Saturday, November 27, 2010

Step Two-Focus and Clarification

Those who responded to Thursday's post are very focused-whether working on a wardrobe plan, a garment or a design element.  Each respondent said they keep focus in mind when designing and sewing.  I said inspiration comes when I am focused.  In an immediate way I experience being so engrossed that outside elements are disregarded.  (Distraction may be related to the feeling we have when in the storm of creativity but that is fuel for a future entry.)

Joy of 21wale said:
"Focus is hard! I force myself to work only one project at a time; otherwise I'd be in the middle of too many. I also keep a list of what I'm planning to sew. Unless I'm really inspired to make something else, I move right on to the next item on the list. That keeps me from wasting time in indecision." 

Irene of Irene's studio said:
"On the other hand, I never seem to find the time to make the things that I dream up that cannot be rushed. I do try, however, to add some "point of interest" on an item, whenever I can.  What am I inspired by? Many things, but mostly pictures of garments, regardless from what age, as well as sewing magazines and sewing books."

 Carolyn of  Handmade by Carolyn  said:
"I get inspired by so much it's difficult to narrow down my focus and decide what really suits me and which direction should I be taking with my sewing. Plus, since creating my wardrobe is my thing, I need to concentrate on making it all "go" together!"

MushyWear of  MushyWear said:
"I am focused because I am excited to see the end result. I don't have trouble staying on task once I've begun "the look." I am blessed to be able to sew for pure enjoyment not out of necessity. I believe this encourages my creativity and willingness to take risks."


Focus is necessary to have when in the decision making process of design, and also necessary when in production.  I must focus on the effect I am working toward in a garment, and that is an ephemeral thing.  It exists only in my imagination and to ignore the need for focus may result in the vision being lost. 

Focus is the opposite of distraction-open, non-judging attention to something felt which has no words as yet.  We can use focus to become clear about what we want or need.  What makes focus so different from other inner awareness is the idea of “felt sense” and that quality of acceptance to what might arise.  Eugene T. Gendlin (American philosopher and psychotherapist) clarified the idea of focus in terms of psychotherapy, and specifically, what allows psychotherapy to be successful or not successful.  He found that it is not the therapist who determines the success of psychotherapy, but something the client does during therapy sessions.  The clients focused on vague internal body feelings, which Gendlin termed a "felt sense".   Some words associated with this “felt sense” might be:  unclear, no words, something emerging, I feel…  A person might become aware of old trauma, or experience an old memory or see a picture.  There might be a feeling of something coming like a set of words, a line in a poem, a part of a drawing, a design feature in a dress. 

 It is always more than words can express. 

 How can we improve our own focus?  Here are some steps culled from secondary sources in my research on Gendlin and modified for a process specific to designers and sewers.

  1. Clear a physical space in your sewing room and sit quietly.  Ask yourself how you feel, and what might be bothering you about the current project.  Allow thoughts to arise until you hear yourself say “Yes, except for those, the project is great”.
  2. Ask yourself which of the problems are the worse at the moment, and how does your body feel when thinking about the problem.  Stand back from it and let yourself answer the question “What does this problem feel like?”
  3. Examine this felt sense, and try out words and phrases.  In therapy, the phrases might be different than what we would employ.  In an artistic endeavor, words such as “stuck”, “rigid”, “childish”, “tar” might arise.  When a phrase resonates, that is the crux of the felt sense.  Gendlin calls it a “handle”.  When saying, or looking at, your handle, the entire felt sense calms a bit and feels relief.  I feel this in my stomach region and mid back.  I will touch this area when feeling this. 

Young Frankenstein-a cautionary tale
               Next step-Evaluation                           




1 comment:

  1. Mary... you've compiled lots of great and helpful thoughts about "focus", a topic near and dear to my heart. When I'm "focused" on a sewing project, I am indeed in the state of "flow" the term coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and popularized in the book "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience". Flow is a state of such intense focus that you lose track of your surroundings, forget it's time for lunch. His contention is that people experience the greatest ENJOYMENT in life when they find activities which elicit flow. For me, sewing is just such an activity. Yes, I experience that intense focus while sewing, and thus rate it as a very "enjoyable" activity in life. (versus, as you say, times when I am aimless, rudderless, wondering what to do next.)

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