Posts in creative entrepreneurship
Notes on Failure

My first review ever on Amazon was a bad one - a horrific one star, completely slating my first book Crochet at Play.

In the weeks before the book’s release, I would lay awake in bed, heart pounding dreading exactly this moment. I was certain it would be the worst, most heart breaking creative moment of my career.

And then my exact fear came true…I can’t remember how I found out or why I was even looking, but I remember clearly clicking through to the full review, hand shaking, feeling sick to my stomach.

Despite my worries beforehand, the sky didn’t fall, the world didn’t end and actually, it wasn’t that bad. The review itself was about a technical issue with the cover, nothing more, but that was almost irrelevant. My worst fear came true and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d imagined it would be.

In the following weeks and months, other reviews came in and they were overwhelmingly positive…but its rarely the positive feedback that sticks. Criticism echoes much louder in the mind than praise and failures, real or perceived, haunt us long after the event. In retrospect, I am grateful for that review, it prepared me for a future of pattern support, complaints and failures that come with being a creative.

And I have had many failures along the way. I took 200 kits to a very well known craft fair and sold 5. I have designs that will never see the light of day because they are such an unresolvable hot mess.  I was knitting a cardigan for myself and only realised once I’d done 2 sleeves and the body to the underarm that I’d made it 3 sizes too small.  I burnt my sample of the Twist It cardigan for an issue of Simply Crochet on the Aga, after I had previously singed a pair of socks for my book Hook, Stitch & Give in the same way.

Each time, I just pick myself up, stuff the offending item in a closet and move forward, climbing the steep, hard climb of learning , improving my technical skills and refining my business strategy.

I was reminded of this particular aspect of my own journey recently when I was teaching a class on Crochet for Knitters. In the room were some incredibly talented knitters who were looking to expand their work into crochet.  As they grappled with one hook instead of two needles and getting their fingers working in the right way.   Learning is hard and much of my work as a teacher is reassuring students that there are few who get it from the outset, there are always mistakes and they won’t be the first whose initial attempts result is a tangled mess, but that its how they move on from it that counts.

Being creative is hard work, whether you are a designer, a maker, a writer, a baker, whether you write your own patterns or follow someone else’s, the simple act of creation puts a piece of yourself out into the world.  That’s the nature of it…you make something that wasn’t there in that exact form before.  You use your time, your money and your skills. You choose the combination of pattern and colour and material.

But creation and failure go hand in hand. Sometimes things work and sometimes they really don’t. Making anything involves some risk – it may be that the pattern doesn’t work or that the skills required are too steep a learning curve, but as makers these are risks that we not only willingly take, but love – chased by the eternal question of how is it going to turn out.

the truth is that I feel like a failure a lot of the time - whether I haven't paid attention to the brief and have to remake something (as above) or I let a much-loved blog gather moth balls as I am frozen by questions of where to go from here. But accepting the downs as part of the process is really the only way forward, I have found. The failures are usually worth it. 


A version of this post originally appeared in Simply Crochet issue 33.


Morning Routines

Our mornings are awful.  Honestly, its a good thing we live alone at the end of a 1.5mile track because no one would be able to make eye contact with us if they saw how we tumbled, yelling, crying and screaming out of the house in the morning.

It wasn't so long ago that I was extremely disciplined about getting up, doing the chores, walking the dogs, and generally helping ease ourselves into the day.  I would get up at the crack of dawn and be ready and raring to go when the kids and Kevin left for the bus at 8:20. Maybe it was a rubbish, wet summer or deadlines that made it hard to think straight, but my mornings now consist of:

  • dragging myself out of bed at 7:30
  • running around like a lunatic, usually screaming, sometimes crying
  • kids missing the bus, Kevin having to drive them in
  • Theo freaking out because that kind of chaos isn't great at a time when he is struggling with the transition of Georgia going to school.
  • dogs not getting a walk, so taking their own wander...usually after pheasants that are being fed in our paddock (this is not a popular activity with the gamekeeper).
  • chickens hollering until after 9 to be let out and fed

And then I wonder why I have a bad day, feel like a terrible mother/person/entrepreneur, get nothing done and feel generally like shit. 

For me, this is a lesson I come back to time and time again.  Its rarely the big things that make me feel like a success or a failure. Its the small things - checking things off my list, having time to make sure everyone gets off to school and work without sobbing, and that all important cup of tea when I sit down at my desk. If I can get these small details right the big things flow a lot easier.

So, this morning I was up at the crack, walked the dogs, made my list for the day and, already at 8:37am, I have been able to check 2 things off of it. Now its head down to get Shawls 2 in layout and off to print...and maybe have another cup of tea. 

Getting Things Done (a Kat Guide)

IMG_1338 Over the weekend, Kat and I were following on avidly with the World Domination Summit. One of the things I love most about Kat is that we get excited by the same geeky things - we can talk inspiration and motivation and business, without the eye rolling or blank stares that so often accompany these conversations in real life.

One of the things that stuck with me as we were following along with the tweets a quote from Darren Rowse:

Inspiration without implementation is empty.

Heck yeah! It struck a particular code, as I had a bit of week of dropping the balls last week - moving from new idea to new idea and not finishing anything. I am generally good at keeping myself in line, but when I lose it - it is chaos. Absolute. Utter. Chaos. (plus it usually costs me money).

Like you, I am busy. My todo lists are eye wateringly ambitious on a daily basis. I bet yours are too. We pack so much in to every single day. Kids, house, friends, family, work, bills.  It really never ends.

Here are my tips (that I usually, but not always) follow for getting things done:

1. Start with the end in mind. Be really clear about what you need to get done and work back from there. If you don't know where you are going, you can't figure out how to get there. E.g. I knew I wanted to write a blog post with some bullet points.

2. Have a time limit. I know I have 25 minutes to write this blog post. I will get it done in that time. If I had hours, it would take hours. That is how tasks and time work.

3. Have a system. Now, I am not a very organised person, but its something that I am working on. I have written before about my system of postit notes and highlighters, which really helps me visualise what I need to do. However, for most things, I use Evernote. Its a new addition to my life, but already invaluable. I keep a folder that has my actions for the day, a set of folders for all of the different areas of my businesses and a folder for all of the ideas I want to do something with but can't - my Back Burner. I really like Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky.  His book is really helping me think through the systems I use.  Kat M has been reading his other book (a free Kindle library book) and says its great as well.

4. Avoid distractions. I use Self Control on my Mac to stop emails from popping up or twitter from distracting me when I have a task to finish. Its not fool proof, but it stops the temptation.  I also block a couple of notoriously distracting websites when I am working.

5. Plan your time. Looking ahead, I know that I struggle to write when children are in the house, so I plan my work accordingly. I try to have a couple of easier tasks to do if I am having to work with the kids around. Usually, this is my latest deadline crochet project. Or I rope kids in to help.

6. Eat Your Frogs for Breakfast. I can't remember where I heard this first, but I love it. I always start my day with the thing I want to do least (emails), but then, they are done. I don't let it over take my day though.  I am at my best in the morning, so do try to do most of my writing then.

7. Show up and do the work. This is directly lifted from Liz Gilbert, but from the moment I watched her TED talk, it has been the single thing that has grounded me to my work. Sometimes, there is a whole bunch of stuff I really do not want to do.Sometimes, I am stuck on a design and it will not come, but I have to at least turn up. I have to sit and work at it and that totally sucks. But, I have to. It is my job to show up and do it (this also applies to laundry)


***my developer has fixed the problems with my original website template crashing certain browsers.  However, if you have problems in ANY way, can you let me know?  Thanks!***


***Material list for Crochet Camp will be out tomorrow. Sorry for the delay, I need one more thing to fall into place! There are still a few kits left, but we are getting close to them running out.**