I was born with a rebellious maker’s heart. This was a combined inheritance from my parents: both are headstrong yet intensely curious hard workers who figured things out to make ends meet. Through them, I learned to lean on God and my own wherewithal first, then chosen or biological family as a last resort. There were rarely any handouts, and if there were, you were expected to pay them back. This way of thinking encouraged genuine gratitude for blessings from others, not habitual expectation.
It also led me down of path of self reliance and ingenuity that is still helping me carve a special footprint in this world. I deeply enjoy making things—the patience and tedium required is therapy. Marketing, writing, photography, crochet, and singing satisfy my unruly creative impulses, but more roads are undoubtedly on the horizon.
Crochet in particular is often seen as an unconventional outlet for my dexterous self expression, but I've fallen in love with it. At age 16, while on a shopping trip with my grandma one day (Wal-Mart was her favorite store in the world), I randomly picked up a how-to book, yarn, and needle, and have regularly picked up the latter two ever since.
In 2012, living in a drafty apartment, I decided to make a vertical runner for the side of my bed. I wanted to at least keep my chilly and cranky toes warm when I woke up in the morning. But this project was ambitious: I picked up one of my smallest hooks, size 4mm, to make it, and chose to use recycled or thrifted yarn exclusively for the entire project. Plus, I decided that the rug would be as long as my bed at the the time, which was six feet, and as wide as the available space between the floor and my then-bedroom door—about 33 and ½ inches wide (it was a tiny bedroom).
Early into the project, which I named Handmade Deliverance, I realized it would take me a lot longer to complete than I had originally anticipated. Each row took upwards of two hours to finish, and each stitch was instinctively done very tight (I’m routinely a tight crocheter). I began forming callouses on my fingers from the repeat pulling. I took apart old crochet hats that I was no longer wearing for the project, but soon that stash dried up, so I had to make many trips to the thrift store to feed the forming creation. And in order to complete the project, I had to be disciplined with my free time, which I definitely was not in its beginning phases.
Still, I found a new side of The Divine in this process of pulling, sourcing, and accumulating. This newness was shrouded in inexplicable mystery, determined to be felt if not yet fully understood. She pushed this project to the front of my brain when I let lazy hands toss it to the side. She answered “finish, finish,” when I asked “why?” and “for what purpose?” She made me see the potential in my own ability with each completed row: “See—you can do this. Now imagine what else you can do.”
Making things, anything, has the potential to be filled with miracles. Acts of creation live in the unending possibilities of healing, rejuvenation, disruption, and awakening. For me, the purpose of this now-finished rug project was in the process. Though it lies unassuming on the side of my bed, as it was intended to, I feel the lessons learned with each step of my bare foot on its textured surface.
Here are four of those lessons in particular:
1. Be Consistent
Some days feel more inspiring than others. Some days, you’ll be in the mood to work, and other days you won’t. Consistency isn’t about being robotic—humans are dynamic, with changing moods and ever-evolving inclinations. There are times when, inexplicably, you just won’t feel like doing something, or anything at all. And indeed, there is a place for honoring those times in your life. Vegging out can be an essential act of self care. But make them rare respites, reserved for when you truly need them.
As a creator and business owner, I can’t work only when the inspiration comes. I can’t navigate fulfillment with my feelings. I have to sit with and in the discomfort of nothing, in the moments when there couldn’t possibly be another creative idea in me. I have to trust that, indeed, there is something in the seemingly dried up places, because there’s work to be done and I was made to do it.
I have to regularly pull the words and ideas out; at times, pluck them from underneath hard, calloused, fluid-filled layers. It's painful. Still, I have to be there with them, coax them out, and reassure them and myself that their divine debut is now.
Consistency is showing up when not fully present. Consistency is being a steward over your body and time habitually. Consistency is telling someone “No; I have to do this first. You’ll need to wait.” Hindsight illuminates the magic of plowing through.
2. Appreciate the patient, Slow Building of Things
Dreams can take hours, days, week, months, years, or even decades to blossom. Sometimes, you set target end dates and meet them. And then, even with the best of intentions, there are times when you won’t.
Slowly chip away at the stone of ambiguity, of uncertainty. Find a melody in tedium’s rhythm. Fix a big pot of coffee in your kitchen, or hide away in a cozy cafe. Let the coffee cool while you focus. It’s OK. Put your phone on Silent, or turn it off altogether. That’s OK, too. Give it, whatever it is, the time it needs to form.
Remind yourself that it isn’t done until it’s done. Find honor in the mystery of knowing when something is complete. Take your time—it isn't right until the truth within you says so.
3. Fall in Love With the Process
As I’m typing this, the celestial whoosh from my white noise machine (a godsend for my focus) fills my studio apartment. Click-clacks of the keyboard converse with an outside bird. A low thud of an upstairs neighbor travels from edge to edge. I am here, in this place, in this process of pulling words from their hidden places. God is here, too. She is in the earnestness with which I wrote, in the desire to be understood, and in my desire to release the slow-churning visions waiting to come to light.
I love the way my toes feel on this hardwood floor. Similarly, I love how yarn feels in my hands, and how each completed crochet stitch reminds me of the first thing I ever made. I love the sense relief at each finished row, or the relief that comes from finding just the perfect skein of yarn at the thrift store.
Falling in love with the process gives you strength to continue when no one pays attention, when the responses of others don’t seem to equal your hard work. Within the discipline is where you'll find your deepest fulfillment. As Steven Pressfield says in his book The War of Art, success is but a by-product of that.
Stay rooted in the present, in the moments of illumination that excite your core. Immerse yourself in that excitement—feel it in every part of your body. Those are the moments that can be lost in the wanting for more, in the toxic mire of endless craving for what you don't have.
The processes that leave you in awe strokes what you are made of. See them for what they are, and let them perform their brilliant seduction.
4. Honor Your Story
You have a history that’s all your own. It is filled with successes and failures, moments of joy and tears of despair. The tension that comes with holding these extremes adds nuance to your skills. It teaches you what to avoid and what to explore further, who to trust and who to be wary of. It sharpens your eye and refines your techniques. They balance and mature you daily.
In the never-ending process of becoming you, remember what you have learned and are learning. Honor all that you have gone through; be grateful for the people who have helped shape your paths. Organize past work, and reflect on your trajectory. Study old lessons, and repeatedly practice avoiding them. Record your awakenings so that others may learn, too.
We are standing on the shoulders of ancestors, and one day we will join them. Your purpose can speak life to our children, help them navigate rough terrain, fight battles, and thrive in spite of dangers we have yet to imagine. Let it loose.