It’s hard to quantify what crafting means to me. In the simplest terms, it’s an opportunity to not be in front of the computer. I work in software design, which means I spend 90 percent of my waking hours in front of a glowing screen. My personal artwork is also digital, so for a large amount of my free time, I’m in the same position.
Crafting is a creative outlet that allows me to not think about the consequences of my work. It’s art for art’s sake. Sometimes I will see an artistic project online and have a spark of inspiration. I’ll run to Micheal’s and pick up brand new paints, glue, and glitter. Then I’m up all night with supplies spread out across the kitchen table. My husband can attest to this, especially when he sometimes finds it all still there in the morning.
It doesn’t matter what kind of craft I make. It’s all about having fun and creating like a kid again. This process has allowed me to stay inspired, even in the wake of my waning interest in my illustration work.
I have what some may call “creative burnout.” I worked hard for years, developing my skills in digital illustration. I hoped to sell my work as prints and on various products. The pressure to self-promote and produce consistent and fresh pieces quickly became overwhelming. I suddenly found myself unable to create anything anymore, unsure what I ever enjoyed about the process in the first place.
Crafting has allowed me an outlet for visual creativity without the pressure, though, it has not come easily.
There is a concept in society today, especially among us ambitious folk, that all actions and hours of the day must be productive. That everything we do has to have a practical purpose; towards a business, financial, or health-related goal. I’m not sure when this idea began, but it seems most prevalent among those currently in their early and mid-30s.
Contrary to the media depictions of millennial adults, we are not lazily waiting for our trophies just because we showed up. Among my peer group are some of the hardest working, most driven folks I have ever met. However, there is also a strong feeling of stress and anxiety over how much we are accomplishing and how fast. For many of us, the statistics never seem high enough; our goals never ambitious enough. It’s a new sort of mid-life crisis.
I’ve often felt guilty in the past for spending my evening hours doing things that are not propelling me towards some real future goal. A lot of my fears revolve around the feeling that I am running out of time. I understand time as a precious resource, easily squandered. Crafting was no exception, and I’ve had to fight hard to allow myself the time for pure creativity without a goal.
This pressure to do the best we can with every single moment given to us has created a generation of stressed out, overworked, and anxious individuals. It’s our jobs to push back and allow for self-care. For me, things like sewing or scrapbooking are a chance to reconnect with who I am.
It’s hard to say where this pressure to be perfect comes from, but I can point to the internet as a significant factor. The string of grassroots, self-help gurus that are starting to populate youtube channels around the world have grown exponentially over the last decade. The technology available has empowered many, many people to create ambitious lifestyle tutorials, showing us all how we can be healthier, wealthier, all while living independently on permanent road trips in our converted VW vans.
Making peace with my need to craft has been a significant milestone in understanding myself and how these anxieties have affected me as well. What I’ve realized is that there is value in letting go of self-expectation and allowing your hands to move across paper or clay or canvas. It has the potential to open up new ways of thinking and unique solutions to problems that might be plaguing you.
More then anything, it’s a reminder to live here, in this moment and not some magical place in the future where you are “successful.” Nothing is worth doing if you find it void of meaning, but the meaning does not have to come from a place of constant improvement. Sometimes it’s more important just to be.