Sometimes I think about my blog (or my Instagram feed) and how much I bounce around from project to project and I have to laugh. It's a giant ping-pong table of crafts. I am a baker. I am a knitter. I am a quilter. I am designer.
But I am never going to be an expert bread maker. Or expert knitter. Or expert web-designer.
And I have completely embraced that.
I recently had the chance to step inside my neighbor's house. She's a super sweet lady. As soon as I walked in her home, I could tell that she was also a quilter. An expert one, at that. Her work fills her home and it is stunning. Intricate and beautiful and textured and perfect. I mean really perfect. It's awesome and WOW - I really appreciate expertise when I see it.
I thought about my two super simple block quilts on my bed and realized WOW - I am so very far from being an expert. It made me think about how legit quilters, sewers, knitters, designers and bakers must just cringe - though hopefully in a loving way ;) - when they see some of what I pull together and share here on the blog.
It is something I also thought a lot about when I decided to dive into the 27 materials project. I am not - nor will I ever be - an expert in any of those 27 materials. But I am an expert at getting stuff done. I can commit to a plan or a project and finish it like it's my job. In fact, I have made it my job.
I am a crafter. A maker. A doer.
I always feel like I should add a footnote that says "but really - you should check with an expert!" when I share my tips for quilting or bread baking or whatever else I am working on (though I know at times learning from a non-expert can be helpful too). I know there are people out there really nailing their speciality and I am awed by and full of respect for them.
So today, I want to share six simple tips about something I am an expert in : making it work.
Just start. I know, I know, I know. SO ANNOYING. Elise, you always say this. But what does it mean? I'm confused! I have questions! I can't do it. I hear you. I know. I know. It is so ANNOYING. But this is the deal : you have to start. At the beginning. I often start huge projects involving materials I don't know how to use before I know how to use them. Because considering the whole project and all the difficult parts? That's damn exhausting. And getting exhausted before you've began is a very quick way to not pass go and head directly to mind-numbing craft jail. And I'll tell you what, that's more annoying that my vague "just start" concept. SO START. Don't over think. Buy your supplies and cut your fabric. If I had thought out how I was going to finish my first quilt, I would have never started and I absolutely would not have two warm, awesome and perfectly imperfect quilts covering my body every night.
Know it's possible. The first year I worked at Paper Source, we made giant window displays out of paper every eight weeks. They were fantastic and 3D and similar to the rad stuff Anthropolgie does for their store decoration. I remember being at work and diving into these huge projects and not feeling nearly as overwhelmed as I did when I was trying to decorate my first apartment. Why is that? I think it's because someone else told me we were going to make it happen. I had a boss who believed in the project and co-workers who were going to help. On my own, I don't have that, but I try to maintain that mentality. I know it will work so I make it work. And I make it work because I know it will. (Self-fulfilling prophecy, much?) I have done this tons of times but two strong examples are the chevron headboard and the wall stripes - both were projects that weren't difficult but tedious. In both cases, I visualized the end result and told myself to pull it together. That made the process easier and more manageable.
Learn what makes you tick. I love talking to creative people. I love discussing our jobs & projects. I love commiserating and celebrating similar habits, strengths and weaknesses. I love the joy that comes from realizing other people get what you do and have been in your shoes. But I have realized that often too much idea sharing stresses me out. I get nervous thinking about the sheer weight of projects and possibilities out there. Some people thrive on that but I tend to retreat completely and start worrying about completing even the simplest tasks. It's not a big deal, but it's important to recognize and know that after a joint brainstorming session I can expect a bit of a panic attack. It's also important to give myself lots of time to brainstorm on my own and decompress after large events. Figure out what gives you confidence and what takes it away and then adjust your behavior and interactions accordingly.
Walk away (but come back!). Sometimes a project is terrible. But sometimes it just needs a fresh perspective. Walk away and return later. Is there something that can be salvaged into something else? Is it worth it to finish anyway? Can you learn from this mistake by completing it? Can you consider this a practice round? I often hear from people who have trouble with their bread baking (yeast isn't bubbling, dough isn't rising, etc.). My recommendation is always see it to completion! The baked loaf will tell you so much more than the stages. And it's probably going to be edible regardless - so finish. Always try to finish.
Listen & learn. Listen for and absorb inspiration from strangers. Listen for advice from real experts. Take workshops. Take notes! Between youtube & wikipedia there is nothing you cannot learn to do (and so many people willing to share). Listen for support from those around you (and if you are not receiving support - ask for it). If it fuels you, take a second to listen for the naysayers. I actually get more determined when I hear "no" or "you can't." I cannot tell you how many people told me I couldn't do my own flowers for my wedding. It fired me up almost more than the encouraging words. (Yes, I realize this makes me a stubborn child.) Sometimes people are going to have great tips and tricks. TRY THEM! Sometimes people are going to dump on you their own self-doubt, issues & insecurities. LET IT GO. It's not you. Take in that inspiration, tutorial, support and fuel and let it make your work stronger.
Embrace imperfection. This is the hardest one to accomplish in some ways - especially if you tend to be a perfectionist. Some projects have to be perfect. I get that. But others absolutely do not. When I decided to handwrite all over my blurb photo book, I knew that chances were I was going to mess up. I decided the "risk" was worth the reward. My plan was to just cross out and keep going if I made a handwriting error in the process. Oddly, after adding all the notes, I didn't end up with any cross-outs. I think part of that is because I relieved myself of the pressure of being perfect and just got to work. Without stress, it was easy to write from the heart and I became less likely to make mistakes.
see also : tips for staying inspired.
**first & fourth photo by my sweet friends at The Goodness.
Other posts you might enjoy:
- on motivation
- time spent consuming vs. creating.
- more thoughts on "balance."
- creative books I always return to.