“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, and I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.
“Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.
“It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” – Ira Glass
Have I mentioned my craft guilt? (Yes, yes I have.)
For a long time, I’ve struggled with my creative projects. There are two major problems I have: starting and finishing. Here is my old process:
As you can see, there are ample opportunities to be derailed.
Then, in September, something changed. First I made a challah cover for Rosh Hashanah. I dyed for that project, and had enough yarn leftover for a quick scarf for my friend’s October 1st birthday. Then, the first week of October, I was roped into Spinzilla, where the only goal was to just spin, spin, spin. A solid week of spinning helped me to practice, experiment, and gain some confidence as a spinner.
By the end of Spinzilla, I had spun nearly a mile of yarn, and had a skein of yarn I couldn’t stop gazing at. This was the first of three skeins I would spin for a project that carried me through late fall (you may have seen some of the sneak peeks on our Facebook). I look back now and realize I’ve been working on projects for nearly 4 months, and finishing them, and it feels so much better than the fear and fantasy of before. Ira Glass’s words really hit me – that perfectionism at this stage is less helpful than pure production. Now I am working on this model:
So, in three days this month, I spun 4 oz. of dyed Corriedale from my stash, just in time to give it as a gift. I don’t know if this is objectively fast, but I was amazed that I could do it. I practiced a worsted-style draft, practiced creating a thicker yarn, practiced creating a consistent yarn. The great thing about spinning, it turns out, is that it’s hard to screw it up. The yarn turned out beautifully, and it was dry in time to be gifted.
I’m finding now that my daydreams are filled with plans as well as fantasies, and that my winter and spring are already taking on a rhythm based on those plans. More finished projects makes room for more ideas; less ruminating makes room for more learning. I see myself in each project, which is so exciting – to make things with my hands. I told a friend recently that I think there might be an artist in me. He said, “don’t you hate when you’re the last one to know?” All it took was a little momentum.