I was feeling a bit better by the time the walk was over and felt up to the "play" I'd thought about doing today. My guild was gifted with the contents of some woman's sewing room - mostly clothing stuff that we can't use, but the women who work on our charity quilts had gone through it for anything they could use. The rest was stacked at the meeting for the rest of the members to paw through. I shouldn't have but I couldn't resist - those old habits dying hard. I found several good size pieces of suitable cotton that was either missed or dismissed by the charity group and brought them home. There was nearly 2 yards of a turquoise blue and white floral print that struck me as perfect for a little girl's or baby's quilt. I'd already gone through my pre-cut squares and fabric stash yesterday and thought I'd either sew up 4-patches or use another simple pattern a bit like a one-round log cabin. Like I said the other day, I just wanted to sit and sew at the machine for awhile; working with either of these ideas would fit the bill and help use up some fabric.

I opted for the 2nd pattern, cutting strips, sewing stripsets, sub-cutting and stitching pieces on either side. Simple, not boring because of the variety of fabric, not tiring because the quilt is small. The blocks are all sewn and arranged on my design wall. With what's left over, I'll do those 4-patches and make a second quilt. Perfect project for the day and I feel like I got something worthwhile done. Next week when I'm feeling spiffier, I'll tackle the more daunting designing I must get to if I expect to have my Changing Perspectives piece done in time.

But what if today had held difficult things that had to be done? I know from experience that most of the time I can force myself to function, push myself to get work done, somehow meet or work towards deadlines when I'm not feeling my best, let other things go until later. It's just not fun. And it takes longer than normal to do tasks. And the error index rises. I could tell it was time to take a break today when I realized I'd sewn a string of segments to a strip of fabric turned wrong side up. Little stupid mistakes like that happen when we're tired, our brains are foggy, we're not firing on all cylinders. We may struggle to figure something out that on any other day would be obvious. Creativity takes a hike.

So I say, you do your best work when you are physically and mentally at your best. You can still do your work
(and probably should) when you're not, but when God suggests you slow down a bit, heed his advice if you can! Chances are, you'll recover faster and not lose as much time as you think. I know, easy for me to say since I don't have kids or a job to go out to every day. Still, this American tough-it-out mentality is not embraced by many cultures and I wish the business world would wise up.

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