Olivia Newport hanging quilts

I made the one on the left. Mom made the one on the right. If you could see them close up, you would see the difference.

Straight stitches. Strong stitches. Even stitches. Patient stitches.

Yeah, that’s where you lose me. Patience.

My mother has made some beautiful quilts over the years, and I’m pleased to have some of them in my home. Last time I visited her, I wondered if she would notice if I packed up the one on the bed and took it home with me. (Note to self: next time take a bigger suitcase even if you have to pay the check luggage fee.)

I love quilts. I’ve even made some. But they are far from beautiful. And here’s what gets me every time.

I start out thinking how terrific it would be to make this thing of beauty. Design it. Choose colors. Use scraps, or buy new fabric. Whatever I do, there won’t be another one like it anywhere in the world. I get the top put together by machine, then figure I can stitch by hand while I watch TV in the evenings.

Except I don’t watch much TV. So progress is slow. And I don’t like my own work. And I lose enthusiasm. And then I don’t care so much about craftsmanship. I just want the stupid thing done. And then every time I see or use the finished quilt, I chastise myself about not doing a better job and why did I ever start it in the first place?

I suppose some of the time, writers feel that way about their work. (Okay, maybe a lot of the time.) I certainly do. Yet I manage to produce full manuscripts and have an historical series and an Amish-themed series that will both be in print. I’m even writing quilt-making into a couple of stories and hoping my character learns more successfully than I have how to do it well.

Olivia Newport chair quilts

These two quilts were thrifty finds.

I still love quilts, but I don’t know if I’ll ever attempt another one. I have started buying them, though—used ones from garage sales and thrift stores. I pick them up and think that each one has a story. Who made it? When? Why? How did it end up in a box of stuff that no one wanted? My writer mind goes wild with possibilities.

So maybe I can’t quilt, but I can write. And I don’t want to settle for a half done job that I’m sorry I ever started. I will patiently pull every word straight and strong and even to make a thing of beauty.

• What do you do when you lose enthusiasm for a project?