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My 5 Biggest Maker Challenges and How I’m Learning to Deal With Them

The maker life is a fun and meaningful one, but it is not always very easy. With being creative comes a lot of challenges that I think we often feel alone in, but in reality we aren’t alone at all. I have been doing “Makers May” this month, where you are supposed to do one post a day on Instagram all month-long. This on its own has been quite a challenge since I already don’t post on Instagram as often as most makers do, but ironically today’s post (which of course I have not actually done yet) is about Challenges. So I thought that I would do a post here about some challenges that I find myself facing rather often, so here goes!

Time Management 

Personally, I get overwhelmed incredibly easy, so it’s easy to say that Time Management is a big cause of anxiety for me. Honestly my work schedule is a lot less intense than most others, I definitely do not work 40 hours a week. A few years back I had two jobs and would often work 14 or 16 hours days and at that time it was manageable, however, once I found myself in a relationship, those hours were not going to work anymore. Even with the minimized hours I have now, I am constantly plagued by trying to find a balance between juggling my current job, trying to create my own business, having a relationship, and still having a social life with friends. Sometimes it just feels like too much, and while I am getting slightly better at managing my time and balancing my life, I am far from mastering it haha.

How I Deal With It 

There are definitely a few things that I try to focus on when I am feeling overwhelmed with trying to balance everything

  1. Stay Present – I know this is ALWAYS easier said than done, but feeling overwhelmed really stems from thinking about everything as a whole rather than each thing as its own independent task. If I try to refocus on the present, it often helps me decipher what is most important for me to do in the current moment. It might not always be the thing I want to focus on at that moment, but sometimes it is better to exercise some discipline and get something with a prominent deadline out of the way rather than stressing out about it. However there are some exceptions that I make to that rule which leads me to my next point haha.
  2. Stay Happy/Self Care – Although getting things out of the way can be productive, forcing yourself to do things is not always going to be the answer. There are a lot of different aspects to every life that are going to constantly need balance, and depending on how things are going in your life, certain things are going to need more attention than others and I think it is always important to pay attention to that. Obviously everyone’s circumstances are different from one another, but maintaining mental health should always be somewhere on the radar. There are some days where I get home from work and I REALLY don’t want to work on a project but somehow convince myself that I have to because not having it finished is causing me so much stress, but working on it also isn’t bringing me happiness in that moment. Meanwhile working on that project for some time has caused me to neglect my boyfriend and friends and I know that spending time with them would make me happy. It is OKAY to put down the project and go spend time with your loved ones if that is what you need. I’m trying to get better at following my own advice on this, but I do think it is always important to figure out what you need in that moment to bring yourself some happiness.

Motivation

This is something that I have struggled with my whole life, particularly when it comes to my creative endeavors. I think generally in this day and age, people have been turning the tides by being more open about battling with Anxiety and Depression. It is certainly something that I have been working through for many years and am often quite open about. I think for many people they find that a side effect of dealing with these issues is a depletion of energy and motivation. It becomes very easy to compare yourself and your work to others and feel that there is no point in continuing to work either because the thought of putting in the time and effort feels too overwhelming or that you feel your work isn’t good enough. These past few months in particular I have been having a huge lack of motivation and it is very difficult when you find that the motivation has suddenly gone when creating is a main source of happiness.

How I Deal With It 

There are definitely a few things that I try to focus on when I am lacking motivation.

  1. Take The Break – I truly do love creating, but when it turns into more than a hobby and has deadlines and expectations from other people, it can become a little more daunting than it was when you were just creating for yourself. Of course the creating is still fun, or I wouldn’t continue doing it, however, sometimes I need to be honest with myself about when I need to take a break. When I go through these occasional periods of lack of motivation, I often beat myself up about the fact that I’m not creating when in my mind, I should be and have no reason not to. It’s at this point that I have to admit to myself that if by mind and body can’t find the motivation, perhaps I really do need a break. Although taking such breaks can often feel like you are wasting your time when you could be productive instead, the can be necessary. So I try to be gentle with myself when I realize that I need a break, and allow myself to take that break and not feel guilty about it. I think we live in a society where working as hard as you can till all of your energy is depleted is romanticized. I used to have that mentality myself, I would work 16 hour days and refuse to take a break or eat as if doing so was somehow making me a stronger person, but in the end I realized that all I was doing was hurting myself. Of course there is nothing working hard to reach your goals, but when that amount of work is affecting your physical and mental health, it is absolutely okay to let yourself take a break and you by no means should feel guilty about it.
  2. Let the creativity grow – Depending on the circumstances this may not always be applicable, but sometimes I find that my lack of motivation is particular to the medium in which I am working. Obviously I love crocheting, but it is possible to overdose haha. So sometimes the break I take doesn’t necessarily need to be from creating in general, but just from crocheting. There are so many creative outlets in the world, so there’s no reason to restrict yourself to just one. If you need the break from your craft, try something else out! It can be scary because naturally we aren’t necessarily inclined to try things we don’t think we would be good at, but you may surprise yourself! Even more importantly, even if you don’t end up being “traditionally” good at it, who cares! when it comes to creativity, the word “good” is completely subjective anyway, so just do what makes you happy and allows you to express yourself and try not to worry about what others may think.

Self Doubt/Jealousy

We have all felt it at some point in life about one thing or another, and I think it is a prominent feeling in the maker community. While the internet and social media is a gift and can be used for so many great things, it also has its negative affects that I think pretty much all of us have felt. We are constantly bombarded by information and material these days through media and it is very easy to become overwhelmed. Particularly with Social Media we are told which people are the prettiest, which fashion styles are the best, what food you should be eating etc.. and in the end all it does is ultimately make you feel like you aren’t good enough. Even thought he maker community focuses more on the things that we make rather than the people we are, it can often make you feel like the work that you are producing is “not good enough” when compared to the work of others.

How I Deal With It 

When it comes to Self Doubt there are two main things that I try to focus on.

  1. Realism – In many ways, the life that we lead online is usually some kind of facade. I think one of the first instances of me feeling self doubt and jealousy in the maker community is when I started to feel like all of the other makers that I admired had materials, resources, and equipment that I didn’t. When I first started taking crochet more seriously, I was living on my own, working two jobs, and still I was only making enough money to just get by. I would see other makers have the “best” and “prettiest” hooks and yarn and was always upset to find just how expensive these products were. I’m not saying that the prices were not just for the products themselves, but I was just disappointed that it was so out of my reach to have what everyone else seemed to have. I was working hard everyday, why couldn’t I have the resources that they had? Not to mention the main question of,  What job on this earth did these people have where they could spend $30 per ball of yarn???? Once I got more involved in the community, the answer became very apparent: Many of these people never paid for the materials in the first place. So many companies these days, especially on social media, have affiliate programs and in most cases they will give people who they think have a big influence, free products for them to promote to the other people in the community. This isn’t necessarily a bad system and I understand why they do it, the problem is that sometimes there is no way for you to know that this is the case. That is not to say that the products are not amazing quality, but you also shouldn’t let yourself feel less than because you can’t afford them. I often try to remind myself that when it comes to social media, I almost never have the whole story and shouldn’t let my assumptions govern my ideas on what I “should” have or what I “should” be able to do.
  2. Take Pride –  Although it doesn’t feel like it, there is a difference between taking pride in your work and being conceded. I have struggled with this for so long in life, I never want to come off as though I think I am better than anyone else, and I certainly don’t want to ever actually think that. Therefore I have spent most of my life down playing all of my achievements and talents, I think a lot of us often feel that we must do this. But I think the power is in finding the balance of taking pride in your work and not letting it go to your head. Perhaps this is a stretch haha, but people always take pride in their children, putting it simply it is their “creation”, they have brought something unique into the world that has never existed before. But you don’t often hear of parents comparing their children to others, personally I have never heard someone say something to the effect of ” Susan’s daughter has blonde hair, why couldn’t my daughter have blonde hair?”, that would be cruel and ridiculous right? They (very hopefully) love their child for who they are. So why do we treat the other things that we create so differently? Maybe what you created isn’t a child, but you put time and effort and creativity into making something that is also unique and has never existed before and there should be a lot of pride in that. I think ultimately, whether we realize it or not, we create so that we can feel that pride, it makes us happy and gives us purpose to create new things, so we aren’t doing ourselves in favors in suppressing our pride in our work because we feel we must compare it to someone else’s work. We all have different situations, some of us have more time, some of us have more money, some of us have more experience, but none of these things make anyone “better” than anyone else. We are all on our own path and should take pride in the work that we create no matter what our circumstances.

Math

This one is a bit more logistical that the others haha, but I think it is something that many of us have a problem with. I cannot say this for everyone, but although I am not good at math, I do actually enjoy it to a reasonable degree haha. I for one, did not realize how much math goes into crochet when you start creating your own patterns, it of course makes sense, but I just hadn’t ever really thought about it haha. I try to make a habit of listening to crocheting podcasts just to get advice and stay informed haha, but surprisingly enough I learned that there are people you can pay to do the math for you! I am one of the people that doesn’t necessarily have the means to hire such a person, but it was interesting to find out that it is a solution for many people. It made me feel slightly better knowing that I wasn’t alone in not having a clue what I was doing haha. I won’t say that I have gotten better at math in general as time has gone on, but I think that I have gotten better at understand math in connection with crochet in particular.

How I Deal With It 

I have one main go to when it comes to facing math

  1. Plan – Personally, I am a big fan of problem solving, I don’t know why but I just love solving problems haha. Therefore, my brain works in a way where I am always thinking about things from a problem solving point of view, and the biggest advice I can give from thinking this way is PLAN. I love picking up yarn and working without a plan in mind as much as the next person, but if your intention is to make a pattern in the end, we all know that just won’t work haha. When I first started creating my own garments, I noticed that I had developed a sort of method without necessarily meaning to. I would envision a design that I would like to wear, and start to construct it in my mind, which I probably recommend recording somewhere rather than leaving it in your head haha. As I would construct it in my mind, I found that I could identify the aspects that I think would be more difficult than I had thought, or wouldn’t work, all before I even picked up a hook.  Some of the issues that you may come across may have nothing to do with math, but one of the most common times I comes across a math related issue is mixing different stitch types. Different stitches need to be worked in different multiples to play out properly, and the stitches you want to combine may not always be compatible. This is one of the many reasons that I always recommend having as much of a detailed plan as possible. Haven’t we all put hours of work into something just to find 200 rows later that something just isn’t working?? It is an awful feeling. Having a plan and really thinking about the design will hopefully help you notice a lot of roadblocks you may come across before you have even started and what could be better than that? haha

Taking Breaks/Stretching

If I had a nickel for every time someone has commented on how awful my posture is, realistically I would probably only have like a dollar at most, BUT the point is that it is very apparent that I have not so great posture. For one reason or another ( probably anxiety) I am not very in tune with my body. I am always tense, never stretch, and tend to cave into myself, all a recipe for disaster. I am really awful at stretching when I am crocheting, in fact I often end up with sore, achey hands and a tension headache by the time I realize that I should have taken a break hours ago. I’m not going to lie and say that I have improved in this department, because I honestly haven’t. I have never been good at learning my lesson when it comes to listening to my body and it’s needs. However, I do hope to be better in the future haha.

How I SHOULD Deal With It 

I have one main go to when it comes to facing math

  1. Listen to your body – Like I said I am awful at this, but don’t be like me in this topic haha. If you notice you are in any kind of pain and discomfort, don’t ignore it. Your body is often not very forgiving when you mistreat it, so treat it with care when you can. I know sometimes it is easy to say “One more row” and then work like 5 more rows, but in the long run it really isn’t a good idea to overwork your hands, they are a very important asset haha.
  2. Ergonomics – When I first started crocheting I was using very thin, completely straight hooks, and by the end of my first longer project I was in a wrist splint. Of course part of this was my own fault for not taking more breaks and over working myself, but later I learned that the hooks I was using were not helping. It was then that I discovered ergonomic hooks exist. These are meant to fit in your hand much more comfortably, allowing you to not have to grip so much and keep your hands looser. When I got my first set I immediately felt the difference. So if you do not have ergonomic hooks and you intend to crochet often, I stand by this recommendation forever. Ergonomics don’t have to end at just the hooks either, try to make sure that you are not constantly hunched and or straining your neck (the way that I do haha). Make sure you are working in a position and location that you are supported and comfortable.

I would say that these re some of the biggest challenges that I face on a day-to-day basis and I am always looking to improve on them, so I do hope that any of this information made someone feel less alone in their challenges, and if you have any advice to give on any of these topics I would love to hear it!

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