So. I've been a not-academic-in-suburbia for about 18 months now, and I have yet to properly do what I set out to do, namely design and print my own fabric, and make stuff from it, to sell.
Not that I haven't done other things. I've created covers for an epic set of books. I designed and made a wedding dress. I've done a couple of small but lovely illustration jobs. I've become the co-chair of my son's school's PTA, and as a result have helped organise a children's art show, the school's first fireworks display, and the largest annual village fete in the county. I've reverse-engineered clothing patterns from existing clothes, finished piecing the top of a quilt that I started about 6 years ago, and started crocheting a poncho (that last one might have been a slight over-reach on my part). And I'm genuinely pleased with and proud of all that (well, maybe not the poncho).
But none of that is what I had planned to do. What I still plan to do. So why does my planned stuff keep getting shuttled to the bottom of the pile, while other stuff jumps to the top?
When people hear that little lament, they almost invariably ask "Is there something you're scared of that's stopping you?" I know what they mean -- they mean (but rarely say), am I scared of failure. Of doing the thing that I really want to do and not doing well at it. I get that, but? The idea of failure really, genuinely doesn't bother me. Failure is part of the process, and I love the process. I mean, good grief, I did a PhD. I know from* failure and setbacks. You down tools, go do something else for a bit and let the disaster settle for a while, then you go get back to work and try something different.
So. What the heck is it that's stopping me? My lovely friend Maureen suggested that maybe I'm kind of stuck on the planning part -- that I've been looking, lovingly, at the picture of future me having a successful textile design business for so long that in fact the looking, lovingly, has become my job. And that does ring true, to a certain extent. I spend an inordinate amount of time on Pinterest, pinning beautiful things that I might (possibly) use as references at some (distant) point in the future.
But the more I think about it, the more I'm not sure that's the only thing that I'm stuck on. I've been looking at the way I work, the way I have always worked, and I've realised that I am really, really poor at choosing something to focus on. I don't like the idea that if I'm going down one path, I'm not going down a different one (flashback to emotional conversations with my professor father about choosing to major in arts rather than sciences, because "what if it turns out I want to be a scientist?!?"**).
I can write lists of things that I need to do, and break those things down into sublists, but if I decide to spend all day on list item (a) writing a blog post, or (b) writing a different blog post, or (c) figuring out how to change my website name***, or (d) ordering labels with my logo on, or wait, (e) figuring out what my logo should look like, then I'm not spending my valuable time doing one of those other things on my list that I should be doing (and did you notice that none of those were actually "print some damn fabric already"?) and that stresses me out and I get stuck and I don't do any of them.
And then I go and do something that has kind of a defined beginning and end and is small and self-contained and doesn't require me to decide where to start. Or I just sit and stare at Pinterest and do nothing at all.
So tell me. Tell me how you do it. How do you decide where to start, and what to ignore for the moment, and when to go back to what you've ignored and what if you never get a chance to go back to it...?
How do you begin?
* "I know from" as a grammatical construction basically means "I know a lot about." Google tells me it might be derived from Yiddish.
** Answer -- I majored in arts and became a scientist anyway. Linguistics rocks.
*** I changed my website name!