Why We Stop Doing What We Love (and what to do about it) -- Another Nudge Towards Creativity

I've been thinking a lot about why we get turned off from doing things that bring us joy. As a child I loved making things and drawing and painting. In school, though, I was not considered good at art. When I got to high school I took a general (and not very inspiring) art class one semester and I think I got a B. I took almost all accelerated and AP classes and I mostly got As. To me a B was not good.  In a way this sealed the fact that I was not an artist.

I think this happens to a lot of us. As children we enjoy painting and making up stories and singing songs and climbing trees and in school we're (perhaps, inadvertently) taught that we're good at this one thing but bad at this other thing. We're encouraged in some things (and perhaps, again, inadvertently) discouraged from other things, even if those things bring us joy.

childhood, photos, studio, art studio, encouragement, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Recently I was reading the children's book Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell and it got me thinking even more about how the world shapes children in ways that aren't always beneficial. In the beginning the main character lives an unconstrained life with her father in Africa and she finds joy in the simplest details -- toads singing at sunset, the smell of woodsmoke in her hair, the taste of hot roasted bananas. When she's sent away to school in England, suddenly she's considered strange and different and wrong. She's discouraged from being herself and life becomes grey and joyless.

So much is lost when we stop doing what brings us joy, whatever it is and even if we're not considered "good" at it. In graduate school I had a teacher who told me about how she had taken weekly ballet classes for years. She wasn't a good dancer and never moved past being a beginner, but dancing made her happy.

In Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert writes about a friend who takes up figure skating as an adult because she realizes the last time she felt light and joyous and creative was when she skated as a child. She didn't make this her career and she didn't need it to be anything more than a joyful, creative part of her life. She continued to skate multiple times a week, just because it brought her joy.

I find stories like this so inspiring. It's brave to do something just because you love it. Echoes from childhood experiences, fear of what other people will think, the trap of comparison... it's easy to get discouraged.

So often we see perfect image after perfect image on social media and the internet. It's hard not to compare ourselves to them and end up feeling like we don't measure up.

I recently stumbled upon a blog post about how crafters are shifting from sharing what they do on blogs to sharing what they do on Instagram. Seeing only the perfect end result in that one photo is causing our hobbies to become stressful. Charlie, who writes This Blog is Not For You is a also a full-time psychologist and her take on creativity as a mental health issue is fascinating.

I know that there is not an easy answer to how we can create in spite of obstacles like that. It takes courage and persistence. But it IS possible. Question your beliefs, your assumptions. Remember that the images we see don't tell the whole picture. Look for others who are forging their way past fear and doubt and comparison and discouragement. It's not easy, but I think it's worth it.

paint palette, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Lately for me, working through my creative projects has been HARD. This weather has been bringing me down and I'm feeling uninspired in my art. My crafting projects have been a challenge, too.

I was determined to finish my most recent sewing project in time for week's blog post (it helps to have a self-imposed deadline!)*, but it nearly did me in. I had trouble with my sewing machine. I had trouble with the sewing pattern (even though this was my third time sewing with it!!!). I had to take apart the collar twice and I can't even tell you how many times I pinned and re-pinned it trying to get the fabric to lay right.

I always wonder what the Universe is telling me in these situations. Most of the time the message is for me to SLOW DOWN. This time I was already moving at a snail's pace and being extremely careful. Maybe the message was simply to persevere, because in the end I finished the tunic and it turned out ok.

Portfolio Tunic, Sew Lisette, sewing, art studio, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

So why else do we stop doing what we love? Sometimes what we're doing is HARD and sometimes we don't do it very well. It can be frustrating. It can be tempting to give up. Again, I think we shouldn't do that. We need to persevere.

One thing that can help when I'm having trouble with one project is taking time off from it to tackle something else.

sewing, Simplicity 2616, vintage sheet, upcycling, art studio, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I sewed up this top using a vintage sheet and a sewing pattern I'd had for years but never used (this one is Simplicity 2616, now out of print). I winged it a bit and although it wasn't entirely trouble-free, it ended up working pretty well. It also helped me to return to the tunic with a renewed confidence and enthusiasm (now if only it would be warm enough to be able to wear it!).

Last weekend I discovered a couple UFO**s in my crafting closet that were so close to being finished, but had been stowed away for a very long time.

One was this felted purse (which I realize I had been working on back in 2014!!).

crafting, crochet, felting, handmade, purse, bag, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I had even sewn a lining for it with a couple pockets and the lining was half-way sewn into the purse.

crafting, crochet, felting, sewing, handmade, purse, bag, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I couldn't remember why I had abandoned this project, created when I was crafting items to sell in m  first Etsy shop. Picking up the the bag last weekend I soon discovered that sewing in the lining was the problem. The first half of the lining had been attached to the purse with my sewing machine. When I tried again to finish it, the machine kept jamming. The fabric was just too thick. I'm terrible at hand sewing and the prospect of sewing this by hand is probably why I abandoned it (and eventually forgot about it).

Last weekend, determined to get some things finished, I sewed the rest of the lining in by hand. I pricked my fingers with the needle countless times and my stitches are far from neat (which doesn't really matter because I'm the only one who will be seeing them), but the bag is done and now I'm using it. It's a perfect size and the strap is just right to wear across my body, even with my bulky winter coat.

Sometimes all our projects need is one more burst of effort and then they're done. You can do that, right?

There was a second felted bag in my closet waiting for a lining. Finding these bags, like finding the yarn and fabric stashed away with them, was like finding treasure. These projects and potential projects are wasted sitting in a closet.

Maybe you have supplies or WIP***s or UFOs stashed away, too. Get them out. Work with them. Finish them.

crafting, felting, crochet, bags, handmade, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with second bag, whether to sew a lining or not, whether to dye it or embroider on it or what, but it's fun to be playing around with ideas.

That's another thing that holds me back from creating: too many ideas. Maybe you're like this, too?

For me it's hard to decide on a project to match my materials. Just the right pattern to use for the fabric or yarn in my stash. I spend way too much time trawling the internet looking for ideas. It can be helpful to see the successes that other people are having and I love it when I find a meaty blog post where the writer shares her experience with a certain pattern; it's so helpful! But eventually I need to stop looking for "inspiration" and dive into a project.

I'd had the yarn I used for my latest crochet project for YEARS. I didn't want to waste it on the wrong project, so I did nothing with it. After I finished my purple scarf I was determined to find a pattern for the yarn I had been hoarding. Yarn's doing no good sitting in my closet!

I found a pretty shawl pattern on Pinterest and saw that it was a free download from Lion Brand Yarn -- the South Bay Shawlette. As soon as I began crocheting, I knew it was the perfect choice. A simple, repeating pattern, easy to memorize and quick to work. And once it began to take shape, very very pretty!

South Bay Shawlette, crochet, shawls, art studio, flying pigs, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I love how it turned out!

Sometimes, though, projects don't turn out right. Or we fear they haven't turned out right. I've sewn and crocheted my fair share of garments that I never wear. Sometimes they don't fit right. Sometimes they didn't turn out the way I expected them to. It happens. It's frustrating. It feels like such a waste of time (and materials).

It can be easy to beat myself up when that happens. To get discouraged from continuing to create, but I think with any failed project it's best to move on to the next one, hopefully having learned something from the last project's failure. I know it's not easy, but we shouldn't let our botched projects hold us back from creating. If I had let failed paintings keep me from painting, I wouldn't be painting today.

While I was digging around in my closet last weekend I found a sweater that was nearly finished (The Dusk Sweater designed by Amy O'Neill Houck). All it needed was for the ends to be woven in. I tried it on and it didn't look too bad. I think I had intended to make it longer, adding a band like the cuffs to the bottom of the sweater. I used up every last inch of yarn and the yarn was no longer available. Into the closet it went.

Dusk Sweater, crochet, crochet sweaters, art studio, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I also remember being concerned that the cuffs didn't quite come out perfectly. It's nearly impossible to see unless you carefully inspect them with a ruler.

The flaws in what we create might be obvious to us, but they're often so minor that other people won't notice. Taking a step back from a project can give us a fresh perspective (though I wouldn't necessarily recommend waiting 3 or more years like I did).

So what about you? What holds you back from creating? What are you going to do about it? We can move away from fear and discouragement together. That's one more thing we can do to make sure we don't stop creating... find an encouraging community.

We can do this!

I think I'm on a roll now.

butterflies, watercolor butterflies, butterfly fabric, Spoonflower, Summer Bliss, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Next up? Finally sewing with some of my fabric. (It's about time, right?).

I'd love to know what you've been working on. Enjoy your weekend and happy making.

*I've talked before about balancing "free" time to fit in creating. Giving yourself a deadline and scheduling time to create are wonderful ways to make sure you don't let creative pursuits slip to the wayside.

**Un-Finished Object

***Work In Progress


  1. You are so talented at art, design, crochet, dressmaking, featuring in magazines etc; I feel that your next step is to write a book! Not that you need any more things to do! One of the things in particular you wrote above resonates with me , and that is having too many ideas. There are so many things I want to do that I become stifled and can't create anything at all!

    I have started to collate lists of topics that interest me into files after 'joining' the Society of Ideas Collectors started up by Dede Willingham. You can find her on YouTube. I now have folders about c17th, gardening, healthy recipes, card making, people who inspire me etc. and am adding to them all the time. I am hoping that all these lists and information will spark off even more ideas around the topics that interest me.

    Other news, I have given up my Linden Grove blog and posted my last post on Sunday. Ironically it was curbing my creativity! I may blog again - but not at Linden Grove! Since quitting my job and my blog I have a new lease of life. I have got more things done in a week than would normally take a month. I feel energized and motivated and am even going to start growing a tropical garden from seeds! I hope you have a wonderful weekend Anne full of positive and enriching experiences. :)

    1. Hi, Simone. Thanks for your comment and for your kind words about my creative endeavors. I think mostly I'm just persistent. I was emailing my mom the other day about how I might need help with a sewing pattern in my queue and she wrote back that she doubted I'd end up needing her help because I can usually figure things out. I wrote back something about making things work "by hook or by crook". I'm too stubborn to give up.

      Having too many ideas can be so hard. I waffle back and forth all the time (right now I'm having a hard time deciding on a pattern for some yarn in my stash. I started crocheting one thing, but I didn't like the pattern and pulled it apart. Now I don't know what to do!). I've never heard of the Society of Idea Collectors (sounds dangerous!). There are so many interesting things to do and try. I find that I just have to have a mental list (or written list) and do one thing at a time. I know I'll never get to them all and that's ok. I'll never be bored!

      It sounds like giving up your blog was the right thing for you. I'm sorry I missed the last post, but I'll go back and read it when I have a chance. Sometimes we need a fresh start. Feeling energized is a good thing and I'm so glad that quitting your job and ending Linden Grove has helped you to find the energy you've been lacking! Congratulations on this next chapter. May it keep getting better and better!

  2. Hi Anne! So I just discovered your work through my blogger friend Maya from Spice and Sprout (lovely logo for her, by the way) and I LOVE your writing! This all resonated with me so much. I am a blogger & dancer/choreographer, but it took me a while to be able to proclaim that because I was never naturally technically talented at dancing. I'm not that great at ballet (modern is my strength), but that fact alone almost made me give it up even though I love it. Thank goodness I didn't. I also can relate to being stunted by TOO many ideas! Sometimes brainstorming comes so easily, but then when we actually need to take action on a project, we feel stuck. I admire how you just choose and dive in anyway! So happy to have found you.

    1. Hi, Ruby! Thanks for dropping by. Lovely to meet you through Maya (isn't she the sweetest!?). So happy to know that my words resonate with you. I love making connections like that with people.

      The "too many ideas" thing is something that so many of us struggle with. And the more I think about it, the more I see it as (often) a form of procrastination built on fear. We have these beautiful, exciting ideas. It's so hard for them to ever live up to our imaginings. I know I need to work on letting go of thoughts like that, because there's so much joy to be found in the doing and the making, even when the end result isn't "perfect."

      How interesting to hear a bit of your story. I just popped over to your website... it looks gorgeous... and I love that you call yourself a "Dancer. Baker. Writer. Traveler." I look forward to spending some time reading more about you. (You're in Morocco! I've always wanted to travel there!).

      Thanks for taking the time to say hi. Have a lovely rest of your week!

  3. That daffodil colored scarf. Perfection. Yes, an encouraging community is a lovely thing, so important in these challenging times! xo

    1. Thanks so much, Karen. I love how it turned out, too. :)

      And you're right that now, more than ever, we need encouraging communities. The more creativity, love and support we can share with the world, the better! Thanks for being here and being a part of mine!



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