Around the time I began developing my first fashion collection, I was obsessed with learning the creative process used by the big name designers. I was desperate to emulate their exact progression. If someone offered me a step by step manual for fashion collection development, down to the recommended amount of hours between sourcing fabric and sample production, I would have paid any price.
When you’re lost, any map seems better than no map at all.
I had to know — did Marc Jacobs let fabric influence silhouettes, or vice versa? Did Lela Rose drape or use flat pattern making? Did Karl Lagerfeld jump around from piece to piece, filling in the gaps as inspiration struck, or did he finish a design completely before moving on to the next one? (Something tells me the answer is no to the last question, as creativity rarely moves in a straight line).
I questioned each step like one wrong move would send me careening off the “Correct Way to be Creative” cliff.
This indecision about how to proceed left me unable to move forward. I was always busy, but observed no real progress. Perhaps I just needed a regular schedule, and then the answer would come. I tried to train myself to work the same hours every day, which only led me to frustration and procrastination on Instagram. However, I would get a burst of energy at an inconvenient time and have to finish a sleeve, or I would quickly run to my sketchbook to work through a new idea.
“Is this normal? Am I doing it right?”
I don’t recall the exact day when I stopped comparing my creative process to others’ — in fact, it felt more like a slow evolution. An intangible metamorphosis.
But I stopped worrying about how others did it.
I began to realize that it didn’t matter how it got done, just as long as it did. I became more confident — and therefore more productive — when I trusted myself enough to know that I would accomplish it, regardless of the order or method that I did it.
The woman wearing my designs wouldn’t care if I decide to take a short break when the right answer just wouldn’t come, or if I jump around as I feel.
Even if my process was backwards or sideways, it wasn’t relevant to the end result.
The creative process is unique as the person doing it.
It’s like travelling to an important job interview — your potential employer doesn’t care how you go there, whether it be via car, subway, or even helicopter. They just care that you’re there (and hopefully on time).
The folly comes from creatives trying to find a rhyme or reason for their workflow or inspiration. Or worse — trying to copy someone else’s.
But maybe there isn’t one, because creativity is the antidote to patterns and logic. It ebbs and flows like the tides.
Slow progress is still progress, and someone else’s north might be your south. Stalling yourself because you aren’t sure if you’re doing it the “right way” will take infinitely more time than forging ahead and doing it the wrong way. Plus, you won’t learn as much.
You’ll get there even if you make mistakes. In fact, that might be exactly how you get there. But you won’t get there if you can’t take the first step.