“They’re All Going To Laugh At You!”
As I sit here editing this for the tenth time, I keep having flashes of Piper Laurie in “Carrie” frantically warning me, “They’re all going to laugh at you!!” The whole point of this blog, this year-long project, is to push myself through the anxiety, depression, and self-doubt that have stood in the way of my artistic ambitions since I picked up my first crayon. For days I have struggled with my inner critic….writing, rewriting, deleting, starting over, crying, cursing, stress eating, giving up, starting again. Adding a small chorus to the voice of self-doubt are a couple of detractors, perhaps dealing with inner struggles of their own. Of the twenty-six people I have reached out to about this project, sixteen responded enthusiastically with notes of support. Two responded laconically and somewhat dismissively. No word, yet, from the last eight.
16 For, 2 Against.
Guess who’s winning?
If you are reading this now, the “For”s took the lead just long enough for me to hit the publish button.
Okay, so….here it is…
So, first of all, thank you for taking the time to read this. This project resulted after my creative career took me through a few long, weird, often nausea-inducing, roller coaster years and one year of recovery. Many lessons were learned and many, MANY mistakes were made. My goal here is to open up about some of the highs and lows creative people face in trying to make a living without selling their soul. Part story-telling, part self-help, part how-to, part celebration of success, part lamentation of failure, I hope that people will feel encouraged and supported by this space.
The Backstory (Condensed Version)
Just over a year ago I closed my tailoring shop in Gowanus. Many people assumed that I couldn’t keep it going due to poor sales, rent hikes, or whatever else drives stores out of business. The truth was, business was good and the landlord was wonderful. I wasn’t good. I was exhausted, my mental and physical health were suffering, and I was absolutely miserable. I worked constantly. When I wasn’t working, I was stressing about work. I had absolutely no time for self care or relationships and I was no longer enjoying my work. My tailoring skills became a burden and my time was spent on alterations of other people’s designs. All I ever wanted was to make beautiful things and now I wasn’t even doing that. I wasn’t making anything. I felt angry all the time and incredibly isolated and unsupported because I was so deeply depressed and anxious I couldn’t see my network around me. When I did take the time to create something I allowed self doubt and insecurity to guide it straight to the trash. For a long time I felt that there was no way out, that this was my lot in life. One day in November of last year, I was having a particularly rough panic attack when a clear, calm voice in my head said, “Just close the doors and walk away.” For the first time, that thought brought me immense comfort instead increased panic. No one was making me do this. I could just go do something else.
When I sat my husband down to discuss it, I expected there to be an actual discussion. Instead, he instantly agreed. My unhappiness was just as hard on him, if not harder, and it was time for a change. Neither of us had any idea what would come next, but we agreed this was the next step.
So on December 15, 2018 I joyfully closed the doors for the last time.
Oh Crap, Now What?
With the doors closed, I tried not to panic. I knew I had zero regrets about shutting it down, but didn’t know what to do next. I was so tired and beat down I couldn’t begin to focus on a new plan. I decided to give myself time to recover.
I still had to pay the bills but there were less bills to pay without the shop. So I rented a small, private studio and worked with clients but on a more limited basis. I kept up with many of my regular clients, but because my overhead was so much lower, the pressure was lower. I was able to give the appropriate time and attention to each client and do the work without feeling rushed. That began to bring back my sense of accomplishment and pride in my work.
I began to make time for self care (with occasional self pity) and I focused on therapy and on trying to give myself a reprieve from constant self-critique.
In March 2019 I went to Denver to train to become a repair technician for Melco embroidery machines. Taking on something technical was a whole different ball game and I find it very challenging. Learning a completely new job skill, unrelated to any that I knew, was daunting and pretty humbling, but as I get better at it, I am getting a sense of the artistry of machine repair and enjoy it a little more all the time.
I picked up knitting again and become quite accomplished (imho) in the past year. I took on a complicated shawl pattern that I was sure was too difficult for me and would take me years to complete. I finished it in 3 months. I am incredibly proud of it and it is one of the few things that I make an effort to show off.
I worked on repairing and rebuilding important friendships and cultivating new ones. I realized that I had spent so much time spinning in my own head that I had not been a good listener or a supportive friend to anyone in a long time. I was grateful for the friends who were still there so I tried to focus on the needs of the people close to me instead of my own storm of dread. I have tried to really listen and actively look for little ways to let people know they mattered. I didn’t always succeed, but I feel much closer to the friends in my life right now and have made new friends along the way.
As the year progressed, I felt like I was making baby steps towards a more productive and happy life with greater focus. I even started hand-making holiday gifts for all the people who are very close to me and was able to complete the goal in time for Christmas. (Check out the gallery for pics!). It was an emotionally charged and wonderful feeling when the desire and the drive to make beautiful things began to reemerge. More so when I completed a project and could stand back and feel pride in what I had accomplished. The reward is unending when I see how much it means to them.
This year has been difficult at times. As always, self-doubt and depression are lurking around every corner but I get a little better at overcoming them every day.
I Got This!….right?
I chose to name this space “Look What Amanda Made” because, depending on my headspace at any given time, those words can induce profound self doubt, embarrassment, and painful insecurity or enormous pride and that “Ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille!” sassiness that comes from knowing you are a star. Even as I write about overcoming crippling self-doubt that bitch is sitting right next to me, whispering in my ear, “This sucks. Why would anyone want to read this crap?” For now, I am holding it off and, if you are reading this, I held it off long enough to hit “publish” before I went back to agonizing.
My goal here is to create a space for reflection and inspiration. Also, to spend 2020 rebuilding using my own blueprints instead of ones imposed on me. I intend to share my successes, my failures, and the lessons learned along the way. I encourage you to join in. I plan to start with two posts each month; one dedicated to self care and inspiration, and one to the thing(s) I am learning and making. I would love to include what you are making too! That is just the idea now, though, and I intend to let it grow freely as we go.
This space is dedicated to all the artists, makers, creators, and designers who struggle every day to keep their head above the abyss, overcome the mental unrest, to quiet the inner critic. I welcome you all to share your stories, your thoughts, and your accomplishments here but please respect that this is a WELCOMING SUPPORTIVE AND SAFE SPACE. We are all subject to a world full of critics who are on a mission to drain our creative blood so no need to bring it here, too.
Be Kind. Be Supportive. Be Supported.
Make Beautiful Things.