It's been a while since I've posted on Improv Monday but I received an email from a reader that prompted me to consider my relationship to expectation, satisfaction (or dissatisfaction), and improvisation. I was pleased to hear that someone reading my blog decided to interpret my Score for Floating Squares. Suschna wrote an email to me saying:
Hi, this is to just to let you know that I tried your tutorial, wrote about it here (in German). I basically say that I like your work very much and wanted to try one of your tutorials. In the end I think my floating squares didn't float too much (I guess my yellow squares were too big and I didn't take enough time to find a good composition).
So I visited Sushna's blog to see what she came up with:
I think Suschna is too critical of her outcome. The squares are floating very well. I love the boldness of the color. To my eye her result looks fantastic! Her quilt is a unique interpretation of the original score. Success!
Improvising is like drawing something real in the world. Drawing is an interpretation. It never looks exactly like the thing being drawn. It often takes the mind time to let go of the expectation of a perfect or exact rendering. I'm often dissatisfied with my drawings right after I draw them. But if I come across one of them after some time has passed, when the object of the drawing is no longer in front of me, I'm impressed. I think, "Did I draw that? It looks really good!"
My suggestion to Suschna, is to put the improvised piece away for a while. After a month or so she may see it differently, and judge it more kindly.
In the past I often looked for external causes for my feeling of dissatisfaction. Now when I identify dissatisfaction I ask myself what can I do differently next time that will lead to a more satisfying result? This applies to my improvisational quilt making process.
If I was in Suschna's shoes and continued to feel dissatisfied with the outcome, I would ask myself what could I do differently the next time I created this piece. Maybe I'll use three different fabrics for the floating squares instead of two. Maybe I'll make my squares smaller next time, etc... In other words I would alter the score, experiment, and see what came from it.
We live in a culture rife with choice. So many choices lead to greater expectations of achieving the perfect outcome. For myself I find it very helpful to be aware of this fallacious frame of mind and to keep it in check. Improvisation is about the process not the outcome. It's about learning from experience and recognizing what's good enough, not achieving perfection.
My advise to Suschna and any quilter engaging in improvisation: Continue to be present as you create and you WILL discover your own voice. Pay attention when you are very critical and you may discover something important about yourself.