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Practiced Intuition

Before I get to the theme from the title of the blog post I’m going to share a bit about this week.

This week is going to be full filming and celebrating. In January I committed to filming a course for Creative Spark, working my way through with a cohort of other authors and teachers. Three things held me back:
1) Fear. Gah!!!
2) Lack of Experience
3) The strong need for in person teaching and interaction.

PS I mentioned this on Quilter on Fire too.

Fear is built in for so many of us and to quote so many people, and most recently my spiritual director, the only way to get around it is to go through and do it. Yeah, that.

Lack of experience. Correcting this, as I well know and teach, is – wait for it – by doing it over and over and over again until the skill set becomes part of who you are. Yes I know this is a bad way to end a sentence however in this circumstance it makes sense and points to the title of today’s post.

The strong need for in person teaching and interaction. This was, ironically, fixed while in-person teaching and lecturing at Quilt Festival in Houston. So this week I’m filming my first Creative Spark Class in a sort of marathon. A friend came over for 2 hours last week to help do some sorting and setting of the space so I can work well this week. I have a couple of things to do before I can start filming and will be at that by noonish. As part of this I joined a group hosted by Jen Fulwiler this week on getting Unstuck. I finished her “Your Blue Flame” over the weekend.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post. And by regularly scheduled I reference the title and stuff. I’m still in the midst of reading Dave Grohl’s book The Storyteller, which is where the title of today’s post comes from. This morning I’m reading about the early days of Nirvana, the space where they would practice and in this case how this band would practice.

. . . .These songs would have been an embarrassment of riches for most bands to fall back on, but Kurt kept writing, and the new songs kept coming. “Come As You Are,” “Drain You,” “On a Plain,” “Territorial Pissings,” and of course “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Usually beginning with a riff from Kurt, Krist Novoselic and I would follow his lead with our practiced intuition, serving as the engine room to his screaming vision. Hell, my job was easy! I could always tell when a chorus was coming by watching Kurt’s dirty Converse sneaker as it moved closer and closer to the distortion pedal, and just before he stomped on the button I would blas into a single-stroke snare roll with all of my might, like a fuse burning fast into the heart of a bomb, signaling the change.

From chapter “It’s a Forever Thing” – The Storytelling Dave Grohl 2021

The emphasis in the chapter is mine. When any artist, when any person tells you it’s second nature or it’s intuition it is this: practiced intuition. There’s an old saying, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice! Practice! Practice!” and in an of itself it is a truth that bears out over the whole of time. When we begin any creative endeavor, or begin the process of learning a new skill set it is awkward as we fumble to do the thing the first time.

The first time I machine quilted it was all wrong and awkward. I had NO idea what I was doing but I knew the hand quilting was, for me, going to take too long I’m a pokey hand quilter. Get it, pokey hand quilter? Oh never mind.

I quilted and quilted and quilted and quilted. The practicing with intention started as I began making simple changes in what I was doing from choosing color with intention to “what if I do this” kind of thinking.

The more I practice the better I get. There are places wherein getting stuck happens, it is though, as I see it not necessarily major stumbling block, it’s a moment wherein to put the sewing room in time out, to listen for what’s coming next, to ask questions and to problem solve. What do I like, what don’t I like. Where can I get feedback and how/where do I want to, need to do that.

Sometimes like Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, Nandi Bushell, Vincent van Gogh, Mozart, James Taylor, Gaudi, Vonnegut, Carol Bryer-Fallert Gentry, Crow and others, so so many others there’s an inbuilt drive to head in the direction of something sublime. It’s a process of doing, reviewing, asking, thinking, doing more and finding that right path, that many right paths until there is that thing. For us as quilters it’s the quilt. For me as a machine quilter it’s the stuff inside my head, it’s teaching, writing, and making quilts in part of your enjoyment but in part because I have to.

Practiced Intuition comes over time, with doing a thing over and over and over again. It is in part listening for what’s happening around you – like any group of band members listening for the cues of the other players becoming aware of one another and yet understanding their contribution to the whole. As a quilt maker it’s the understanding as best I can of the stuff I use, changing from the big box store to the stuff available in the local quilt shops, it’s trying new to me things often more than once then digging in with the reckless abandon of a five year old with a box of 64.

And so after Houston, after conversations with friends about taking next steps here I am this week digging into preparing and shooting what will be 90 minutes of video for a class on Creative Spark.

Dig in my friends. Dig in.

Happy Quilting,


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