I had a revelation recently, while I was sewing a cute little sweatshirt for Vivian. I haven’t sewn anything in months, and I had been recognizing how badly I wanted my creative process to get out from behind the computer and start doing something more tactile than pushing buttons.
Because it seems like pushing buttons is all I do these days. Whether its the shutter button, the keys on my keyboard, or the touch screen on my phone, even the button on my food processor, and now, most recently, on my Kindle, my life is button-centric.
Buttons don’t feel very good. They lack the texture of cloth or leather. They lack the cool smoothness of a steel hammer. They’re not tacky like glue or paint, they are not colorful, they lack sheen: they are just not interesting. But the other materials I used to work with, now those feel good to the hands and to the eyes. They satisfy the senses, and my senses need satisfying.
Toward the middle of the sweatshirt project, I noticed that the sleeves seemed a little skinny, a little narrow even for my waif’s slender little limbs. As I held it up for further inspection, I thought that the shirt probably wouldn’t even fit Vivian.
>And then the revelation arrived. I knew that the sweatshirt would not fit, but I wasn’t too concerned. I wasn’t making it because Vivian needs a clothing, exactly. I was making it because I had the materials on hand, because it was cute, and because I simply wanted to make something. I just wanted to make, to be immersed in process, and I wasn’t at all fussed about the outcome.
Process and outcome have been on my mind constantly in recent weeks, because I have started on a big project that really going to challenge me, and to keep the outcome hounds at bay, I focus on the process. I have certain hopes and expectations about the outcome, but I am trying to keep it secondary. But then it creeps back: what if I spent a year, two, three, working on this thing and nobody likes it? What if someone tells me its worthless and a waste of time? That could definitely happen, but it doesn’t really matter, because my primary goals aren’t connected to the outcome. They are connected more to the process, to the doing of the thing. Of course, when I am finished I would like the world to erupt in a heavenly chorus in my honor, but in all likelihood, they won’t, and I am ok with that. I am not trying to change the world. I am just trying to do what I think I need to do. I need the process.
But this is not the revelation. The revelation was about my Etsy shop, and why one day I was loving it and, it seems, just a few minutes later, all the joy was gone and the handmade bag business had become a soul-crushing burden. I loved designing and building bags for the process, not for the outcome. When I opened my Etsy shop, I was new to designing and making handbags and the process was fun and exciting. But when I got more serious about bags, I lost the process part and focused only on the outcome. Outcome = flawless bags, perfect leather, happy customers, profit. For a while focusing on the outcome was satisfying, but ultimately I lost the pleasure of the process, and that was the beginning of the end.
It was incredibly satisfying and soothing to finally understand why I lost interest in my bag business. It's not that I'm just flaky, or I can't focus, or even that I have no head for business (because considering that I never lost money, I don't think that's true). What true is that I create for the joy of creating, not the joy of accumulating wealth. Simple and true.