This is for all who think they are alone in their struggles…
Last year I shared in this space what would become my most popular pattern to date: my Moroccan Tote. It has been favourited by over 2,000 Raverly users, has over 50 projects and was even featured in an issue of Simply Crochet. After reading these facts you may be surprised to hear that my one and only thought after releasing that pattern was: that is it, I am never designing again, I am just not good at this.
Before you think this is a pity party, let me explain why I believed I was not a good designer: because it was too damn hard and if I were good at it (like all the effortless designers I follow on social media) then it wouldn’t be this hard.
If I were part of the “cool designer crowd” then it wouldn’t take me so long to come up with a design idea, I wouldn’t change my mind so many times, I wouldn’t get stuck for hours looking at an unfinished pattern with no clue as to what to do next. It wouldn’t take me so long from idea to published pattern.
And to top all of the above my design process does not look at all like what designers share on Instagram: I don’t have a beautiful workspace at home that looks over stunning scenery, I don’t have pretty dried flowers or cool vintage backgrounds all around me while I work to take amazing pictures with and I can never come up with such awesome colour combos as they put together. These are seriously talented people, and I just couldn’t compare.
So I stopped designing and had been enjoying some quality crochet and knitting time just for myself since then. Until I was reading a book by Brene Brown a few months ago and stumbled upon this quote:
The new cultural belief that everything should be fun, fast and easy is inconsistent with hopeful thinking… When we experience something that is difficult and requires significant time and effort we are quick to think, This is supposed to be easy; it is not worth the effort, or, This should be easier: it’s only hard and slow because I’m not good at it.
At that moment I thought: Shit. That is exactly what I’m doing.
I don’t know when it was that we as a society stopped giving value to really hard work, but it is out there. We give up because we don’t believe something is worth the time or because we think we are not as good/quick as we should be. And the latter is usually a consequence of us comparing to others, or most of the time, our idea of those others.
After this it was easy to realise that just because it is (so damn) hard doesn’t mean it is not worth doing. And just because it may be harder for me than for others doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be doing it either. I saw so many people trying out tapestry crochet after my pattern was published, people picking up their hooks or saying that they were inspired to try crochet because of it. That makes up for all the hard work.
I didn’t realise how much I was comparing myself with my idea of other designers and hadn’t realised that it was shame that made me want to quit: shame that I could never be like them. So if any of you are thinking of designing (or anything really) but are not sure you’re good enough, here is my advice to you:
- Read “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown. Just do it, trust me.
- Allow yourself to be a beginner: give yourself a chance.
The rest is up to you. Just know that we all struggle and that usually when you think you are the only one finding something difficult, you are not alone. We are simply more used to sharing the successes than the struggles.
So to keep it real let me tell you that until a week ago I was horribly stuck with the design that I am working on right now and it has taken SO MUCH longer than I thought. I want it to be good, and I am scared that people won’t like it. It took hours of staring at it to find a way to finish it that was just right and I am glad that I stared at it for so long because now I love how it turned out.
Do you want to keep it real with me? Share something you are struggling with in your life at the moment, anything! You may just realise you are not alone…
45 thoughts on “How my most liked pattern made me want to quit designing”
For a lot of people sharing their creative wares on social media, (particularly when designing or crafting to sell), it is all about building a ‘brand’. I’m certainly not saying that’s a bad thing, but It’s easy to forget that the small square in the corner of someone’s life that they have specially styled, designed and staged for your viewing pleasure may not be an accurate representation of reality. What I see when I look at the pictures of your Tote is something incredibly, raw, real and beautiful in the best way possible. There was no need to tart it up with flashes of vintage flowers or throws because -as your figures show – everyone can see it is flawless. I cover up the fact that I live in a pokey flat in south london with rugs, books and throws so looking at my blog you’d never know that my washing up needs doing, my floors need a sweeping and my shelf is about to fall down! Keep up the good work, don’t be discouraged by watching others, you are truly talented.
Thank you so much for your words! I don’t think branding is a bad thing either and we all do it in one way or another, but we must remember that we are also human and that everything does not always work perfectly. I think subconsciously we always want people to think our work was effortless and we did it while also balancing 10 other things and also wearing the perfect clothes and perfect make up, and this specially true for women. Of course our struggles wouldn’t get as many likes on social media, but it is good to know everyone has them, really appreciate your honesty! My washing up is also piling up in the kitchen as I write…!
Thanks for this thoughtful and honest post. I think you’re not alone! I too am a designer who is often asking myself “why is this so hard?” or thinking “I can’t do this.” It’s hard to accept that it really truly is hard. But I think it feels so good to finally create that perfect design exactly because it is so hard.
It is so great to read your comment my fellow designer! I think you are right, we must embrace the hard work and start to value it more. Yes, it takes time and sweat but it is so worth it in the end when you get it just the way you wanted. Thanks for stopping by!
I remember climbing a mountain once. It was really hard and exhausting. But on the top it was só beautiful. All fatigue was forgotten looking at the stunning view. I felt thoroughly alive and truly happy. This mountain top could also be reached by cable car. A guy coming from the cable car stood next to me looking at the same view. ‘Yeah,’ he said in a bored voice. ‘It’s nice, but I also could have bought a postcard.’
I never forgot that. I’d rather not choose the postcard, or the cable car, I choose the climbing. Every time 🙂
I love this… it just made me smile and take a deep breath to myself while thinking…”yes… you are not alone, people get it”. Thank you for this, for your courage to climb the mountain every time and for sharing your story here.
Thanks for writing this
You are very welcome Emma 🙂
What a lovely post. I dont’t have the creativity at all to design anything. So I have the utmost admiration for designers. Your art is beautiful, and we are priviliged to share it with you. I cannot begin to think how difficult it must be, creating, frogging, writing, changing… I take my hat off to you.
Thank you so much, such kind words. It is not an easy journey but it is definitely very rewarding when people value our patterns. Thanks for stopping by!
Your post did resonate with me in a way. You obviously see your self as ‘a designer’. I don’t but when I want to make something I am more likely to work up the design and pattern myself than use someone elses and in fact I enjoy the designing bit even more than the making. I share many of these patterns on my blog and some on Ravelry just for fun but lately I have realised that most of the 2-4 hundred page views I get a day are not for my latest post but for my patterns, often from people’s pinterest boards and free pattern web sites.
This is beginning to make me worry about whether they are good enough, about whether there are mistakes and why I have so many ‘followers’ if they don’t read the regular posts and why am I doing this?
First things first: from what I can see you are a designer! I do get that is difficult to embrace that word as a part of you because I don’t think I have done it fully myself either. I am an engineer by profession and never considered myself as creative, but if you design patterns and share them with others who work on them… Why would you not be?
About your blog, my traffic centres around my patterns and tutorials as well, but you also have to think about the ones that are constantly liking your posts or leaving a nice comment. They may not be the big numbers but they are your readers. Also, some people are not interested in blogs and just want a pattern and that is fine 🙂
Social media is also a good way to share content, as well as Facebook groups. Hope this helps!
Thank you for your considered and helpful response. I’ve looked at some of your designs and they are very ‘stylish’ (unlike mine 😉 )
I saw some really cool socks on your blog so I must disagree!
Thank you for sharing your honest post, it’s hard not to compare yourself to your peers, you took the plunge and put a little of your soul in your creative ideas congratulations.
Thank you for the constant support, it is greatly appreciated ☺️
And much deserved on you part x
You have impeccable timing! I just wrote a little bit about this same sort of feeling on my blog. I’m experiencing some serious self-doubt about a career path choice…wondering why I can’t seem to find a position, why it’s taken so long…am I not good enough? Shouldn’t this be easier? Thank you 🙂 Can’t wait to see your design!
You are very welcome! Those doubts are always circling around, you must remember that you are enough and worthy of good things, we all are. Thanks for stopping by and must check out your blog!
I love this post.
I feel like if I were a ‘real designer’, I’d be better at designing ahead of time rather than working things out on the needles. And that I could do the math for resizing faster and without trying 4 methods before actually getting math that makes sense.
A friend of mine calls this ‘comparing my insides with everyone else’s outsides”. You can’t see the doubts, the mistakes, the worries, the stress, etc, that goes on inside other people. You just see the version of them with lipstick on, their hair done, the confident smile, the finished project.
I know exactly what you mean, reading this was like putting replay to my thoughts. “Why can’t I figure out this increase quicker?” Or “why can’t I do this without writing down every single steps and even then I get confused!”
I like your friends take on it, remember that when you are struggling. Also remember that there is a very good chance that a petite designer in Scotland is pulling her hair out trying to get a pattern to work at that very moment!
Thanks for reading!
This is just what I needed to read at this exact moment in time. I’m absolutely bricking it in the lead up to a massive deadline mid-next week (I’ve literally bitten all my nails off). I’m terrified that they won’t like the 15 designs I’ve done or that they’re simply not good enough. Permanent butterflies and feeling queasy has lasted days and I’m dreading handing over the completed work. I’m forever comparing my work, life and self to others and I know it’s not healthy. It’s a very tricky habit to kick. Thanks for sharing xxx
Thanks for sharing that Ruby, I know it is not easy to admit when you are scared. For those like us who love their craft I can predict that you put your heart and soul into those designs and there is nothing more to give than that. You are enough and so is your work. Remember as well that just because a design is not popular doesn’t mean it was not worth it, we are constantly learning and that is what matters. Don’t tie your self worth to your work, if something doesn’t work out doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you, it is just life throwing you a curve ball. You learn and keep on moving!
I really recommend Brene Browns work if you are struggling with this in other areas of your life.
Oh babe! You’re speaking my language! I haven’t wanted to throw in the towel yet because I’m kind of obsessive crocheter and get so excited about a thing that I want to share it, BUT I was constantly comparing myself to talented crochet queens who I inwardly thought of as ‘real designers’. Designing is bloody hard work! It takes me ages. And there isn’t just making a thing look nice. You’ve also got to do it so others can make one too! And not send you loads of emails and comments about how they don’t understand etc. Then as soon as you publish, breathe a sigh of relief that it’s finally finished, you obsess over stats and traffic and has anyone seen it, do they like it? And then we start the horrendous process all over again! Thank you for writing this refreshing article. I’ve spent the last few months trying to retrain myself to write for myself, my way and in my own time. Because I love creating crochet items and patterns and I didn’t want to lose that by holding myself up to what I perceived to be another designers benchmark. You rock! Xox
Hahaha loved your comment! It is a lot of work when you put it that way!ni actually laughed when I read about how after its finally finish we obsess over the stats… That is so true!
Staying true to yourself always help to keep you in balance, and I also think that is harder to regret something when you do this.
What I have loved the most about reading everyone’s comments is how much I relate to all of them, how our struggles are not our only our own anymore. I hope we all remember this when we are digging a hole for ourselves thinking we are not good enough.
Thanks so much for sharing!
So true! And there is so much fear to overcome: the fears of falling, of not being good enough, of being discovered as a fraud. And maybe sometimes we all need a break from trying new, hard & time-consuming – for me knitting & crochet are the safe pastimes, which give me joy & rest. Sometimes I feel that maybe they are enough, but yet I keep on wanting to push myself, to try new things, to learn.
Also in the last year as I started communicating more and more with artists, whose skills are way above mine, I realised that they also go through the moments of self-doubt and negative comparison of themselves, their skills and their output with others, who they see as been better. I think social media often makes us create with perfect vision of people, whose work we admire, without realising that they also put a lot of hard work & long hours to appear effortless.
I agree Zoya, feeling not good enough and comparing to others is universal: you find it from beginners to experts. Knitting and crochet are also a passion for me and I do worry about turning into a job and just another obligation, which is why I must always remind myself that designing is supposed to be fun for me (I already have a full time job that pays my bills), and if it stops being fun I should really stop doing it.
Thanks for reading! And your work is stunning by the way, I love the feathers 😀
Thank you for your kind words about my paintings.
I totally identified with your struggles, fears & the dreaded trap of comparison.
My biggest struggle has been with my slowness, which was compounded by the whole comparison thing. I have been fighting this thing for a few years, & seriously contemplated giving up many times.
Last year I ended up with a really bad cold – I don’t normally get sick, but this one totally took me out for the best part of 4 week. I clocked up quite a few hours on the couch sleeping, watching cartoons & contemplating my business (designing soft toy patterns) & everything else I have found myself doing these days.
I realised I had gotten sick because I had been pushing myself so hard for so long to try & compensate for my ‘slowness’.
I realised that I had to make peace with the pace I work at – I will get done what I get done – live with it 😉
I also went through my calender & blocked out regular week long breaks for myself throughout the year – I really look forward to these little breaks, I plan things to do that are not work related & give myself permission to just have fun.
Thanks for sharing, I the book suggestion =)
“I will get done what I will get done”… this reminded me so much of one of my favourite quotes of the book!
“Wholehearted living is about engaging with our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed at night thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”
Good for you, you deserve time to recharge, and I find that when you disconnect you are more open to inspiration around you. I laughed to myself when I read that you are giving yourself permission to just have fun… it is so true but also so funny that we must give permission to ourselves!
I recently printed my own wallpaper for the first time. And being me, I jumped in at the deep end with 20 metres and a 3 colour print! It was so difficult figuring out the repeat, working at a large scale and knowing that if any one of the 12 prints per drop was out of line the whole thing was ruined. So difficult that my head actually hurt figuring it all out at the design and planning stages. But the rewards of pushing through and doing it made it all worth it. I could look at that wonderful film of Marthe Armitage effortlessly printing her papers and know my skill level cannot compare… Or I can be proud I solved a design problem and pushed myself to produce work I can be proud of.
Go for proud every time! We make life more difficult for ourselves for no apparent reason sometimes. Whenever I work on a pattern that took a lot of figuring it out I usually keep the balance with something a bit easier next. Sweet and simple is never out of fashion in my opinion 😀
Keep on the amazing work and remember we learn from everything: successes and struggles.
Thank you for sharing. It was perfect timing for me and very helpful. Thanks for lifting my spirits.
You are very welcome, so glad it helped 🙂
Thank you for this timely article. I still consider myself a beginning designer – mainly because I only have 4 patterns available, even though I have probably 50 more in the works. Last year I read something that talked about how we can never attain perfection – we should strive for excellence instead. That helped pushed me forward, realizing that I was afraid to release my patterns until they were “perfect”. Reading your post shows me I still have a long way to go to give myself the grace to continue designing and getting over those struggles to finish.
I definitely consider myself a beginning designer as well. I always give my best when I design a pattern, but of course they are far from perfect. It is a learning curve and with each one that comes out I build up my skills further. We should all give ourselves the grace and the time to allow us to grow, we are humans after all 🙂
I really appreciate this post. I consider myself a designer in training, and I’m okay with not being great right out the door… but I still fall into that trap of thinking, crap, if it’s so much harder for me than for X (read: all the other awesome designers who seem to just knock it out of the park from day one) then maybe I just *shouldn’t be doing it*. I’m not going to stop. I don’t think it would be possible for me to stop. But that’s a hard feeling to face. I’m going to look up that book now.
Comparison can’t determine our lives, I am so happy to read that you wouldn’t be able to stop even if you tried! That is a sign of how much it means to you, and that is the strongest reason to keep on going. Also remember comparison doesn’t have to be negative, it can also be a tool for learning and improving.
Thanks for reading!
It was nice to read this. I try really hard to design things that are different from what other designers are doing but I look at my work at least a couple of times a week and think “the colors are too bright and maybe people would rather have pastels and maybe I’d sell more if I remade everything in more acceptable colors and maybe my patterns are too fussy and complicated looking and other designers are selling thousands and thousands of patterns and what am I doing wrong and I don’t know what to do next…maybe just go get a job at Safeway.” And yes…it all runs together like that in my mind! Thank you for sharing your own insecurity because now I’ll try to be more patient with myself since I know it’s not just me. 🙂
Thanks for your comment Shirley, a bit of self-compassion goes a looooong way. I constantly find myself going through some very negative self-talk so it is something I am trying to change. I must give myself a break, take a long deep breath and keep on going 🙂
Have a nice weekend!
You are definitely not alone… anyone who creates anything goes through this “problem.” It’s that hump of when things get difficult you start to doubt everything. The thing is that the process is more than normal… and when everything is happy go lucky perfect- that is the exception!
haha I definitely think it is the exception… and if it turns out that way then I would think I am probably not pushing myself enough and where is the fun in that? 🙂
Well done you for being brave and putting it out there. Brené would be proud of you. Like you, I am a huge fan of her work. Having read The Gifts of Imperfection, I took her online art-journalling course based on this book via the Oprah Winfrey site – awesome and life changing! I am now taking her classes linked to her books Daring Greatly and Rising Strong through her website CourageWorks. I cannot recommend these experiences enough – they really add depth to the books, which are, as you know totally wonderful in themselves 🙂
Hi Liz, thank you so much for your lovely comment. I have seen those online courses and have been very intrigued with them! Work is super busy at the moment so wouldn’t want to add anything to my schedule at the moment but if you recommend them I might check them out to try at another time of the year, do they take much time? And can you access them for a long while?
The courses are brilliant and once you have signed up they are yours forever, so you can take as long as you like with them. The Gifts of Imperfection one is based around art journaling and I found it to be totally inspirational. You can find this via the Oprah Winfrey website and start it anytime. The Daring Greatly & Rising Strong courses run once a year on Brené’s own CourageWorks site. 😀