Even in the world of sewing, things don’t always go the way we plan. Sometimes my biggest struggles have nothing to do with the tools I'm using and everything to do with the emotions involved in the creative process. Here are the four biggest roadblocks I face and how I deal with them:
1. Criticism: There are few things so painful as criticism. It occasionally comes from those we know in person, but so often these days it hits hardest online, especially through the fickle world of social media and anonymous comments. When people criticize your work -- be it a project, a blog post, a pattern or book -- step back and take a deep breath before responding...if you must respond at all. Ask yourself if the criticism is valid. If it is, learn from it and move on. If it isn't, work through the emotions of the moment and then let it go. People say all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons, and their issues don't change who you are and why you do what you do. Take the advice of the people who matter in your life and leave the rest alone.
2. Comparison: No matter how long you’ve been sewing or how good you are at it, there’s someone out there who’s been doing it longer or “better” than you. Make peace with it and don't let it discourage you. Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” If you spend all your time trying to keep up with everyone else, you’re missing the point. You can appreciate the talents of others without feeling bad about your own skills. Gain inspiration and knowledge where you can and keep making what you love.
3. Perfectionism: As a perfectionist myself, I have a lot of understanding for those who struggle to get each project exactly right. It’s so easy to praise each other’s work and downplay the flaws, but oh, how we struggle to do the same with our own projects. Give yourself the same grace that you would share with a friend, practice where you need to, and let go of your mistakes. Someone reminded me once that so-called "perfect" work is done entirely by machines, while the little imperfections in our projects show that they were created by human hands. There can be beauty even in our limitations.
4. Stagnation: There will come a day (if it hasn’t already) when you sit down at your sewing machine, look at your fabric, pick up the project you’ve been working on...and feel no desire whatsoever to sew. It can be a little unsettling when the thing that brought you so much happiness suddenly seems difficult, burdensome, or just plain blah. Don’t let it throw you. Any hobby can get a little stale after a while, even sewing. Sometimes the best thing to do is step away from it for a few days or even indulge in another favorite past time for a week or two. Odds are pretty good that when you walk back to that sewing table after a break, you’ll be refreshed and ready to start creating again.
The most important thing to remember when facing any of these issues is that you're not the only one. We all deal with frustrations, hurts, and disappointments in our creative work at one time or another. They’re not the end of the world, and they won’t steal your joy unless you let them. Don’t ever let them. Be who you are and love what you make. It's always the best way to go.