On procrastination, or why my first quilt still isn’t finished

I’m really good at not doing what I should be doing. It’s a trait I’ve been developing over the years. Sometimes, I get it: I hate calling strangers, so I still haven’t called my bank about an issue that sprang up last spring. But sometimes, it’s silly. When I started quilting, I decided that I didn’t want to knock out a simple quilt that was row after row of basic square patchwork; I wanted to keep learning new techniques. I was strategic about it: I designed my own quilt. I cut out the wrong-sized triangles twice. I sewed everything by hand, pulling out stitches when necessary to rework odd areas. And I learned a lot. The entire quilt, which is shy of being a twin-size, is pieced, backed, and quilted. The only thing left is to bind it…and I’ve been putting it off for weeks.

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Binding doesn’t seem hard. In fact, a lot of quilting bloggers I’ve read seem to actually enjoy it. And yet, I just don’t want to. So, I ask myself, why?

Psychotherapists tell us that we procrastinate for one reason: We fear that doing whatever it is that we’re avoiding will cause us some amount of pain. I’m pretty sure my quilt isn’t going to strangle me as I bind it, and my fingers are already numb from the number of times I’ve stabbed myself while quilting. Physical pain is out.

But emotional pain is something different. I have a feeling that I’m afraid of the project ending. I’ve really enjoyed myself working on this quilt, and it’s been completed entirely by hand. That last bit is something special, something I’m particularly proud of. I’ve gone through nearly two spools of thread, and I’ve done it purely with my fingers. Now that I have a sewing machine—a shiny Husqvarna that I really do like—I fear that the enjoyment I get from sewing by hand is going to be lost. With a machine on standby, sewing by hand is inefficient. So, I could tell myself the next time I look at a hand needle, why bother with that old thing at all?

It’s the same argument you can make for typing on a computer, as I’m doing right now, instead of writing with a pen on paper. I am a fast, accurate typer and a slow, messy writer, so putting my thoughts down digitally is, on the surface, a far more productive way to spend my writing time.

Sometimes, though, the words don’t flow when I’m staring at any empty Word document. Sometimes, I need a fine-point RSVP pen in my hand to get my brain waves moving. Often, I switch fairly seamlessly between the two, preferring to brainstorm by hand and my speedy writing on my laptop.

The same will, I think, be true of my hand sewing in the future. The machine is a wonder—the way it whizzes through seams that would take me hours by hand! But I don’t like listening to the whir. I don’t like pressing the pedal. And I don’t enjoy digging through stitch settings or troubleshooting bobbin hang-ups or fiddling with tension. I adore the silence and focus it takes to sew by hand. My hope for the future is that I remember that I have a choice; just because the machine is there doesn’t mean that I have to use it. And if I choose not to—or choose to use it, for that matter—the only person attaching guilt or fear or negativity to the situation is me.

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Do you procrastinate on activities you actually enjoy, just like I do? Tell me why you think you did it in the comments!

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Author: Brittany Taylor

Brittany Taylor is the chick behind SeeBrittWrite, and she believes in the transformative power of stories. She uses words to turn businesses into story-driven brands. Her work has appeared in national magazines, both in print and digital, but her next project might just be yours.

5 thoughts on “On procrastination, or why my first quilt still isn’t finished”

  1. Your quilt is gorgeous from the peeks your pictures gave! And I can understand the procrastination. Sometimes I just want to be done with a quilt, but at the same time, I think, “What will I do once it is done?”

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words! And I think that’s totally where I am on the procrastination end. I’ve been working on this one project for so long, I can’t imagine it not being ready for me in the closet when I have downtime!

  2. I’m a big procrastinator. I do it all the time and then wonder why – sometimes I think it might be because I don’t want to have the process end. All I know is I’d be a heck of lot more prolific if I didn’t procrastinate 😉

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