Start Somewhere

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As part of my challenge to myself to face my own fear of failure, I’ve encouraged myself to try new things. I emphasize crafts in this pursuit because if I’m bad at it, there’s not a whole lot of fallout. There’s definitely a belief amongst people my age and my generation that hobbies can and should be money making. Time spent on hobbies shouldn’t feel wasted. So many people I know start a hobby and then feel the need to make a YouTube channel about it or open a shop. While that extra cash is nice, it puts pressure on what should be a relaxing side project. Rather than coming home and reading for fun or making a sweater for their cat, there’s a pressure to make profitable projects or create content surrounding that effort. Sometimes I find myself feeling guilty that I haven’t posted twice a week or I missed a month’s worth of posts, but at the end of the day, I’d hope that my hobbies (including this blog) are more about flexing that creative (or physical) muscle rather than about getting attention and/or making money.

So I’m telling myself that not only can I try new things without the fear of failure, but I can be bad at them and not have to give up or expect more from myself.

Example #1: Quilting. Over the last year, I started making scrap quilts using my mother’s massive pile of scrap fabric. There’s a few things I like about scrap quilting. One, it’s using scraps and crumbs from other projects – if I mess up, it isn’t a big deal because the fabric is already scrap pieces. Second, I can practice skills I first learned almost two decades ago without fear. Third, because I’m borrowing my mom’s fabric and thread and machine, I only really get to quilt on the weekends; this means that I rest during the week and can spend my weekends enjoying my new hobby or I can skip a weekend without feeling guilt about wasted opportunity. Could I finish a quilt in a weekend? Probably. Do I have to? No.

For me, quilting is nice because I can use it as an opportunity to chat with my mom about our weeks or our favorite fabrics. Each scrap came from a finished quilt and we enjoy rediscovering certain bits and reflecting on what quilt they came from and whether they were donated or not. Starting a skill is a lot less daunting if you have a friend with the skills (or the same interest to learn the skills). Hobbies don’t have to always be solitary activities.

Example #2: Watercolor. When I was in college, one of my jobs was working the front desk of the residence hall I lived in. Because the desk was open all weekend, I often found myself awake at weird times. 4 a.m. wasn’t the best time to follow along with a convoluted tv show or to try and write that paper. Instead, I found a cheap set of watercolor paints at CVS and a thing of watercolor paper. During my shifts, I would listen to music and watercolor. I hadn’t taken a painting class since middle school and I can tell you honestly that despite my best efforts, I’m pretty bad at it. I don’t have the patience or the technique or really interest in trying to be better. I found the flow of a paintbrush on paper to be calming. Rather than stress about getting better, I accepted that I am bad at it, but I enjoy it regardless of that fact. I enjoy the fact that I’m a beginner and I may never get past that point – it doesn’t make the relaxation effect any less useful.

Because I’ve accepted my beginner status, I haven’t spent much money on this particular hobby. I’ve acknowledged that no amount of fancy watercolors or nice brushes is going to change what I enjoy about watercoloring and they definitely aren’t going to suddenly make me into Monet. Instead, I’ve avoided that dreaded mistake of over-shopping on supplies for a hobby. I’d rather save my money than overspend on something I might not participate in all that often.

Example #3: Cross stitch. During my Master’s program, I had a bit of free time and went down the Instagram rabbit hole of quirky embroidery and cross stitch patterns. It looked fun and relatively simple. So I hopped on Etsy and found a beginner’s kit for a cross stitch pattern. The kit came with just the essentials and a little video explaining how to cross stitch. It seemed simple enough and I got a cute little cross stitch out of it. When I came back home, I mentioned it to my mother, who of course went through a cross stitch phase and had all the supplies tucked away in the basement. So I made more, trying harder patterns as I grew more confident. I had to remind myself to start with the easy patterns and stitch types. I knew I was just a beginner and I knew I needed to start small and grow.

For all of these hobbies, I had to start at the beginning and remind myself that I was not an expert and may never be one. There’s something nice about focusing less on whether I can one day make a living off my hobby and focusing more on the intentionality of stretching my creative muscles and doing something that relaxes me and brings me joy.