Jamila I.

A while ago, someone I know who is a teacher of various textile courses was rather horrified to hear that I’d just spent 400+ hours on the first assessment for my distance learning diploma course on design and stitch. It was a stitched book inspired by Ottoman tiles. She said that this was more than was required for the whole course! But what she didn’t understand is that I regard my self as the main beneficiary for my creative work, and equate creative time with personal space and time, so the more time I spend in creative activities the more personal space I have. I’ve always needed plenty of personal space but seem to need even more these days. So, I’m already a convert when it comes to studio time, and I’m aware that I don’t have too many other responsibilities and commitments, so my model of working would not be helpful to everyone.

Work big or obsessive? This didn’t chime with me – I find that my creativity ebbs and flows and that I prefer to work according to how the inspiration or the piece speaks to me. Also, how big is big? However, I do agree with big and obsessive when it comes to the use of creative time, including research, planning and preparation time. I find that the work I’m most pleased with is where I’ve invested “up front” in it. That’s also the time when I can decide whether the project is worth it (to me), or not.

Make Time. These days, studio time is always prioritised over just about everything else, especially non-textile tasks, and apart from time spent with a few wonderfully supportive and motivating kindred spirits – that time is always time well-spent. Also, a little bit of dust around the place won’t harm you!

Take Time. My time challenge is more about making the best use of time. When doing a course there tends to be an inherent sense of needing to push along with the coursework but I’ve learned that taking more time, and thus allowing myself to put more of me into the work, always brings a better result.

However, I still have a real issue with focus, lack of concentration and the brain fog of ME/CFS, although this is improving gradually. I’m currently trying to tackle this by having achievable objectives for the near future (i.e. this week) rather than always projecting my ambitions for a body of work several years from now. I’ve always made to-do lists for tasks and my working life, but seem to have become much less rigorous when it comes to making my creative development happen. It’s quite cathartic making the weekly plan and asking myself what I can realistically achieve, taking other commitments into consideration and definitely without putting myself under pressure.

This might all sound rather virtuous and obvious, but it was hard work to arrive at this point! It took me a while to learn how to minimise what I call “drainers” – anything that takes my energy in a negative way, directly or indirectly, and/or reduces my creative time. I had to achieve this without just staying inside a bubble and never venturing beyond. It was an effort, but it’s already paying dividends. It’s a question of finding the right balance and of course I don’t always get it right, so it’s a continual learning process. However, I do know that quality time in my studio is directly linked to my physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

So, I say Make Time, Take Time but mainly make it count in terms of quality! By the way, I have for years kept an activity log to help me manage the ME/CFS – it’s just a table with columns for each hour of the day for a month, which I fill in on the computer with colours according to activities, so I can see at a glance just how much time I’m spending on creative endeavours, and indeed everything else. It can be quite revealing, and is well worth a try, if only for a month or so, to get a visual sense of how you actually spend your time as opposed to how you think you spend it.

This is the first week of my new weekly plan, so it will be very interesting to see how I’ve delivered on it next weekend.