Got My Creative MoJo Back! - Julie Brown Neu

Got My Creative MoJo Back!

Finally! After all these months of not feeling very creative and not being interested in doing any quilting, my creative energy just rushed back into my life yesterday afternoon.  In the space of a few hours I:

Finished the top for the UFO Swap I’ve been doing with the Rising Star Quilters Guild. I’d originally planned outer borders, but yesterday, when I put on the skinny green inner border and looked at the top on the design wall, I thought, “You might be done. Yes, I think you’re done.”  (And, it’s good that it was done too because the meeting where we’ll share our UFOs is Tuesday and those borders I had planned would have taken a while!)

Painted the background on a new #sewnphotos art piece.

Picked out the threads for another #sewnphotos piece.

And came up with a quilting plan for a long-promised tee shirt quilt for my husband. I also cut out the template and would have gotten started on the quilting, but my family came home so it was time to get back to dishes and dinner prep.

I was so excited about having found the joy in quilting again, but I still wondered, “How did this happen?”  I have struggled for months, as I know many of you also have, to find some motivation to quilt. I haven’t sewn much more than masks lately because I just didn’t have the desire to do anything. I may have had a few flashes of creativity here and there over the last few months, but mostly I felt like the light of my creativity was buried under deep layers of dark, thick, black mud. So what changed?

I ACKNOWLEDGED out loud to another person that I was not sewing. This week was a rough one at work so I went to the Cambridge Quilt Shop for some retail therapy and the owner of the shop asked me what I was working on. During the last six months, I haven’t given a real answer to this question. Instead, I’ve said, “Oh, I’m working on a few things…” or “I’m finishing up some projects…” But yesterday, I was honest. I said, “Nothing! I just can’t get started on anything.”

I ALLOWED myself the retail therapy (and by extension, the assertion that my art is worthy of attention and expense).  With the quilt shops closed for a while and since I wasn’t sewing anyway, I haven’t shopped for fabric in a while. I’ve been miserly with myself too, feeling like I shouldn’t be spending money on something so frivolous as fabric when I have LOTS of it already. But, I gave myself permission yesterday. I needed machine needles, but I walked in the store planning some retail therapy because as I told Monique, I’d had a hard week and I couldn’t eat anymore ice cream because I already couldn’t fit into any of the jeans I owned. I got my machine needles and then walked around the store, picking out a couple of bolts that just spoke to me but had nothing else in common and got a yard of each. When I got home and was in the midst of my creative afternoon, I realized that the fabrics I picked out would work perfectly for our guild’s mystery quilt, the fabric requirements for which I had left on my desk because I was planning to shop from my stash for them. (See earlier comment about not allowing myself to buy new fabric when I already have so much.)

I ACCEPTED a new perspective. While I was straightening up in my sewing room and cutting the borders for the UFO, I listened to an old podcast that I have just discovered from Elizabeth Gilbert called “Magic Lessons.” It never ceases to amaze me how often I hear exactly the message I need to hear when I seek out wisdom from others. In the episode I listened to (#201, which came out in 2016!), Gilbert was talking to a woman who had pursued very serious academic work (a PhD in Holocaust Studies) but whose calling was for comedy writing. She (and I) needed to hear that art does not need to be “serious” to be of value and that working from lightness and joy and bringing that lightness and joy to others is important work. She gave Jo the question to ponder “What if joy is my only metric for success?” Well that cracked open the sky for me. I’ve been doing serious work with my art lately. In the past few years, I have been working on the Victims Quilt Project and on my Protest series focused on issues of social justice. That was important work that I needed to do, but lately I’ve been feeling drawn to my #sewnphotos. I could ascribe to them a serious message of environmentalism, but they are really just about beauty and joy. I was having a hard time letting myself make the shift from the work that I have been doing for years, the serious work that has brought me gallery shows and newspaper articles, to something totally different and seeming frivolous. I needed to have permission to pursue work of light, beauty, and joy and to hear that it was just as valuable as heavy, dark, and serious subjects.

I RELEASED some blockers that I didn’t understand until yesterday. In addition to letting go of the idea that I needed to continue doing my serious art as a #socialjusticequilter, I had some other stuff weighing on me.  I already mentioned my rough week at work. I decided yesterday that I could either continue to be pissed off about the situation or I could find a new way to look at it that would allow me to change my feelings. So, I asked myself the question, “What is this situation here to teach me?” (Okay, there may have been a few curse words in the question when I put it to myself.)  I went out for a walk, took as many deep breaths as I could behind my face mask, and let the question sit. I was only about 15 minutes into the walk when the answers came.  I was able to let go of the frustrations (at least for the moment, no promises about Monday!) and see the situation instead for its value to me. (Just to be clear, I did not decide the frustrations were valuable. They still suck, but I was able to see the good over the bad and that helped.) I came home from my walk, pulled out my paints, and got to work on a #sewnphoto. My creative mojo is back!

(P.S. These realizations yesterday came on Talk Like a Pirate Day! Avast me hearties!)

Pirate Flag Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

2 comments to " Got My Creative MoJo Back! "

  • Bonnie Beard

    Julie, I love this post! So true for so many of us. Sometimes I feel like I’m ‘deserting’ the ship NOT to be serious! Then again, that does seem, after all these years, to be my default and go-to, as crazy as that is. But to have an outlet – and artistic one at that – is so incredibly fortunate. With work pulled out from under me, I’ve been struggling to find direction, motivation, energy to do just about anything. I assume it will come at some point. But sure wish for sooner versus later, which only is promising to be harder.
    Re your Protest Series, how did you do those? I may need one for a long-over due wedding present for an ACLU lawyer friend!
    Sending hugs to you all…….no easy time. SOO missed the mountain this year.

    • julieneu

      Thank you for your comment! You certainly aren’t the only one struggling for direction right now. It seems like a pretty universal challenge, even for those whose lives haven’t been totally upended like yours.  I have heard some discussion about how this inability to focus on normal life is due to the way our brains are wired to deal with danger and the very real threat this virus poses. 

      My Protest Series is one that has just come to me as I have tried to process the catastrophe that is our country since 2016. Sadly, I am at no loss for inspiration. The latest two have just gone into a gallery show at the Arlington Center for the Arts called “Created Equal”. The crazy quilted piece about George Floyd is there, along with “Fury” which is a self-portrait of me with my hair on fire. I actually started it a few years ago and it’s about the suppressed rage of generations of women, but since I started it my own rage has only increased! There just keeps being more and more to be angry about.

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