Why a “Good Stopping Point” is a BAD time to stop working

part 1 finished

My mother taught me to sew; she taught me a lot of good things. But finishing major projects and maintaining creative momentum were not necessarily her strengths. Which is why I have had to unlearn one of her favorite lessons. . . about coming to a good stopping point.

A good stopping point  is the end of a major step in the process. When all the current problems are resolved and there’s nothing left to do in this phase of the project. Like after you have all the quilt blocks assembled and before you sew them together. Or after you have the outline completed and before you write the first paragraph. Or when all the fruit and flowers are painted and you just have to paint the background and shadows.

You know what a good stopping point is for whatever it is you create.

. . . and it is actually a terrible place to stop.

A good stopping point is dangerous, because it is an easy place to quit working altogether. When all the problems are resolved and all the seams are sewn, or all the interesting parts are done, it is really, really hard to get back to work. Getting back to work after a good stopping point is like facing the blank page all over again. You have to figure something out before you get going, or you have to do a difficult or maybe a dull task to get back into motion. It is hard enough to keep going, but to start all over again is even harder!

So I try to stop working just before a good stopping point. At a pointwhere I know exactly what comes next, and it is easy to jump right in and do it without psyching myself up.

stop NOW

This photo is what I left next to my sewing machine before I stopped for the day. I could have worked another 15 minutes and sewn those pieces together. I wanted to! I had played around with different possibilities and finally decided on what I thought would work. I was in the groove, still had enough energy and time to get to that good stopping point where that section was complete, and I could stick it up on my design wall.

But I stopped just BEFORE I got there! With un-attached pieces and a hole on the composition where that section belonged.

What happens when I do this, is I am eager and ready to get started again RIGHT AWAY. Not next week or after I do the laundry. As soon as I can, I want to get back to work, because I know what to do and it is all ready to go. When I pull over to the shoulder of the busy highway instead of into a shady rest stop, I want to get right back on the road without getting comfortable at a good stopping point!

So I practiced this every day last week – stopping just before a good stopping point. And I was in my studio every day. I was very productive and energized. I finished 2 more pieces of what is going to be a fairly large triptych.

But when I finished those 3 big pieces, I didn’t stop for the day. I started a new piece.
That was harder to do, I really wanted to have a glass of wine and celebrate. I was at an excellent stopping point. But I kept driving. Kept working. Pushed on for another hour or so. Successfully started a new project.

Which I stopped working on before I had all those pieces sewn together . . .

I can’t wait to get back into my studio!

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