I was having a chat with a friend the other day who was feeling a bit fed up. There was nothing particularly wrong, but the long nights, plummeting temperature and ghost-town effect on the village were getting to her.
It was one of those moments where you haven’t much to offer. The only thing I could come up with was – why not try something new? She looked a little taken aback, then thought for a moment and agreed…”I might just do that!”
Now that advice may sound obvious, but sometimes, we don’t see the answer staring us in the face. And trying something new isn’t always the right answer. Often, we use new experiences as an excuse to avoid the things we don’t want to do (if that sounds like you, see this article by Alison Wells on procrastinating procrastination).
But at other times, a new experience or skill is the tonic we need to keep life interesting and challenging. As a writer, this is something I definitely need.
I’ve had a mixed bag of one-off experiences. For instance, feeding sharks from a perspex cage in Australia (amazing), sky diving (getting out of the plane was the scariest bit), trapeze (not so good – I made weird girly squeals I wasn’t happy about) and walking on the bottom of the ocean wearing a lead divers helmet (surreal). Then there was running with bulls in Spain (exciting but hair-raising at times), parasailing in The Bahamas (surprisingly tranquil), swimming with dolphins in Jamaica (too cute) and stingrays in The Bahamas (less cute). One of the weirdest things I tried has to be marching with trained flamingos that kept pecking my head.
But don’t get excited; I seem to be mellowing. Living rurally certainly provides me with enough challenges of late. Yet even though everyday life is busy – think finding and chopping fuel, escapee calves, growing our own veg, flash floods, fishing, running a social media business and maintaining a strict writing routine – there’s always room for more adventure. For something new.
My latest adventure is making a patchwork quilt. I’ve always loved patchwork quilts – the detail, the weight of the fabric, the million hidden stories – so I joined a class with a neighbour in her makeshift barn studio. And guess what? It’s been an amazing experience.
Here’s where we started, with bits of fabric and bobbins of thread…
It didn’t take long for me to select the kind of style I wanted to go with. I have to live with it after all, so it had to match my idea of style. Not to everyone’s taste, I’m sure, but I’m certain it’s going to look cracking!
I’ve never used a sewing machine before. I can’t drive a car and my wiggly sewing suggests there’s a link between the two. I’m still a bit scared of the sewing machine but I’m continuing nonetheless. Here’s the monster we’re using…
And after five weeks, this is where I’m at. It’s starting to come together nicely. Tonight, I’m sewing all the rows together and attaching the quilt to a backing with a blanket filling. I can’t wait.
Now, I could have put this blog post live when I’d finished the quilt, but I purposely chose not to wait. Why? Because all too often we focus on the end result and not the process. Whether it’s writing, growing vegetables or making patchwork quilts, the actual experience and learning we enter into are just as important as the finished product.
As I said, my sewing is higgledy-piggedly in places. Some of the patches aren’t quite straight. I think I’ve already stained a small bit of fabric by accidentally standing on it while organising the pattern. But none of that matters.
I’ve tried something different and have learned new skills. I got my butt out to the class, walking by torchlight along country roads in the driving rain, because the desire to play with fabric and improve on what I’d learned was greater than my desire not to. And it’s been invigorating.
What about you? What new experiences have you tried? What effect did they have?