This elemental emotion has been with us forever. It helped us survive when we were living in caves, always driving us to run fast or fight hard. We can't escape our capacity to feel fear because it's hardwired into our brains. Without our fight or flight drive, we wouldn't have lasted long on this earth.
But these days we don't have such simple fears that they can either be run away from quickly or bludgeoned with a club.
Sitting at my computer I've been thinking about fear a lot lately. It seems in exchange for the comforts of modern, civilized life, we now have to deal with a new sort of fear. It's the slow, insidious fear that creeps in under the door and slowly encircles your ankles.
These simple fears don't seem like a big deal in the beginning - worry over your kids/grandkids getting hurt, concern over the economy, or stress over which fabrics to pick for your next quilt.
They seem simple enough, but if allowed free reign to grow and manifest, these fears can drive you to do crazy things like not letting your child outside to play, hording canned foods just in case the world ends next week, or stalling out your next quilt project simply because you can't pick the colors.
The more I think about it, the more I see that our modern fears are all things we can't easily fight or fly from, so it makes sense that, for our brains at least, it's difficult to know how to react when a fear goes from just a small worry to a life-controlling obsession.
So how does all of this relate to quilting?
I've been watching and reading many blogs over the last two weeks and it seems the one thing stopping most quilters from even TRYING free motion is just simple fear.
What if I mess up this quilt?
- Use a practice sandwich so you're NOT quilting on a real quilt that took many hours to piece. It's just batting and fabric and thread after all. It's not going to sit up and yell at you.
What if I'm really bad at free motion quilting?
- Chances are you will see some ugly stitches, but this is totally normal. It will also feel weird because you're using your machine in a different way. Neither of these things mean you're particularly bad or good at free motion. You're just starting! Give yourself a break!
What if I never get the hang of it?
- If you put time and effort into practicing this skill, you will see an improvement every time you quilt. Fear of being bad at it, or never improving is just not logical. The more you work at it, the better you will get.
Are you starting to see a pattern here? No matter what little worry comes into your head, there is a logical argument to counter it.
Logic is the enemy of fear. You will not be afraid of illogical things if you only look at them in a logical way.
If you allow it, fear will stick you in place, stop you from trying and doing the things you want to do.
I know this all too well because last year I allowed fear to squash me flat. This time last year all 365 designs were stitched out and I had an ENTIRE YEAR to plan and create what was coming next on this blog.
But what did I do? I allowed fear to enter the equation and it stuck me in place.
For an entire year I stressed and worried and had many good ideas, but I couldn't actually START on any of them!
Every time I had an idea about what to do, fear would start asking questions. What if everyone hates this idea? What if I don't do it right and everyone is confused? What if I can't get all of x,y, z done in time?
Never before in my life have I used the word Procrastination to describe myself. I wasn't intentionally treading water, wasting time, but that is exactly what was happening because I couldn't make a decision.
I was stuck. Fear stuck me in place. No movement. No forward. Just STUCK.
It was only in the last week of the project that I finally forced myself to make a decision. I was still so consumed by my illogical fear that I was sure, absolutely positively sure, that you would all hate the way I was changing this blog.
I sat waiting for dire emails lambasting my need for change, criticizing this new quilt along idea, and demanding a return to the way the project was. It just proves how illogical my fear was - I never received even ONE nasty email this year.
As the first and second weeks have gone by, I've slowly unbent from the curled, squashed position my fears put me in last year. I conquered the fear in the end by coming to this realization:
Nothing could possibly be worse than being stuck in place by fear.
All the most terrible and nasty emails in the world were not as bad as the feeling of being pummeled by illogical fears. To make the feeling even more visual, I sketched this drawing of a goddess under a torrent of fear (that's a rain cloud above her by the way, not a bundle of balloons!):
Finally I just said - Shut up and go quilt Leah and you'll figure it all out later.
Shut up because all these worries are illogical.
Shut up because you don't need to ask any more questions.
Shut up because the answers will come, but ONLY from behind a machine.
Shut up and MOVE beyond this stuck place!
So if you're feeling particularly stuck, held in place by all the many questions and worries and fears that come with free motion quilting, consider for a second what this state feels like.
Consider the chains holding you in place, the ropes tying you to one spot, all the pull and weight of that fear reigning down on your back.
And now consider the fact that you can MOVE out of this place of fear by taking a single step: