The subject of starting and finishing maker projects, comes up a lot while running a handcraft school and teaching people how-to make things. It seems most people have a vague idea of what they want to make, but just don’t take the first step. Or, they successfully start a project, but get hung up in the middle and never finish it. This theme comes up most often with learning how to sew.
What is it that gives us these hangups for starting and finishing things? I think it’s a combination of confidence and time. When I’m not confident that I can totally dominate a project, or think I don’t really have time, I’m very slow to start. I’ve been working on that by realizing that making something ugly or not according to plan is ok, because at least I’m making something and I will learn from it no matter what. My students tell me they need help figuring out the first step and the order of operations to make their creation work well. Having an instructor walk them through the steps helps eliminate the fear that it won’t look good, so they can focus on making instead.
Having a plan in place with clear steps makes all the difference in being able to start and execute a project. This applies to everything in life. Think about how to books, self-help books, business books. Everything is broken into a clean bulleted list. It just works.
But what about finishing a project. The steps to finish are there, outlined for you, but your project still sits there unfinished. This seems to be a mental block more than a how-to block. We make little excuses (I make excuses) like “I don’t have time right now” or “that step is too hard, I need to try something else first.” Or maybe we really enjoyed the project, but aren’t ready to start a new one yet, so we’re holding onto the current one. Or, once it’s finished, it has to be presented to the world for judgment. Calling it finished means it has to be perfect, right? Scary.
Push through the fears and hang-ups and finish that project. It’s like running - you feel better once it’s over. Every time you finish a project, you get a little burst of pride and adrenaline that you can apply to starting your next project.
If time really is an issue for you, then start looking at how you use time and reorganize it. Pick a project that can fit into the kind of time you have. If you have little spurts of time (like 5-20 minutes each) find a project that can be picked up and put down easily. If you have space at home, spread out in a designated spot and sneak over there when you get a chance. If you don’t have space, choose things that can be done in your lap, in the car, on the bus, etc.
Personally, I keep more projects going at a time than I can count so that I have something that fits my mood, type of time, brain capacity (sometimes I just can’t handle something complex), and location. The other night I was feeling overwhelmed by all the projects that I wanted to start but couldn't seem to get started. So, I stayed up, cast on for knitting a hat, a cowl, and a shawl. That's actually only a few stitches of work, but it's a huge hurdle for me to get over for starting a project.