Over the weekend my friend Suzan and I watched Elke Bergeron's Metallic Leather Bracelet class on Creativebug and started making bracelets. Everything was going well on Saturday—together, we proudly figured out how to work the strap cutter and the beveler and happily painted the leather. But on Sunday morning, when it was time to add the button stud closures, we realized the button studs I bought weren't going to work because they were too short. I had to order new ones.
You'd think I'd be eager to receive the new closures in the mail and finish this project, but the truth is I'm kind of dreading it. That's because I really want these bracelets to turn out well and I know that this part of the process, when I have to punch holes in the narrow leather, is precarious. If I'm off by just a little bit, I could ruin a bracelet, or the hole and closure could be serviceable but look amateurish. Since Suzan had to leave, I'll be working alone. And, truthfully, making the bracelets with Suzan was so much more fun than making them on my own would have been. When I got frustrated or confused, she was calm and focused. And vice versa. When I didn't like the way my first painted bracelets were looking, she suggested a different way to mix the colors that turned out really nice. While we made them, we talked and laughed.
I've been thinking a lot about my fear of making those holes in the leather, taking that last step, and wondering how often I unconsciously avoid doing something because I am afraid of failing or just not being perfect. Wanting to succeed and wanting to do a good job are positive ideals, but they can also be paralyzing. Sometimes I embrace the concept of being present in the everyday, valuing the journey rather than focusing solely on the destination/result. But when it comes to being creative and making things, I've noticed that as I've gotten older, I've gotten a lot harder on myself.
In part, it may be because for a long time I've been in the lucky position of working with and being friends with many very talented creatives who are at the top of their fields. I see their bracelets, their graphic design, their fabrics, etc., and, of course, I want to create work that is as strong as theirs. Who wouldn't? But this is unrealistic—they have put years into their practice and I am, in many cases, just beginning.
In part, it may be because I have had some public success and once that happens, failing is scarier. I remember when my first book, Knitting in America, was published and I was getting a lot of praise. Often people asked me what my next book would be. While I was, indeed, working on another book, I remember thinking that I was taking a chance. If I never wrote another book, I wouldn't risk failing and, instead, would always be associated with a success.
While working for so many years as an editor, I helped authors deal with their own fears of failure. I was lucky that the magazines and books I edited were well received. As an editor, I was in my comfort zone. If a hole was too big or a closure didn't work, I knew how to fix it.
When I decided to veer from my professional path, pause from my work as a full-time editor, I said that I wanted to explore new challenges. And here I am. . . simultaneously facing what I say I want and fighting off my own hesitation.
On the internet I found this quote, attributed to the actress Geena Davis:
"If you risk nothing, then you risk everything."
These are inspirational words, but writing them down, posting them on my fridge and here on this blog, thinking about them, none of these actions are the same as living them. So, I will check the mail and sometime in the next few days I will receive my new button studs. And then I will line up my leather punch above a leather strip, take a deep breath, pound down with my hammer, and take a chance. I will risk making mistakes and I will risk making bracelets.
And then? So many more risks to face.