Karie Bookish Dot Net

Stuff & Nonsense: When Perfectionism Rears Its Ugly Head.

August 2014 060The past fortnight has seen my usual companion at Casa Bookish – perfectionism – almost grind my work to a halt.

I think a designer needs to have a dash of perfectionism in her. You need to pay close attention to detail – such as stitch counts, style sheets, how colours work at the photo shoot. Designing can also be a long, hard slog of making numbers work, getting the placement of a detail just right and finding the best way to phrase a tricky instruction. But if perfectionism stops you from every accomplishing anything – if your search for perfection means you never release a pattern – then you need to let go.

“That Isn’t Exciting & Original” – How Nothing Is Ever Good Enough

Recently I have really struggled to let my perfectionism go. I have one project that I have designed six times and ripped out five times. Each of those six designs has been completely different – different construction, different variation on the core concept, different stitches – and I haven’t liked any of them. I do not want to like my design; I want this project to be as amazing, special and perfect as it is in my head; I want to love it like I have loved no other design.

And that’s the problem.

Nothing will ever match the perfection that’s in my head. I am now working on the sixth version of my idea and it’s coming out really nice. Fact: I sold the second design to a third-party publisher who absolutely loved it. It worked for them in their context – it was totally good enough.

So where does all this stuff and nonsense come from?

Figuring Out Why I Am Being Hard On Myself

I spend a lot of time sitting on my own sketching patterns and charting things. I spend even more time in my own head. As a result I tend to lose track of what is exciting and new because I have already thought through my designs several times and spent hours swatching my ideas. It’s easy to start talking myself down because at this stage I will have lost sight of what excited me about the original ideas.

Here’s the thing that I keep reminding myself:  nobody else will ever be that jaded about my design. No one else have been through the entire process of initial idea and swatching through pattern-writing and wailing about numbers to blocking the sample and arranging photo shoot. No one will ever be able to say anything about my design that I haven’t already thought.

I also know that  once the design is finished and published, I will adore it to bits .. because by that stage I will been knee-deep in another pattern that’s sucking the will to live out of me! I am only halfway joking..

August 2014 061

So, Some Tips For Moving Beyond Perfectionism

  • Acknowledge to yourself that you have a bad bout of perfectionism. Admitting it is the very first step!
  • Realise that you will always be your own worst critic.
  • It’s better to publish something than nothing.
  • Take baby steps. Publish a hat if you are really afraid your latest cardigan pattern isn’t good enough.

Some Other Tips:

  • Never throw out a design. What you hate today will look amazing two months from now.
  • If a design really doesn’t feel right for what you are doing, consider other ways for it. Would it make a great pattern for a magazine? Self-publishing? Perfect as a freebie included in your news letter? Can you base a class around the pattern – maybe that hat is perfect for teaching Magic Loop.
  • Try playing around with different gauges. If your idea looks silly and stupid in fingering weight, try swatching it in worsted.
  • Reach out to trusted friends and peers. Show them a photo or a swatch. Ask for their honest opinion. Listen carefully to their feedback.

Do you have problems with perfectionism? Does it stop you releasing patterns? How do you deal with it? I’d love to hear your thoughts x

11 Thoughts on “Stuff & Nonsense: When Perfectionism Rears Its Ugly Head.

  1. I definitely have problems with perfectionism. I don’t design, but I want everything I do to be absolutely perfect (as if that’s even possible to measure). One trick that I would like to add is to pay attention to other people’s reaction to this thing that you want to make perfect. Acknowledge when people actually like that thing, and don’t second guess it. If, as recently happened to me, an experienced publisher thinks that my book is good and publishable, then it (on that scale, at least) is! The. End.

    • “One trick that I would like to add is to pay attention to other people’s reaction to this thing that you want to make perfect. Acknowledge when people actually like that thing, and don’t second guess it.” THIS. THIS x 1000.

  2. Rhiannon on August 21, 2014 at 12:55 pm said:

    I actually experience this with my writing. It’s completely crippled me in the last few years.

  3. I get perfectionist too, about pretty much everything, I’m trying to leave it behind, a hard journey to take. Those are good tips, thank you

    • It is a very hard journey to take – I find acknowledging it incredibly hard but it is really the first step.

  4. terri kruse on August 21, 2014 at 3:33 pm said:

    Yes,yes…are we the same person? Thank you so much for writing this.

    • Since I published this, I’ve heard from A LOT of other creatives in the same boat. It’s something we need to talk about, I think.

  5. Claire Neicho on August 21, 2014 at 10:13 pm said:

    LOL – glad it’s not just me then. In this respect 3rd part publishing is easier than self publishing. You send off the idea at the fresh and exciting stage, someone else makes the decision about whether the idea is amazing or not, and then you just have to get on with it regardless. But with self publishing I drive myself crazy myself staring at each project for ages trying to imagine being someone else looking at it trying to decide whether it jumps out at me and says ‘knit me’ or not. I know the design works, I know it looks good, I even like it, but by that point it is so familiar to me that I can’t decide whether it falls into the “that’s a nice hat/pair of gloves/jumper…” category or “wow, I really want to knit that” category. Hubby doesn’t exactly help either, because he says everything is great, even when I know for sure it isn’t.

  6. I can be very much a perfectionist. Sometimes it’s hard to keep myself from ripping out and starting over. Other times, I should have ripped out and started over, long before I could admit it to myself. I don’t have any answers for you, but I know how you feel! And I like your suggestions, too.

  7. Oh yes. I constantly struggle with this. At the moment I’m working on convincing myself that my designs are good enough overall to a) be self-published and b) maybe eventually earn me a little income. My biggest problem is that I’m (as so so many others) doing this in my spare time, which means I sometimes have a lot of time and energy for it, like this summer and then, when my schedule is filled with other things, don’t have as much creative energy. It makes me feel like I’m not a *real* designer. I think this stems from the publish or perish mindset…
    We have to, or at least I have to, really work on our self talk. I don’t need to be a hare, I can go at the pace I need. Better to publish one pattern a year than none, if I find joy in creating that one pattern.

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