My intrepid and adorable co-workers say thank you very much for your generous reviews of their performances! I gave them all raises yesterday (they are paid in pats and kisses). We've had a staff meeting this morning, and come to a few conclusions about our team's workload. Today it is clear that we have a LOT of projects going on. As Creative Director, I seem to have a lot of ideas. I always have had. I tend to start them all. I always have tended to start them all, because that's exciting. They don't all get finished. A lot of them do, but not all. Sometimes I bite off more than I chew and get completely overwhelmed, and then I pack whatever project is overwhelming me all in its own little box and put it (quickly! quickly!) in the cupboard. And then I walk away (whistling obliviously) and move on to something else for a while. Most of the time I really do go back and finish; occasionally, by the time I go back to finish I am not into it anymore and can't even imagine what I was thinking there, because that thing is not cute, and then it gets stuffed back into my cupboard and I try to forget it ever happened. That's not that hard. I don't really get hung up on things like that, or things that just don't work. (When I was a kid my dad told me that if I didn't like a book I should definitely put it down and pick up another one, since there are thousands of "good ones" out there, waiting. I think that was some of the best advice I've ever received.) I love the beginning more than the middle. But I love the end. Whenever I finish something, that night I take it upstairs and hang it on my bedroom wall next to the bed and then I get in my cozy bed very happily and look at it, whatever it is. I just really like that moment. Very satisfying.
When you have a lot of ideas, you get used to having various projects in all different stages of completion. I have seven different projects going on right now. That might be kind of a lot, even for me. I think a lot of this creative energy still has to do with the residual creative burst of freedom and energy that immediately follows finishing the book. One of the very hardest things about making books (for me) is not being able to share the projects (because publishers don't like that) as they are being inspired, developed, and completed. This runs so incredibly counter to my natural instinct and love of blabbing. I find it really difficult to work in that sort of total isolation. It's almost like you have to have two creative lives at the same time — the one you live in secret for the book, and the one you live for everything else in your life. It is hard to manage both at the same time, since the book is such a huge project. And if you are responsible for doing everything for your books — the ideas, the embroidery, the sewing, the writing, the illustrations, the styling, the sourcing of locations and models, the shopping for props and wardrobes, the photography — some days it's all enough to pretty much completely blow your mind into a thousand strands of tangled up embroidery floss. It's just a lot. You can be sure that on a lot of days you will be doing almost all of those things in the same day. You don't have much left to give (creatively speaking). You don't even have time to eat dinner, really. It's not a sustainable way to live, but it is what it is, for a while, anyway. Nevertheless, you think, "When I'm done with this, all I will do is sit in my Adirondack chair and watch the dogwood tree grow, and that will be work enough."
But then, once the book is finished and off to the printer, the strangest thing happens. Andy compares it to being on the expressway, doing 65 mph, and then getting off: You come up the exit ramp, make a right onto the (familiar) side street to head back home, but everyone else seems to be going way too slow, and your foot still feels like lead. You still have that intensity and momentum, and it takes a while for it to burn off (and I guess there's also that ever-present little thing called "making a living" that has to be done). So even though you're so excited to be "home," your body has been on the road for over two years, and it still feels like it's traveling. But now that you get to go wherever you want, you're sort of surprised to find yourself getting so quickly off the Ad. chair and back in the car. So you start seven projects and, compared to thirty, you feel like you're on a Sunday drive.
Still, my work crew would like to get a few of these projects (Tulipfield dresses 1, 2, and 3; the seat cushion; the apple-blossom handbags; the Alice-in-Wonderland pinafore; the embroidered alphabet sampler) actually finished, so they just told me to stop waxing metaphorical, referring to myself in the second person, zip it in general, and get back to work. Bye.