Start With What You Know–Now

When I saw the Sephora bag, I knew that it would make a cute hand-made journal.  The bump in the road—I haven’t hand made a journal in more than a year—didn’t bother me. Hey, I knew how.

The secret to producing anything decent is practice. But psssssh, I’ve made dozens of journals. Sure, I can still do it. Easily. Right? Maybe not. Without practice, the skill dulls. It doesn’t vanish, and I may know the steps, but the skill element dulls.

The Sephora bag, ready to be worked on. Until I cut my finger.

So does the knife blade. After I decided how to cut the bag, I pulled out my cutting knife, did not put in a new blade, and drew the knife down the edge of a ruler. The blade stuttered, the ruler jumped, and I cut my finger tip. Not a big cut, but enough to bleed onto the bag. And soak into the paper surface. Wiping it off made it worse. And my finger was still bleeding, so there was not one drop, but three. Then five. I stopped to get a bandaid.

Yes, the bag was ruined. It didn’t have to be. What I should have done was not start with building a book. As far as creative work, there were many creative exercises that would have made a great beginning. But I didn’t do that. I started with something I had not practiced for a long time. And I failed.

hand-paited bollard

Photograph © Quinn McDonald, 2018

Not because I’m a bad artist, not because I’m not creative, but because I started where I’d left off years ago. Instead of where I was now.

I learn by failing. And my figuring out how I failed and working from there. It’s a good method. It helps you grow better with practice. And that works.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and writing instructor. She is working on a book about putting down your screens and getting out to listen to the Speaking World in the Invisible, Visible World.

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