I wrote an earlier post on why your lockdown hobby, be it cooking or crafts, can actually be a useful thing for your writing, and as my cross-stitch obsession deepens, it’s teaching more and more ways that is true. So since we’re heading into local lockdown again here, I thought I’d use some of the time I can drag myself away from my sewing to share some more ways I hope cross-stitch is teaching me to be a better creative.
Creativity for creativity’s sake
Like many creatives with a portfolio career, I often feel like everything I do is in service of the hustle. I spend a lot of time not just doing the various strands of my work, but doing things that feed into getting more work, raising my profile, earning money etc. Even blogging – while providing free content so in theory ‘for fun’ – is a useful profile raising tool. But this also means that I very rarely get to do anything just for the sake of doing it.
I’ve resisted the urge to monetise my cross-stitching – despite some kind suggestions that I should. I give them away for free (sure, if people want to buy me a Ko-fi or two to cover the postage and materials, I’m not saying no, but I don’t ask for that and in most cases don’t get any recompense). This not only lets me feel like I am doing a nice thing for people in a shitty year (who doesn’t love post?) but it also removes any sense of commerce. I can ‘waste’ my time trying out designs that might not work and that no one but me is interested in. I can fail. I can follow my own ideas wherever they take me, with only my own skill being the limit.
This has freed me up in ways I never would have imagined. I always thought of myself as a non-visual person with a terrible eye for most things, but I’ve surprised myself with my ability to think up and, even more improbably, execute designs that rely heavily on visuals rather than just text. It might not ever serve me financially, but it’s quite a nice thing to learn about myself.
(All the images in this post are my designs)
It takes as long as it takes
Although, as I said in my previous post, it’s been gratifying to be reminded that you actually get better at anything if you practice enough, there’s also something quite nice about the fact that it still is something that can’t be rushed. I’m better than I was, yeah, and that makes me faster – I don’t have to stop and figure out where every stitch goes – but also sewing is a physical act. I can’t make my hands go faster than they do, and a pattern needs as many stitches as it needs to be completed.
In a life filled with deadlines and the compromises often needed to make sure that work gets turned around very quickly, it’s nice to have something that can’t be rushed.
What people like is nothing to do with you
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by people’s enthusiasm for my work, but it has also proven once and for all that people’s tastes are unpredictable and not always related to the work or its quality. I’ve produced time-consuming complex, funny or cool pieces that no one is interested in even though I thought they would be the first ones snapped up because they are objectively better. Then smaller, quickie pieces get requested so much that I’ve on occasion done duplicates. I’m not saying these pieces aren’t nice – I simplicity makes them elegant and striking, which is why I do so many of them – but I’ve been caught off guard by how often these are the first ones snapped up. People pick something to go on their walls for many reasons: it speaks to them because it’s a quote pr image that resonates.
I’ve even discovered that some pieces do better on different platforms, and I have no idea why. What will get raves on Instagram gets ignored on Facebook; what gets a load of RTs on Twitter makes no impact anywhere else. I post a lot of ‘fandom’ pieces on Tumblr and thought I had a pretty good grasp on which fandoms would be most enthusiastic. Which piece goes viral (by my standards, obvs, which are very, very low) and becomes not just my most popular cross-stitch but my most liked and shared post ever? This Beetlejuice piece. I love it, I admit, but if you’d asked me I wouldn’t have guessed that there was a particularly active Beetlejuice contingent on Tumblr.
I can’t possibly figure out in advance what pieces take off and that’s a good reminder for my writing – where some pieces seem to take off and others which I think are just as good or better sink without a trace. All I can control is what I create, not how people react to it.
(You can check out a fuller range of my cross-stitching on my Instagram (traceysinclair23) or at Prodigal Geordie
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