Making something is both an exhilarating creative endeavor and an exercise in failure. I’ve experienced both, and I’m sure you have, too. Creativity is also an incredibly healthy outlet. It’s healing and in my head I understand it is the process, the experience that matters most. But in real life? In real life I sometimes catch myself acting like it’s about perfection. Last month I pulled out a quilt top that I never quilted because my skills didn’t seem equal to the beauty of the design. I basted it. And then I took a risk and here’s what I learned:
I learned that my best effort is just fine.
I did my own free motion quilting on this 88″ square quilt. It’s big and heavy and the blocks are very large. I made a lot of mistakes, especially on the straight lines. Although I did my best to follow the lines in the stripes, it’s wobbly. But I figured out a thread path for all the orange peel quilting in the hourglass borders and the block centers. I did it! And in doing it, I got better. While I slowly improved and stitched my way around the quilt, I also finished a beautiful quilt.
As I quilted this, I found myself thinking about all the times I told myself I’d ruin it if I tried to quilt it myself. I realize now that the only thing holding me back was my self-talk. Of course I made mistakes! But it still looks great! And its usefulness is unchanged by its flaws.
It made me wonder about other areas in life where I’m telling myself I’m not good enough. Honestly, quilting is very low-stakes. There’s a lot more at risk in other areas of life. Why hold back with fabric? Where else am I choosing to play small because I think I’m not enough? Why bow to fear? What if I found a way to dismiss those words “I shouldn’t because I’m not good enough” every time they enter my thoughts?
One thing is for sure, I’m going after this false idea in my creative work. And I’m going to take it to everyday life with more determination. The things we tell ourselves matter. If you’re holding back somewhere for fear you’re not good enough, get started. We all have to experience the gap between beginning and mastery. But your best effort is just fine. It’s the only way to improve. I took a risk and I learned. You will, too. And remember: beauty has absolutely NOTHING to do with perfection.