So, Uh, How’s Everybody Doing?

So, Uh, How’s Everybody Doing?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I’ve been mostly keeping up with the shorter posts on FB and Instagram, but I thought I might get a little rambly, so I figured a blog post might be better.

First up, we are all healthy and fine in our household, and so far I can say the same for my extended family. Having the kids home to do virtual learning is going okay, but it has plenty of challenges. It’s about as disruptive to my studio plans as summer vacation, but the important thing is is that everyone is safe.

Right around the time the schools shut down, I started working on my newest bag creation to the exclusion of all other projects. It was supposed to be relatively quick, maybe a week. It wound up taking about 3. I had all kinds of issues with thread tension and thread nests and skipped stitches…it was nightmarish. I spent a week of about 8-10 hour days hand stitching through some chunky layers of fabric. It was very painful, not just from the times I slipped and stabbed myself, not just from all the shredded skin on my index finger, but in my knuckles. They still feel swollen and painful over a week later.

I then decided to launch right into my much dreamed about wool poncho (which, full disclosure, I’m wearing right now). That was supposed to be another quick one that took almost a week. I didn’t run into too many issues, but I had a lot of seams to sew (the full dimensions are 78″ x 90″, but it’s made from 3 different colored blankets so I could create some designs. Of course, the blankets weren’t all the same dimension, so I had to had little panels here and there, adding to the “mileage” sewn). I’m pretty happy with the result. There’s a few things I could tweak, a few things I might add, but I’ll wear it around for a while first so I can get a sense of what’s necessary and what isn’t. Initial tests from wearing it around the house and on a short hike on Easter suggest that it will function pretty much the way I hoped, and the size is just right for rolling up in as a blanket for camping.

I planned to take some pictures and video of both projects today, but there’s a tsunami outside or something, so those will have to wait until I can get some good natural lighting outside. And not drown.

I’ve also been going back and forth with the company that prints my shirts. I ordered some sticker samples a month or so ago. When I received them, all but 3 looked great. Those 3 had some kind of a dent like a small tire track running through them. I wrote to customer service, who have been great, and they sent replacements. THOSE were all noticeably blurry. That made me question whether or not I’ll ever offer stickers in my Etsy store. I wrote again, and they replaced them again. THOSE replacements also all had issues-one had the tire mark, two were blurry (but only in certain areas…not sure how that happened) and one had a smudge of black. I wrote again, and they replaced them again, but I haven’t looked at them yet. Even if they are perfect, I still don’t know if I could sell them in good conscience. How many complaints from customers would I field? How many would I have to try to replace or refund? As a company, how did they even send me replacements that weren’t perfect after the first complaint? Did no one check to make sure? That seems like a no-brainer: customer complains of quality issue, make sure the replacement being sent has zero issues.

Anyway, the main reason I felt like writing something was to get a bit into my current creative mental state, which is undoubtedly being affected by the quarantine and pandemic situation and all the uncertainty. My Brain is always a pretty chaotic place. There are a lot of ideas in there, all competing for my attention. When I finally focus on one and neglect another, I feel guilty. I question myself and what I’m doing and why. I struggle to decide what to devote time and energy to. I don’t make money doing any of the things I do, though some things stand a greater theoretical chance of doing so than others, so there’s lot’s of self-worth issues that crop up, as well as a lot of “no, you should be focusing on this, instead” to myself. I have said it before: I understand why so many creative types wind up abusing substances or committing suicide. It’s a true head trip.

Being creative is a self-expression, which is deeply connected to one’s emotions and fundamentally who you are. For me and many others, there’s that vicious circle of your perception getting better than your skill level, so you are hyper-critical of what you create and can only see the problems. The skills catch up for a short time, and things are awesome. But then, your perception improves some more. It’s an emotional roller coaster that I would liken to being bipolar (no offense to any who are actually suffering through that mental illness. I don’t mean to trivialize that, but it’s the best metaphor I can come up with to describe what I experience). It’s very hard not to internalize the lows and to equate your self-worth and self-esteem with what you harshly think of your creative efforts and works. Especially in my case, I’m becoming more and more aware of my age and the overwhelming sense that I haven’t accomplished anything of note. I watch a lot of tutorials from professionals on YouTube to learn techniques, how to use software, or just for inspiration. It’s impossible not to compare myself to them in the context of our respective ages. Some are my age, some are younger, and they all have accomplished so much more than me and seem to work at a much faster rate. I’m a big believer in dreaming and the need to hang on to one’s dreams, and to continue to dream. But my confidence falters. I wonder if I’ll ever accomplish what I dream about, and that is depressing.

I need to make “stuff”, whether it’s drawing, painting, sculpting or even sewing. It’s a compulsion. There are things in my head that I need to make tangible in some way, and until I do, I think about them obsessively and it keeps me up at night, keeps me distracted and disconnected from the real world. Whenever I have to stop doing whatever I’m doing, it takes me a long time to “switch gears” and engage in something else. If I decide to stop working so I can go get a workout, it can take me up to an hour to get out of my fog and start moving. It’s hard not to view that as an hour of wasted time, which leads to self-criticism and frustration.

I’ve just spent several weeks on sewing projects, trying to get some things out of my head that have plagued me for years. The hope was that I could use the things I made, enjoy them, and focus on other things. But my Brain won’t let that happen. I’m happy-ish with the bags I made, but I already see the flaws in their functionality and design, so I’m already getting spun up about improvements or a completely new design. It feels wasteful. I’m happy-ish with the poncho, but I feel guilty because I still like some of the other wool coats I’ve made and I won’t wear them as much now. Again, it feels wasteful or like I’m “cheating” on my other wool garments.

I told you my Brain was a crazy place.

So now I’m trying to figure out my next focus, my next direction. I desperately want to find a balance between all the things I want to work on. I want to be able to be strict with my time management, but I haven’t had much luck with that. The real world things take precedence, after all, and if I need to spend 5 hours helping one of the kids write a book report, or if I’m up most of the night tending to the diabetic son, if I have to drive the kids somewhere, plan a scout meeting, battle the kids about doing their chores…well, that’s where that day goes. I have so many different ideas and things I want to work on. I’d love to prototype another bag idea or two (and have the unlimited supplies to not feel guilty about it). I have several ideas for gadgets and gear that would make use of some 3D modeling and 3D printing (my middle son is a bit of a wiz at such things, so this would be a collaborative project). I have ideas for video games, both simple and more complex (and the youngest son has a knack and an interest in coding and programming, so I’d enlist his help there). There’s IPMDT, ITB, Revery, 1001 Totally Reasonable Uses for a Plunger, new shirt designs, other wool projects, other comic ideas (my wife had written something up for me to play around with a few years ago)…

I need clones.

So, I’ve just shared a bit of a glimpse deeper inside my Brain. Current concerns about family and the state of the world compound all the normal chaos in there. I try to put things into perspective. I’m frustrated and irritated by, say, the way my latest bag turned out and how long it took and all the things I wasn’t working on while I was working on it. But, I have to stop and realize I don’t personally know anyone currently on a ventilator. There are so many people out there worried about hanging on to their jobs, making rent, buying groceries, being exposed to the virus. Then I feel stupid about what goes on inside my head, which just adds more to what’s already in there, bothering me. But I can’t stop it.

Like I said at the outset, I thought I might get a little rambly. If you made it to the end of this blog post, you should go reward yourself with something, like a cookie. Or bacon. Or a Shirt of Awesomeness (I had to get at least one shameless plug in somewhere). Stay safe, everyone.

About the Author:

My brain makes me draw stuff that isn't there, and this is where I put it.

4 Comments

  1. william gray April 14, 2020 at 11:12 am

    Thank you for sharing all that, although you don’t sound like you’re in a very good place right now. It’s always dangerous to try to compare yourself to others in a critical way rather than just be who you are, follow your passion(s), embrace the “suck’, be proud of all you’ve accomplished, take time for you…maybe get away if possible, and find joy and happiness in life…don’t succumb to the pressure and insecurities…give all in your family a big hug and tell them you love them.

  2. Eric Howton April 14, 2020 at 11:42 am

    For my introverted personality type, this pandemic has been a godsend. With my children grown and out of the house, and my normally-at-work wife home full-time, I’ve migrated from consumer to content creator with an ease I never expected possible. I have not played a single video game, and only turned on the television maybe twice in the last 30-days. I’m not critical of those who have not – lord knows some people need downtime more than any other single thing in their life right now, and I am sympathetic towards those extroverts going stir-crazy in a frightening, unfamiliar environment, but I have been absolutely on fire. I only mention this because yes, my ADHD (undiagnosed) has been triggered more frequently in this mode where I attempt to do too many things simultaneously as you similarly outlined in your post. I am thankful I don’t suffer the highs/lows you mentioned, as that can be both crippling and discouraging. And I do miss my children as I usually see them much more frequently, but they are currently contained in their own quarantines; we’ve mostly been communicating via anime and video game memes lol.

    I was watching your sewing with great interest as my wife was making facemasks for the local essential workers, and as she is not a seamstress, was struggling with some of the same issues you ran into. I enumerated your solutions which were able to assist her, so thanks for blogging that! Speaking of blogging, I’ve cracked open my old LiveJournal and have been blogging there daily again as an additional outlet as well (rambly, right?)

    Additionally, I’ve been meaning to teach myself VMS for several months but lacked the (time/motivation) to do so, however reading in the paper about the problems with the unemployment in our state being linked to the 43-year old mainframe they use to process such requests have provided me a renewed interest in doing so.

    Lastly, the thing I’ve most enjoyed about your blog during this time has been your face sketches. I do so enjoy people who are able to put on paper, with their hands, what they see. I may attempt to do in photoshop what you are able to draw, for my own nefarious purposes, but I thought an animated gif of your rotating sketch-head would make an awsome avatar or profile pic!

  3. william gray April 14, 2020 at 7:14 pm

    I appreciate Mr. Howton’s perspective…thank you.

  4. Tobywan April 15, 2020 at 7:44 pm

    I’m glad the sewing posts helped, though I’m hardly someone to learn from. I’m still learning myself (usually the hard way, but those lessons tend to stick).

    My wife mentioned the animated GIF suggestion, I may just do that at some point. I did learn how to make GIFs in Photoshop at one point, I seem to recall it was pretty easy, but I’d have to go watch a quick tutorial again as I only did it a couple of times several years ago.

    The highs and lows are rough, and very frustrating. I’ve been through them so many times that I know it’s a cycle and it will pass, but it doesn’t make it any less rough to feel great about something briefly (sometimes it’s longer) and then hate it. I know I’m not the only one that experiences it, either. That’s kind of partially why I made the post, so that those that also experience it can understand that it’s “normal” and they aren’t alone. It’s also good to vent and give other people who don’t go through such things an understanding of what it’s like.

    So is your LiveJournal about your photography exploits?

Please let me know what you think, it makes my brain happy.

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