What if you don’t like what you’ve made?

What if you don’t like what you’ve made? You spent ages planning a project, drawing, sampling, selecting materials, and then put hours on end into making the object, whatever it is, then you get to the end and find you simply don’t like it that much.

I find this happens to me rather a lot, and I wonder sometimes why, or how, I keep going, trying to create something that I’ll actually like. Especially when a stitching project has a natural tendency to take a very long time.

Generally, I’m not that keen on aspirational aphorisms or quotations, but I came across this one from an American bloke named Ira Glass: ‘

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, 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.

And this is the nub of the problem. You like beautiful, striking, meaningful artefacts and you would like to emulate the people who make them, but you’re constantly disappointed by your own rather feeble efforts. You criticise  what you’ve made because it’s weak, derivative, uninspired, ugly, a pointless waste of time and materials etc  (select any that apply…). It’s so hard to keep going when you’re disappointed in this way, and it’s helpful to have someone, as in the quotation above, telling you that most people who do interesting creative work go through years of this experience. (A bit depressing, though).

Bearing the Ira Glass quotation in mind, though, has helped me somewhat. I think there are certain things you can do:

  • Keep on keeping on and try not to be too ultra-critical of yourself – because if you are you might just give up on it
  • Compare what you’ve just produced with something you made a year or two ago and try to find evidence of improvement
  • Try to enjoy the process even if you don’t much like the finished product
  • Make lots of small samples, because this increases the chances of making something you don’t positively detest

I think something that could help, too, is constructive criticism from a mentor if you can find someone suitable, or at least support from others in the same boat. So far I haven’t tried to find a group to work with, because of the difficulty of making regular commitments of time, but I should think if you could find the right group of people to work with this might just help.

Incidentally, I was alerted to the Ira Glass quotation by a piece on Lisa Call‘s blog a couple of years ago.

Do you know what I mean? Any ideas or advice to offer?

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