My Name is Jon Sanderson….. and I’ve not yet reupholstered a Chesterfield sofa. There, I said it.
It’s fair to say that in the past few weeks I’ve had a bit of a confidence wobble. Not a complete freak out, but a wobble none the less. I’m blaming the armchair that I’m working on at the moment – I started full of excitement and enthusiasm and very quickly realised that this particular project is going to involve a whole host of techniques that I’ve not yet accomplished. I also realised that as this is my first attempt, the completed chair is going to include mistakes and when I’m more accomplished, I’m going to look back at it and realise what a novice I was. So knowing that this piece is going to be bad doesn’t really make me want to do it. I want to do the piece that I’m able to do 10 years from now.
Then there’s everyone else; the people that I chat to on a regular basis about their upholstery, their business and their training. They’re all so far ahead of where I am, creating things that are far more complex and far more impressive. Well at least that’s what I’m saying to myself to help me feel extra bad (and if I really want to wallow in my own self pity I picture them pointing at me and laughing too). Of course I have accomplishments, but what’s interesting is how you can look at them with a feeling of “well anyone could do that” when your mindset shifts this way.
You’ll be pleased to hear that my wobble is now an ex-wobble. I did have a little help in the form of my good friend Dean (remember him? The painter who dared me to do this whole thing in the first place) who was kind enough to listen to me drone on in the pub without yawning or leaving mid-sentance to get snacks. Sometimes it helps just to say these things out loud, but what I also heard was that as a painter, he had felt the same way, and so had others he knows in the creative world. What’s more, sometimes he still does….and so do they! Better than that, it has a name! Impostor Syndrome.
I dropped Dean home and he darted into the house to grab something for me “I think you should read this” he said as he passed me the book ‘Steal Like an Artist’ by Austin Kleon. It talks about “originality” and whether it really exists, how we develop our own creative style and skill and essentially how to learn from others by “stealing” their ideas (in a good way, not a criminal way). This passage in particular helped me:
“If I’d waited to know who I was or what I was about before I started “being creative”, well, I’d still be sitting around trying to figure myself out instead of making things. In my experience, it’s in the act of making things and doing our work that we figure out who we are”
“You’re Ready. Start Making stuff.”
It seems that what I’ve been experiencing is this feeling of “pretending” to be an upholsterer, but that’s ok, it’s a part of the process, and one day (probably without noticing) I won’t feel like that any more. Yes, I’m going to make some mistakes right now and more immediately they’ll be on this armchair, but that’s ok too. I need that to happen so that I can grow and develop. Chances are this chair will look great and I’ll be the only one that know’s the little errors and lessons that took place along the way. I feel better too about my accomplishments, I’ve created some great pieces and sold some stuff! I can’t argue with happy customers surely? And the people that I chat to and admire have more than likely felt this way too (perhaps they still do) and if they are more accomplished than me then I can learn from them and one day someone might take something from my achievements too.
So here’s to making mistakes and feeling like an impostor. I’ll be all the better for it.