Leonor’s post got me thinking – we don’t only just post ‘positive’ things here on the blog, for example, we’ll often make mistakes, get stuck, have inspiration block, or need ideas which we ask for help with – but we don’t often talk about the harder struggles of being creative or trying to run a business with our art and creations. I know that I’ve mentioned on a few occasions the difficulties in trying to find a balance between making things I enjoy, with making things which might sell. The reality is much harsher though. Sometimes the anxiety over it makes it hard to even function and produce anything at all. You’re so scared that even after lots of consideration, the thing you decide to spend your time doing will ultimately be a complete waste, that you spend that time stressing and worrying, and do absolutely nothing.
Add to that the pressure of coming up with something to blog about every 8 days, and I’ll admit that sometimes I really hate everything about felting and fibre arts. Once you’re committed to running a blog or a business though, it isn’t that easy to just give up and stop doing it. I was meant to do a craft fair last weekend, but didn’t feel up to doing it in the end. The people who run it and about 99% of the people who attend are always lovely, but still, the pressure to sell, and stand in front of people while they judge your creations can be quite overwhelming.
I still had my boxes packed up almost a week later, and was tempted to just leave them like that till the next fair in a month. But I thought I’d unpack them, do a bit of a stock-check, and take advantage of my best friend’s fresh eyes and endless ideas to hopefully give me some new perspective and enthusiasm for making and selling. I also thought that taking some photos of my current ‘inventory’ would provide some content for my looming blog post, which I hadn’t planned to be so ‘heavy’, but then I finally tackled the backlog of blog posts I’d been too anxious to read because there were so many it seemed like a mammoth task, and the post from Leonor got me thinking about my current anxieties and how bad mental health/well-being affects productivity and creativity.
This probably sounds ridiculous to many of you, hopefully a lot more than it resonates with anyway, but I’m fairly certain there are plenty of you thinking ‘OMG, I get like that ‘ or ‘So it isn’t just me?!’. I don’t have any advice for how to overcome it, sometimes all it takes is for someone (usually Ann, oddly enough) to ask if I’ve seen a question on the forum (which I also get anxious about neglecting) and I’ll go to look, check out all the other posts I’ve missed, then finding myself inspired by colourful posts of creativity and encourageing comments, come back to the blog to tackle the backlog here! Othertimes, like today as I write this, it takes a determined effort. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading, and apologies for the unusually serious nature of the post, but for once I didn’t have to struggle to come up with content, it just wrote itself. So, here’s some photos of colourful things I’ll be selling on my Winter Fair stall in a few weeks!
35 thoughts on “Production Anxiety”
Your items are gorgeous and truly one of a kind. I also find it nerve wracking having my products under scrutiny, however friendly people are.
Thanks a lot 🙂
It’s good to know it isn’t just me.
Your items for sale are beautiful.
This is a good post Zed – one that many creative people will understand to a greater or lesser degree.
Thanks, Lyn 🙂
that’s what I was hoping, though it would be good if it was less common.
Great work. I truly understand. Sometimes when I want to try something new the anxiety surrounding starting can paralyze me for days. Then I can make some beautiful things that I feel are priced low and they just sit in my booth till they go home with me and I wonder what I am seeing wrong. Yep doing this can be very stressful.
Thanks a lot 🙂
Yeah, it gets you worrying more doesn’t it? Are we undervaluing things too much so that others can’t see thier true value/worth, etc.
Well done, Zed. Loved the blog. It’s so important to talk about anxiety as it affects so many of us, and/or our friends and family and talking is a great way to improve understanding and reduce stigma. My anxieties are mainly about the admin side of my work at the moment. I haven’t done a tax return yet and it will be a nightmare but I’m still just shoving receipts onto piles, putting admin on the to do list and burrying my head in the sand. Your work is wonderful and colourful. I’m sure lots will sell. I’ve decided that when things don’t sell it’s not that they’re bad, it’s just that their person wasn’t there that day.
Thanks, Lindsay 🙂
I should give more credit to Leonor to be honest, because it’s not just her recent blog post, but her openness in general which has made me feel more comfortable talking about this kind of thing.
And I deffo understand the admin side too 🙁 Getting anxious about even opening up my emails, is a big thing, wondering if their are any customers issues I’ve neglected etc. It doesn’t help when sites mess up beyond our control either.
I finally got around to my tax return a few months ago. I was so anxious. I usually decleare to myself I will keep on top monthly, then before I know it, it’s April and I haven’t, and have to do 12 months’ accounts! This year I discovered I can view 1 year’s activity in PayPal and easily work out expenses and sales as a whole, then I just have to work out utilities. It took a lot of stress out of it!
That is definitely a great way to look at sales/non-sales 🙂 I think a lot of it is finding a place where your market can find you.
Don’t be hard on yourself. Creative people are very often the same people who suffer with mental health issues. I think it’s well known that you can never really get adequately paid for your art so it’s very important that you enjoy doing it, as that is the bulk of your reward (sadly not bankable 🤪). Your stock looks pretty awesome though. I very often see creative stuff that I like but would never consider buying but you have several things that would get my purse out at a craft fair. Truly unique gifts for Christmas. I hope you do well.
Thanks, Jane 🙂
That’s so right. And I get far more reward out of giving something away and seeing other’s enjoyment than I do seeing a sale. I’ll be happy when I can find something I like to do which sells, even if it’s small, because even if something is a good seller, but not enjoyable to make, it’s hard to find the motivation to do it.
I can totally relate! My largest/best show of the season is this coming weekend so it’s crunch time! Most buyers aren’t aware of how much work it takes to prepare for a show. Figuring pricing, tagging, inventory, booth display fixtures and layout, photography of items, checkout items, travel plans, hotel reservations, venue rules and restrictions. And this is all after we have put hours and hours into the design and creation of our artwork. It is stressful! But the best way I know of handling it is to make lists of what needs to be done and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Typically, it all falls into place. It’s rewarding to hear the wonderful comments of shoppers (I ignore the nay sayers) and to see my creations go home with excited buyers.
Thanks, Jill 🙂
I think the whole prep stage was giving me the most anxiety this year, all the labelling and pricing etc! I’m pretty effiecient with the packing now, so that’s ok. I also cut out venues where the negativity outweighed the positives. The garden centre I sell at is amazing, and the nice comments are just as rewarding as the money made. I agree it’s nice to see someone excited to buy your creations!
Your inventory looks joyous! Love the colors and textures. Creative block and anxiety are like writers block. It’s good to talk about since there are many reasons this can happen to anyone. Even though I don’t sell my work, I still feel anxious about creating and the longer I’m away from it the harder it gets. In my case it’s health issues. You’re lucky to have the well being center. Being with others to create is wonderful and creativity is infectious. Thanks for sharing. I know it wasn’t easy.
Thanks, Marilyn 🙂
Yeah, I am lucky with the well-being centre, even if like yesterday I didn’t actually make anything, there are people to chat to and be supportive.
Great post Zed. I am glad I can get you going when you need it sometimes. I seem to have been very busy this year but not really created much. I always get anxious before a show. I was always told not to do your craft in the booth because people don’t want to disturb you but his year I seemed to be frightening people away and so I started working on my Moy MacKay piece in the back of the booth. It seems if I am poking at a picture I am not so scary. I don’t know if it made me relax or just seem more approachable. Helped me not feel like pacing around and around in the booth and making myself dizzy. It ended up being a good show. Take something to do at the show, stitching or beading or spinning on a drop spindle.
Thanks, Ann 🙂
yeah, it’s hard getting a balance betwwen being welcoming without being overbearing, but also ‘available’ without looking too busy/unapproachable. I took my spindle last time, actually. Needle felting might be a good one for next time though. If it’s not too cold!
Thanks for the post Zed. As you say, most creative people have some sort of anxiety, either on an ongoing basis or sometime during their career. For me, it is usually about fear of messing something up or not doing it “perfectly”. When I get like this, I try to make something that I am consciously making imperfect. And to get started when I’m anxious and procrastinating, I do something benign like paint background pages or dye wool. Then the act of doing something creative helps me get to other things that I am putting off because I just keep working.
I can tell you that after 20 years of running a store where people make rude comments, whether it be about my work or someone else’s, I have decided it isn’t worth listening to. I concentrate on the good comments and the people who are interested in buying. I agree with Lindsay that if you’re not selling, the right people for that item weren’t there that day.
I hope that writing about your feelings and everyone’s comments have given you some energy to move forward. Your inventory is wonderful, the colors and textures give each piece a unique look and feel. I hope your Winter Fair is a rounding success!
Thanks, Ruth 🙂
Yep, the frear of messing up is a big one too, probably why I seem to make so many ‘samples’, it’s a safe way of making something without worrying too much about the outcome.
You reminded me that when I’d have a creative block, I’d do some ‘tidying up’ of my supplies, that usually lead me to finding something I’d forgotten about and give me some inspiration.
Yeah, the response has been great! I got the confidence to write the post after talking to my best friend about all this. Often I’m met with very little feedback, understanding or positivity when trying to talk about this, but he listened for hours, then spent even more time thinking of ideas to make it work better/differently etc. Being listened to and understood really makes a huge positive impact.
Ha, I see I’ve been a source of inspiration! 😀 Well done on talking about what is hard about doing what you love – there’s this silly notion that, once you do what you love, everything is easy peasy. The truth is, there’s lots of stuff that goes with a passion that one isn’t going to enjoy, but it’s part of the journey. I hate certain steps of my fibre business, yet I can’t have one without them!
As a fellow sufferer of anxiety, I know all too well what you are writing about. It’s been a year almost to the day that I had my mental breakdown, and the main lesson I’ve learned from it is, my business isn’t more important than my health. I come first. So, I’ll do what I can when I can, and try not to judge myself too harshly for it or compare my journey to that of others. All we can do in this world is to do our best, and to try to be happy whilst doing so.
See, you’re not the only one who can write a lot 😉
Also, lovely pieces. The notebook covers are adorable.
Thanks, Leonor 🙂
Yeah, you have, and not just because of that post, but the whole year. It does help knowing others have gone through/are going through similar things. And you have a great way of looking at things and then putting that into words we can all relate to 🙂
I totally missed this reply of yours, sorry! Thanks for the lovely words 😊
Inspiring blog on so many levels, thank you Zed.
Thanks a lot, Pam 🙂
All the pieces you showed Zed would have my purse out too! The design, colours, stitching, there is nothing not to like! You have mentioned before about the ‘tough, hard work’ venues you sell at that are your selling ground, this must add to anxiety, could you look further afield? I know transportation may be a problem for you then though. I made an offcut vibrant book cover inspired by you, it is lovely, but it just gets stroked and left for another day on my stall so far, yes, the right person has not come along – YET. Good luck at the Winter fair, think of us all stood with you! x
Thanks, Tracey 🙂
That’s one positive thing I did do, cutting out those venues, so I just do the one now mostly because the people are really lovely, and it’s a great place to give my support to as well. Transport is a problem, so are health limitations, but, like I said in my reply to Ruth, I was talking about this with my best friend who came up with loads of ideas about doing things better or differently, but also, just having actual support makes a big difference, not being alone with my own thoughts/doubts, and having encouragement can make an idea which sounds doubtful into something that’s worth a shot
Zed you have amassed a lovely collection of vibrant stock I hope they all fly off to new homes with the right person.
Wow you really opened up a meaningful discussion, so many thoughts and comments have been shared. I think it does us all good once in a while to realise we are not alone with our struggles and sharing this experience, or gaining this knowledge, can help give strength.
Leonor’s second paragraph resonates very deeply for me. It is hard to put oneself first when you are being pulled in all directions, combine that with being anxious to get everything right or perfect and the recipe is not a good one! Thank you Leonor for giving me my mantra….”I’ll do what I can, when I can, and try not to judge myself too harshly for it (very important) or compare my journey to that of others. All we can do is our best and to try to be happy whilst doing so”…. Very timely.
Thanks, Antje 🙂
yeah it’s great to hear other’s support and understanding of this 🙂 Yeah, Leonor has a great perspective, and finding your ‘happy’ has to be a better aim than finding your ‘profit margin’, ay?
I can relate so well to your post about the struggle to “get it together”. I am quite elderly and have serious health issues, but fiber art is so important to me. While I need to sell my art to have it support itself, I have decided that making what pleases me is the most important part of my art. If the public buys it I am happy. If they don’t I am still happy with the creation. If anxiety overcomes the joy of creation I will quit creating.
Thanks Mickie 🙂
yeah, that’s exactly what I need to do. That’s what I used to do in the beginning. I think maybe concentrating on my tutorials and e-books for ‘business’ and the making for pleasure might be a good way for me to strike a balance.
It’s like you read my mind! I’ve had that happen many times. Self doubt, overthinking, anxiety! I have certain colour pallettes that I struggle with so, at times, I’ve gone through the “I don’t care what other people think. I’m making what I like. If no-one else likes it then I’m keeping it” Low and behold, the things I wish I’d kept sell fast and guess what I’m stuck with? The colours or pieces I spent so long trying to do “because it’s not all about me”. Well, guess what? It is all about me. It’s about doing what we love and not taking the joy away trying to anticipate what someone else might like.
Thanks, Tracey 🙂
Heh, I’ll re-read this everytime I feel the same way! You’re right, it is ‘about me’ 🙂 What I’ve learnt from trying to anticipate what will sell, and chancing taking things I don’t usually take to fairs, is that you can never 2nd guess what someone will like even generally, let alone on that particular day!
Great thoughts Tracey. I have had a think, and so far I cannot think of anything I have made with the customer wholly in mind. I make what I like, yes I may make colour variations of it to try and please the masses but then, I like all colours! The organiser of the fair I attend always says, ‘there is no rhyme or reason’ to selling well. The right customer will come along for the right piece, at the right time.
I was just having a quick browse around the Forum and came across the 5 Tips to Make you Comfortable …. post which referred to this one. It seems even more pertinent now with all the problems that Lockdown has caused us. I had given up attending craft market events because people just will not buy, but after the 1st lockdown this year our local community decided to try to get the town up and moving again by having a “Producers’ Market” with all sorts of craft and food stalls, all with reduced stand fees. So I thought I’d give it a try to add support to the effort. It was very difficult with all the social distancing and other restrictions. I sold one item so made a loss on the stand fee!
But at least I tried I suppose. Anyway, I decided to bite the bullet and open an Etsy stall, and get myself a website – and that’s as far as I’ve got – the decision. I had a bad experience with Ebay and Paypal not so long ago when selling some furniture and now, even thinking about that makes me anxious. (I’m tearing up typing this.) I do have a friend who used to be a graphic designer (and now makes gluten free puddings and pies) who is helping me with the website, but I’m frightened of the Etsy side of things. I just can’t make myself get on and do it. It’s not as if I need to make money from sales – I just need to get rid of the things I’ve made, I’m drowning in it!
I suppose that once this awful virus is defeated and we are able to get back to some sort of normality I can give the stuff to charity shops. Then I can get on and use up some of my mountainous stash.
Thanks for “listening”
Hello Ann and Zed,
Here we are in 2022! I was wondering around my Fiber Universe, and found the Zed I purchased tutorials from, was a FFS playmate. So I read this blog post, and had to comment. Both of you have touched my heart in so many ways, it makes me teary, to think how lucky I am that I found my way to this group of creative people. We have many more things in common, than different. I have had my share of disappointments with website/shop platforms that promise things, and fail to deliver after “stealing” $300 from me. [Weebly] I have to push myself up a mountain of fear, to do any event or fiber show.
I’m glad we have a space to share, and support each other.