Friday, August 5, 2011

Transitions, Focus, and the Search for Balance

I bought this lovely embroidery kit from Purl Soho in preparation for our honeymoon. Last year, I loved having a sewing project to work on in the car as we drove around Montana and Idaho and I completed most of the piece. This year, not so much.

Ever since the wedding, I've really not had the urge to make anything—other than dinner!

I know that this is probably a very rational response to the bevy of projects that I did for the wedding, but I can't help but think about a statement that I made to Josh in May or June: "If I ever stop making things, you'll know that something is really wrong with me." To which I now say, well, maybe not. Maybe I just need a break.

And I can say that my lack of sewing, embroidering, crocheting, or otherwise being crafty has opened up a whole world that I forgot about in the spring—the world of books. I've read close to ten books since our honeymoon and have so loved getting lost in the stories. There is something so decadent about reading a book in a matter of days, about really sinking into a story and being right there with the characters. I forgot how much I loved that fact, a fact which is so central to my being that it's why I chose to be an American Lit major in college.

So the books are helping, but to be very honest, my life is in transition. And I am learning (again) that transitions can often suck, requiring more patience than we're used to using in everyday life.

I probably mentioned it in passing in June, but with the close of ReadyMade magazine, I moved over to a different department at my company and am now working as a food editor. Which is awesome because I love food and working with recipe developers and writers. Give me a day on a photo shoot working on a lovely food story and I am a happy girl. But at the same time, it's taking me a while to process just how much has changed since a month ago. In some ways the timing of the job switch was great because I got a fresh start when I came back from the honeymoon. In others, it delayed my realizing that the job I had so enjoyed at ReadyMade—the responsibility, working with the writers that I did, having direct and constant feedback from our readers—was no longer there. I miss the community. A lot. They were really good company to my everyday.

Which I think is where the reading comes in. It's been very therapeutic to have something (books) to help me relax and just be as I readjust to the new state of my daily life. And it's helping me to hang on to some of the feeling that I had on our honeymoon of being able to focus, rather than of always having to multitask. That was a good feeling. Thankfully too, much about our lives haven't changed, and in fact have only gotten better. Marriage, one month in, is quite rad. We're solid, strong, engaged, invested, and perhaps sillier than we've ever been before. I think the amount of laughter that I've experience in the past month was probably the most I've laughed since I was a kid, which does impressive things for one's well-being.

But still, all of that is leaving me with a lot of questions. Over the past year or so—especially as I've been working on my So Pretty! Crochet book for Chronicle that features 12 incredibly talented women women (more on this project soon!)—I've become really interested in how other folks balance work with creative pursuits and their personal lives. How other people create their lives so that they personally feel like they are spending their time in meaningful ways. This has always been something that I've wondered because it seems crazy hard to keep it if you find that sense of meaning, and to find it in the first place. 

So as I sit here in my transition period, I have some questions for you.

How do you do balance it all? 
How do you make time for all of the competing facets of your lives in a way that works for you and/or your family?
Do you make time to craft or sew after the kiddos have gone to bed or after you get home from your day job? 
Do you work a more flexible schedule so that you have time for your family? 
Did you change jobs when you had kids? Did you change jobs to do something that was more of a passion?
And also, why do you put energy into making sure that you have your creative outlet- what drives you to maintain that element of yourself?

I want to hear about it all! I invite you to share because I think being more open about how we actually make our busy lives work will be a great comfort to creative women. Plus we might learn some helpful tips along the way.

Feel free to email me with your story at thingswemake [at] gmail [dot] com or simply post a comment here. If you are a maker, I'd also love to share some of your work, so do let me know if you have an etsy shop or a blog so that I can make sure to include that as well. Feel free to answer one question, all of them, or some combination in between.

I'm not exactly sure what form this content will take, but I do know that this is one of the biggest questions that I have for other women—and I am quite sure that I'm not the only one who is wondering this. So tell me, how do you make it all happen in a way that feels meaningful for you?


  1. Amy, I really feel I was supposed to find your blog when I did. I continue to find inspiration in your words and that you are often asking yourself the same questions I am asking myself. Trying to find balance in my life is something I work on every day and when I have a minute I'll email you with a finer story. I find my creativity ebbs and flows and I try to follow the natural pattern. It doesn't always work and sometimes life gets in the way of my muse. This summer has been particularly difficult with my two little boys home all day from school. They don't leave me much time to get my hands dirty with MY projects. I am also struggling with keeping the inspiration up on my blog which makes me feel like I am disappointing others but mostly myself. So, I am learning to be gentle with myself, to live each day in the moment and remember that my kids will be little only for a wee while. I hope you will be gentle on yourself, too, during this transition time and know that balance is only achieved by the ups AND downs of desire and activity. Best to you.


  2. A lot of what you're curious about doesnt apply to me, but I figure more sides of the story can't hurt! Firstly, it's just me and my fiance in our apartment, and I'm currently unemployed and will be attending school again starting this fall. So no kiddos or job to balance. But I have found that I need deadlines for most activities, and so plan my days around them. For example, I'm having a tea party with girl friends tomorrow afternoon, so I need to clean like the devil today. By planning regular social obligations, I contrive to keep my apartment beautiful and myself busy.

    At the same time for large projects I need lots of time. I know my habits of sewing and swearing unto the wee hours for major projects (I occasionally do work as a costumer). So I start early, plan, plan, plan, and try to be honest with myself about my limits and capabilities.

    What makes me stay creative? Wanting beautiful things, made well and not being willing to pay good money that I don't have for a product that I can make better. I also intend to make my wedding dress (although no where's near so complex as yours!), and am currently crocheting a cuddly shawl that I would like to wear to the reception. All told, it will probably cost around $100 for my complete wedding outfit (more if I decide I need adorable red shoes :P). You can't find that price for exactly what you want very easily.

    I hope this answered your query, I always tend to ramble off on strange tangents. Good luck finding your creative self again, but do remember there is no harm in devouring a good book!

  3. I've been working full-time for a few years, and just recently got married as well. My husband and I lived together in a house we bought before we were married. In some ways I'm still working on the work-home-creative life balance. One thing I've found is that even when I'm very busy, and even if it is just for five minutes, I need to sit down and work on something every day. It works even better when I can bookend my workday with making time--I sit down and knit a few rows before I leave for work, and after dinner I usually spend at least part of the evening making things. Also, to let some things go sometimes. As much as I would love to accomplish everything it just won't happen.

    I don't have children (just a dog, two cats and a rabbit), and I honestly don't know how I'll handle it then. I do find inspiration in Amanda Blake Soule (, who has five little ones and manages to sew and write beautiful books about crafts and family. I think I will try to stick to my rule about a few minutes a day to sit still and make something, and sneak crafting in here and there. I think I will change my work to part-time so that I could be home with my children, but at this point I don't know. I also dream of pursuing more creative work from home. That's a couple of years down the road for us...
    Balancing my making with my husband now isn't too difficult--I knit or sew or make other things while we're watching television or in the car when he drives. Sometimes I do go upstairs to the craft and sew alone while he putters with other things, but this quiet time alone is nice, too.
    I have to put my energy into making things because I like that feeling of creating something from a pile of fabric or a ball of yarn. I love to make beautiful things for myself, my friends and family, and my home. It's also something tangible I can see that I did at the end of the day--I'm a librarian, which has its own rewards, but they aren't always visible. I also sometimes have a hard time balancing reading with making! I just try to divide up time for both and do what I want to in the moment. This is a great post and I'm interested in what others have to say!
    I can be found at and

  4. Wow! Job change right along with a wedding - those are both on the top ten list of all time stress makers! :-) What you're going through sounds soooo familiar to me, as I've had 3 huge moves across the country, with the hubby and I both changing jobs at the same time. What is also awesome is that you're totally recognizing this for what it is, a major transition, and it sounds like you're not beating yourself up about the lack of making, hooray!

    I get asked about how I find time for everything I do, and the short answer is I don't! :-) But I've written 2 differnt posts at different times that focus on how I prioritize. If you'd like some navel gazing from me, the earlier, longer post is here:

    And another one is here, (it's actually a guest post I write)

    Hope some of this helps you ease your way into wedded bliss with a new job!

  5. Amy, I have been feeling very similar to what you are describing so it was wonderful to read this. I will often listen to books on librivox ( while I work. Its all books in the public domain, but I have found it to be a good solution for listening to a classic and doing some crafting at the same time.
    It was really so good to read this post! Thank you.