Stop thinking, just do.
on April 1, 2013
For a long time now, I know that creating something with your hands is a huge emotional and reward system for your brain, specially if you work on a computer all day long. It is very hard to see at the end of the day what you did accomplish when everything is virtual and on a screen. When you see what you really created as a real tactile object, your brain is in ecstasy mode.
How I was stuck and scared
Knowing that, I always managed to have a few side projects outside of my day job. But for a long time, I was completely paralyzed when I wanted to start a new project. I thought about the idea of the project for weeks or months, and after I had everything ready on my mind, I was thinking I could start making it.
I was wrong. It was already too late: it was impossible for me to do the first step of the creation. What if I was wrong on my idea? What if I wasn’t able to accomplish what I imagined? What if I wasn’t good enough to realize what I precisely had in mind? What if someone already did the same thing, and better than what I was going to do?
Stop thinking, just do
These questions are still spinning in my mind when I have a new idea for a personal project. I try to calm myself and be reasonable and I force myself to remember how I managed to accomplish all the projects I did in the past. This is how I came up with these steps to help myself stop thinking and just do:
1. No need to know the result
What really blocks myself is when I over think the whole project from the start to the end. At some point I have the perfect image of what I need to accomplish, and in a way it is really scary.
To be creative, you can’t be scared. You have to be proud of yourself, peaceful and not being pressured about timing or deadline. Knowing in advance the exact result you have to achieve is really a blocker.
2. Don’t over think it, just start
My mistake is always the same: I plan everything in advance so in a way it is really easy to follow the process, but on the other hand it is just boring and I don’t even want to start after all.
So, be stupid: you have one little spark of an idea? Sweet. Now stop your brain and go get your hands dirty.
3. Start small
No need to buy 30 kg of foil in you want to start a terrarium project that will give 153 pieces and will be part of a big installation. It is not only because of the money you will put to start something that maybe you will never enjoy or finish; it is for the same reason as earlier: don’t put yourself under too much pressure. That kills creativity.
For example, buying Do It Yourself kits is a really good idea to start a new techniques you never tried (like embroidery, knitting, painting, lettering, terrariums, sewing, crochet, train modeling…).
4. Don’t start with a blank page!
If you are “paralyzed by the blank page”, don’t follow a process that doesn’t fit you. When I first started my project “Boîtes à mémoires” I didn’t even know I was starting this specific project. I just went on markets to buy old objects, just because I loved those objects and the memories and stories they were impregnated.
That’s how I had so much pleasure on this project: I never started from a blank page, I always started with the objects I had in my studio. The objects were telling me the stories and I just had to assemble them.
5. Scared to fail? Avoid too much pressure
First of all you have to tell yourself what is your goal on starting this new project. Is it to learn a new technique? To work with some people? To make your own clothes? To tell stories? To feel better about yourself? Find your real need in that project, and be reasonable: it has to be accomplishable, you don’t want more pressure than necessary.
This is what you shouldn’t forget. You only fail if you don’t try (easy to say but that’s true). If your goal is to learn a new technique, there is no way you will fail. If you don’t master this new technique after a few tries it is maybe because it doesn’t fit you (as for me it is crochet – tried 3 times, and that’s it, this is not for me. Broarlg.).
6. Create for yourself, not for someone neither like someone
If you compare your work (or worst, yourself) to someone else, you are screwed. It is easy to say but you need to know yourself. Feel what you really like and feel. Don’t focus on what would other people will say – remember that by doing something you are already better and stronger than anyone else than doesn’t try.
You always wanted to know how to print on fabric? Go for it! Find a workshop, a class (online or in a real studio), try it and you’ll see later what you will do with that. Just START. You don’t care what you will do with it, you don’t care what your friends will think about you spending your money in a weird way: you don’t care, you just do.
7. Share your project with people that care about it
This is a very important last point. When I was living in Paris, I was not proud of me, neither of what I was making. I was very concerned about what others will think about it, about me. I had a very high standard in terms of quality results as I attended art schools – I wouldn’t be able to deal with something not good enough. And then I moved to NYC and everything changed in my mind.
I started a new project. In fact, I didn’t start anything: one day of December 2012, I came out to buy a sewing machine. I wanted to try to make some stuff in felt. The week before I tried to do some hand sewing DIY kits (a bird in felt) and I loved it but I didn’t like the result. I knew that with a sewing machine I would love better the result. That’s how a rainy night I carried along 10 blocks on the 8th avenue my first sewing machine. I didn’t know what I will do with it but I knew I was doing the right thing.
I thought about what I love the most and it is old retro video games (I love the aesthetics of pixels) and it was Christmas so I wanted a star at the top of my Christmas tree and never found something cool enough to buy. So I took Super Mario Bros designs made of pixels and transformed them into patterns in order to cut and sew the pieces in felt. Bought a bag of fiberfill and created my very first sewing creation: the Super Mario Star.
And this is where the people around me became important. One new NYC friend, Crystal, saw the star on my Facebook post and loved it. She could have only said “I love it. Cool.” No, she said I should open an Etsy store and sell it and encouraged me. I followed her advice, I was completely motivated by her belief in me. She bought the first 2 objects I put on my store (the only 2 object I sale) and I continued to create new pieces every week. Everything I posted a new object on my Facebook page, I got a lot of likes from my friend, and compliments. My friends here are talking about my sewing creations when I meet them, and that’s what motivates me to continue. I even took 8 professional sewing classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology to perfect myself. I just do what I want to satisfy myself.
Show your craft
So if I could give one advice: show your craft. And listen to the people that believes in you. Avoid the ones who might tell you that this is crap, or that they could do it themselves. You just accomplished something not easy: you created. And that will make some people jealous.
I just do what I want to satisfy myself
So now I am proud of what I create, even if I don’t know where I am going to with it. I just learned to listen to me, trust myself, and stopped being scared of creating something not good enough. Just remember, as long as you create, produce, it is already better than someone who didn’t do anything.
Having an idea is not the hard part in a process of creation – producing, accomplishing, getting feedbacks, thinking again, making again… this is the hard part, the real part of a creation. It is really easy to say “I would have done it better!”. Sure, so do it!
This a perfect spot to close this article by quoting Albus Dumbledore : “We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”