Some thoughts on motivation

As I am trying to get rid of my UFOs I’m also thinking quite a bit about motivation. Why did I stop working on so many projects somewhere midway? Why did I start so many other projects in between (and didn’t finish those either)? What made me lose motivation? At the start of each project I was really excited about that particular project. About the pattern, the fabric I was going to use, the construction details. And yet, some of those really exciting projects have now been waiting in a plastic bag for ages until I pick up the courage to finish them.

It made me think of a graph I saw in a newspaper years ago. I don’t remember the details, but I think it was a short report on a research paper in which they had studied people’s motivation during a task or project. I’ve tried to find it but couldn’t so I’ve reproduced the figure from memory and added some extras, just because I could.


The conclusions were very simple really. At first, people are very motivated to work on a task/project. To keep it sewing related, when you discover a new pattern that you really love, you’re eager to find the perfect fabric and matching notions and to just start sewing. Then, after a while, your motivation slowly starts to wane. Progress is not as fast as you had hoped, there might be some setbacks (unpicking, anyone?). So, halfway through you’re thinking you’re never going to get this thing finished ever, and motivation hits an all-time low. Then, at some point, your motivation slowly begins to increase as you start to see that it is actually starting to look like a real garment, that it might in fact turn out nice and something that you’d like to wear. Close to the finish line, motivation sky rockets and the project is finished quickly.

For me this is very true and not just for sewing related tasks. It is something that I should learn to recognize and fight. Especially in the middle stages when a project or task becomes sort of boring, I should remember how nice it makes me feel to finish something and not succumb to the lure of the shinier project.

Do you recognize these fluctuations in motivation when sewing?

14 comments on “Some thoughts on motivation

  1. Ali says:

    Reblogged this on Thimberlina… my creative journey and commented:
    So true….. I was feeling rather smug thinking I only had one UFO, but on rejection I have 1 dress, 1 skirt, a knitted bag & 1/2 a knitted tank. I saw a flow chart on someone’s else’s blog which I’ll find and post on my blog. It’s brill and everyone will be able to relate to it.

    • Emmely says:

      Yeah, when I started looking really closely I found I had many more UFOs than I originally thought which was a bit depressing… The flow chart you refer to was probably the one I posted in a previous post on UFO busting.

  2. Ali says:

    hope you didn’t mind me pinching your chart! and also, i should have put on reflection, not rejection!
    i have a big pile of clothes which are for upcycling – think you need to make a chart for that too! or maybe a swap shop as someone elses cast offs would seem more exciting than your own.

    • Emmely says:

      I don’t mind at all! Also thank you for reblogging my post, I really appreciate that you like it so much! I too have quite a large pile of clothes that I want to repurpose some day, I’ll think about that some more. Perhaps it will result in another chart. ;-)

  3. This made me smile, I am permanently in the UFO danger zone and rarely make it through it. The picture in my head is of an army assault course and I am stuck at the top of the climbing wall :-)

  4. Kelly says:

    I agree with most of that, but I also have a dip in motivation towards the end of a project, when all I have left to do are the fiddly bits like zips and hems. It’s stupid really. I have one dress I started/almost finished about a month and a half ago, all I need to do is finish the top of the zip and hem it, but it’s still waiting (in my defence, it’s a weird fabric and I’m not sure of the best way to hem it) and my Anna was done for two weeks before I put the zip in. I really need to just get things done, so I can wear them, and they don’t play on my mind thinking about how I haven’t done them!

    • Emmely says:

      Yes, that sometimes happens to me as well if the last part is something that I don’t really like to do or if it is something for which I still need to buy supplies. Such as a zipper in a matching colour or buttons. I often wonder why I forget to buy these things right at the start of a project.

  5. For me there’d have to be an extra dip at the end that corresponds to hemming!

    • Emmely says:

      I don’t mind hemming so much anymore, probably because I’ve become much better at it over time. It’s often not even the last thing I need to do to complete a garment! I can understand though that it is something that can make people pause for a bit before finishing a piece because I’ve certainly struggled with hems in the past.

      • A couple of times I’ve done it before other things like the zipper – and it was so much better! I should probably just go ahead and do that every time!

      • Emmely says:

        Yes, it might actually be a good strategy to do the things you don’t really like to do first when you’re still pretty excited about the project. Of course that is not alwasy possible since certain steps can only be done after something else has been completed first, but usually there is some flexibility in the construciton order. I think I’ll have to implement this into my sewing as well. It will be a bit like “finishing your dinner before you can have your dessert”. ;-)

  6. I need to hang this picture in my workspace. I approach every project like it’s going to work out perfectly the first time – no ripping, or redoing . I want to be one of those sewists that make things in hours, not days, but I’m not there yet.

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