I’m going to be in L.A. next month, driving down with the husband on Wednesday the 14th, and then driving back to San Francisco on Sunday. Going to visit my brother, some friends, run some errands, all that good stuff. If anyone wants to get together for some coffee or something (yes, I’m talking to you, Katie), email me at verbalcroquis at gmail dot com.
“Don’t force it,” my brain tells me. I tell my brain that it’s starting sound like that “If you build it, they will come” voice–benign, but annoying. My brain doesn’t like this and starts whispering all sorts of other insane stuff: You’ll never design another great collection again. You’re a hack. You’re plateauing, my friend, and it ain’t pretty. Just because you are physically able to be a designer doesn’t mean you should.
Insecurities seep in, your heart starts listening to your brain. You yell “shut up!” to your brain so loud, you almost say it out loud. Careful, or they’ll cart you away to the funny farm…
It’s MAGIC time, which means most designers are absorbing as much input from the currently selling collection right now, wringing their hands that their blood, sweat and tears will not be for nought, while trying to come up with the next collection. Sometimes it’s easy–you’re a designer because you’re so full of ideas, right? Right?
There will come a time when you feel “tapped out”. It happens to everyone. You know the lastest Dior Couture collection? The one everyone swooned over? Everyone was also buzzing over the fact that it was done in just six weeks. I’d put money on it that that was because Mr. Galliano, also being human and all, probably was stuck in a rut, panning bad idea after bad idea before he was able to knock out this collection. Trust me, no one decides they’re gonna put together a 45+ piece couture collection in six weeks just for kicks.
Sometimes ruts happen after a “bad” or “not selling” collection. You’re insecure now, you don’t trust your gut anymore. Sometimes you’re not feeling challenged anymore. This isn’t as fun as it used to be. You can’t remember a time when it was still fun. Your last collection rocked so hard, you’re afraid you won’t be able to beat it. Store X is finally paying attention to you–this just has to be the best collection ever.
So step 1 in how to get out of a rut? Let go of your ego. Quit thinking you’re special. What I mean by that is just acknowledge the fact that it happens to everyone, it’s definitely not the end of the world, calm down.
Step 2: Get a life. Or more specifically, get a life beyond what you know and are comfortable with. The geekerati have this term “the echo chamber”, where the entire tech blogosphere is writing about the same thing for a short period of time. My husband has told me on several occasions that he loves the fact that we work in unrelated fields so that we don’t create an echo chamber at home.
Dismantle your own echo chamber. Go drive or walk around an unfamiliar part of town. (Of course, be safe, do this with a small group of people or in broad daylight–you know what I mean.) Go observe a welding class. Take a class in something you’ve never studied before–chemistry, glass blowing, obscure French lit. Go hit up stores that you’ve never been in before–I stopped by this really cool store with saddle-making supplies yesterday. Go read things you’ve never read before–not necessarily fashion related. Read some fun “love and relationships” blogs, funky gadget blogs, go read up on the potential dismantling of the North Korean nuclear program. Get out of your own head and be a sympathetic ear to someone else’s problems. Throw a party–maybe the theme can be “The person with the costume that inspires my next collection gets a prize!”, although that can be pretty echo-chamber-y.
Step 3: Release some physical energy. When a deadline was looming before me in school, it would suddenly occur to me that my bathroom was “filthy”, and I would proceed to scrub every inch within it for the next two hours, often in the middle of the night. Pleased as punch with my spotless bathroom, I could concentrate on my flats. It may sound weird, but you’d be amazed at how many of my colleagues could relate to this story with their own versions. One would decide, at 3am, that she wasn’t going to have time to cook the rest of the week, so she needed to make a big stew to eat through the week. She chopped her vegetables vigorously, imagining her hated illustration teacher was her carrots. Or go get laid. Or go to the gym you keep meaning to go to when you “have more time”. I got so royally pissed I got a “C” on a particular project my freshman year, I took a kickboxing class. It was great.
Step 4: Do your chores. Take this time to emerge yourself in other aspects of your business. Never got a complete grasp on costsheets? Mastering Excel is a better use of your time than staring at blank pieces of paper, and it’s still doing something to benefit your company. Take the time to pay your bills and analyze how much money you’re spending. Tinker with the pattern of that one dress you didn’t have time to get *just right* before tradeshow season. Return all those emails, clean your workspace, replenish your toolbin, go buy some more muslin, get your machine serviced. Ticking off items on your to-do list, no matter how small, gives one a feeling of accomplishment.
This post comes off the feeling of disappointment in myself in my last project. While I really appreciate everyone’s feedback, all I keep thinking about are all the little bad decisions I made along the way to create this tepid collection, so I guess I’m trying to motivate myself too. While these are not fool-proof tips (I’m a designer, not a motivational speaker), these tips have worked for me and for those I’ve told about this 4-step method. Take with a grain of salt, and I hope I can be of some help to at least one reader.
I’m not too pleased with it. I think I should just embrace the fact that I’ll never be as good an illustrator as I hope. The clothes are boring. This is what happens when I try to do “clean, salable clothes”. Oh well. Tell me what you think. Practice makes perfect.
OG VC readers know that I have a thing for kimono. The husband says it’s an addiction, I say it’s more of a “fondness”. To-may-to, to-mah-to, right? While I’ve acquired other kimono since the last post about them, this one makes me so giddy I had to share.
I do, I really do. How else could I sit here, exhausted, blurry-eyed, with crampy, chapped hands and only feel the buzzy pleasure of accomplishment.
The designs are complete, the final flats pages (all 4) are complete, the mock-up for the final figures pages is complete, photocopied so I can do some rendering experiments tomorrow. The storyboard is 95% done; I’ll look at it with fresh eyes tomorrow. And then I can do up a fabric collage board.
The hardest thing for me when I work on projects for my portfolio is fabric sourcing. I go retail, since I have no plan on producing these designs and therefore wouldn’t feel right sampling with wholesalers for this type of thing. I just need to hunt down some leather. The husband came up with the brilliant idea to scour Goodwill or the like, which I hope to do over the weekend.
Tonight is the first night in long, long time when I’ll be going to bed feeling good about the amount of work I got done today. I love it. Best feeling ever.