By Jenni Grover – Founder, CreativeResilience.com
If you’re anything like me, your creative practice can take a hit when life gets stressful. Sometimes it’s enough to make you want to hang up your rotary cutter and climb back into bed.
But maintaining a creative practice is more important now than ever. It’s your lifeline during challenging times. It’s your distraction from negativity. And it can be a source of joy.
Embrace baby steps
When we approach creativity as a practice instead of focusing on the finished product as our measure of success, we begin to see that taking baby steps is valuable. We spot opportunities to learn or collaborate along the way, and we relish progress at each step. We learn to appreciate every moment on the path.
The same is true when it comes to coping with hardships: Every bit of relief helps. Every tiny thing we do to reduce stress has value. When we’re mindful of how much relief we get from each small effort, we’re able to gain strength from even the tiniest bit of progress.
This is a moment of opportunity—a time to return to your creative practice, and cultivate it as a source of resilience.
Come home to creativity
Everyone can nurture their inner creativity. Even if you don’t have an art form you’ve mastered or a craft you’ve practiced for years, it’s possible to cultivate a creative practice.
Maybe you had a hobby as a child and want to try it again, like making friendship bracelets. Maybe you already love a practice, like sewing apparel, which you can pour your heart into. Maybe there’s a daily habit you want to make more adventurous, like cooking.
Sometimes, the creative practice chooses you, like me and quilting. A friend who understood my passion for color and pattern convinced me to give it a try, and from the first moment, I was hooked! Now I’m not just a quilter, but I also serve on the board of the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild and have written about the craft for Quiltfolk and other publications.
There’s a lesson in resilience here: Stay open to unexpected possibilities, even when other opportunities seem to fade because you never know how life-changing they’ll be.
Creating a quilt requires a series of steps. When we face hardship, we also have an opportunity to face it by taking things step-by-step. The parallels are clear:
Planning a project:
When I start a quilt, I consider the recipient, color palettes, and function. The same is true when I face difficulty: I break it down into pieces and consider them one-by-one so I don’t get overwhelmed.
Setting up your space:
I’m protective of my home studio, where I write and quilt. It’s cozy and colorful and filled with plants and whimsy. I’m equally protective of my mental space because that’s where I brainstorm and solve problems. I keep my mind clear by journaling and meditating daily.
My quilts are scrappy, so I maintain a big fabric stash—and I’m always on the hunt. When I need a particular color or pattern, I ask friends; knowing their fabrics are woven into my projects makes me so happy! The same skill I practice when hunting for the perfect fabric serves me when I face hardship; I’m able to get creative with resource-hunting, whether it’s physical goods, networking connections, or anything else. And I know I can always turn to my friends; they are essential to my resilience.
My quilting tools are organized on a pegboard and in labeled containers so I can always find what I need. Maintaining them is essential; I sharpen my scissors regularly and stock up on my favorite needles when they’re on sale. Likewise, keep your coping tools sharp and available. Honor appointments with your therapist; read up on good boundary-setting techniques. Your tools determine your success.
Pacing the work:
There’s a lot of physicality in sewing, so I pace myself, taking breaks in between quilt blocks. The same holds true when we are in times of difficulty; pacing our efforts increases our odds of success in the long run. You don’t want to burn out!
Reflecting on your work:
It’s powerful to pause periodically and think about how your project is going. Sometimes, I realize that a color I’ve chosen isn’t working, or I want to re-do some uneven stitches. It’s also essential to reflect on your process during high-stress times; you may be able to spot ways to save energy, build more connections, or alleviate some stress. Reflection can also show us things to celebrate—an essential component of resilience.
The bottom line: Your creative practice isn’t just about making stuff. It’s also about refining skills that will serve you for life, through joyous experiences and challenging hardships. Keep practicing!
Jenni Grover is the founder of the School of Creative Resilience, where she offers coursework, coaching, and consulting. She’s vice president of the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild, and she’s passionate about color and pattern. Check out her course, The Daily Creative: A Step-by-Step Path to Cultivating Your Creative Habit in 30 Days.