Evangeline Holland

Sweeping Drama ⚜ Larger than Life History ⚜ Exquisite Romance ⚜ Diverse Perspectives
April 22nd, 2013

Writing Lessons Learned from The Great British Sewing Bee

The Great British Sewing Bee

The Great British Sewing Bee (courtesy of BBC2)

I’ve been sewing since I was a teenager convinced she was going to be the next Donna Karan or Coco Chanel, and though I have a love/hate relationship with it (I hate sewing, I love having sewn, to paraphrase Dorothy Parker), there really is nothing more thrilling than seeing the construction of a garment from pattern piece and bolt of fabric to the finished project. As a result, I loved The Great British Sewing Bee from the first minute. Project Runway is fun and everything, but The GBSB is strictly about home sewers and garment construction rather than sartorial theatrics.

Because the focus is so simple and basic, each episode really hammered home the concept of “K.I.S.S.”–Keep It Simple, Stupid. This was never more apparent than in the beautifully-constructed garments turned out by 81 year old Ann. Each episode featured multiple challenges to display various sewing skills, and of them all, Ann produced the best garments not because her items were the flashiest, or the most innovative, or eye-catching, but because she kept her head down and focused on the work of constructing a pair of men’s trousers, or a new neckline for a blouse, etc etc.

Watching Ann made me grin and squirm uncomfortably because in general, it’s easy to mistake grabbing people by the throat with your designs, or even your books, as the best and only method of winning a competition or creating buzz. It’s also easy to create a bad habit of constantly looking about at what everyone else is doing instead of keeping your eyes affixed on creating your best work to the best of your ability. And on the flip side, if you feel out of your depth, your attempts to cover your inadequacy end up making the product even worse!!

So my top five lessons learned while watching The Great British Sewing Bee:

1. Basic skills are the foundation of success.
2. Mind your own business!
3. Try new concepts only when you feel grounded in the basics.
4. Don’t be afraid to rely upon the boundaries (or sewing patterns!) laid by the more experienced.
5. You have more time to accomplish things and execute them well if you focus on each individual task instead of tackling the entire project at once!

And can we all have our own Patrick Grant?

February 22nd, 2013

Shifting Gears When Your Hobby Becomes Your Job

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I snaffled a bit of the blog title from lingerie designer Sarah of Ohhh Lulu…, who discussed the difficulty of shifting gears mentally and physically when your hobby becomes your job. Most, if not all writers dream of the day when they can quit their day jobs and devote those 8-9 hours to playing in their fictional world. Most, if not all full-time writers, will tell you that these best laid plays often go awry.

I’m living proof. 😕

So much of what I do involves sitting in front of my laptop, and it grows difficult to compartmentalize my time because if I’m not writing, I’m worrying about writing, or if I’m not blogging, I’m worrying about what to blog. Then compound that with maintaining my social networks for my professional life and my personal life, keeping up with books, movies, and TV for professional reasons, and it is incredibly hard to unwind. Then there is the need to cultivate my other interests, which also zap my creative juices, thereby creating this continuous cycle of hobby bleeding into work, or feeling guilty for taking time off instead of working.

Granted, the solution is to try not to do everything at once, but when one’s income is dependent upon a creative venture, there is no rest for the wicked or for the weary!

Anna DeStefano’s blog is timely reading for the day: How We Write: When our soul is tired…

February 17th, 2013

On Self-Publishing and Perfectionism

Beyonce is a pretty polarizing topic online, and I myself go through phases of indifference, admiration, and disdain. But that’s not the topic of the blog post. Vulture, NY Mag’s pop culture blog, spoke with a life coach in the days leading up to Beyonce’s HBO documentary, Life is But a Dream, about Beyonce’s video-diaries focusing on her acute self-criticism and desire to be “perfect”. The interview is a little rambling, but this quote stood out for me:

You can have perfectionism, or you can have connections. You can either try to be perfect around people, or you can connect with people. You can’t have both. People don’t connect with perfect people.

As someone who struggles with perfectionism, this hit very close to the bone, and in the days after reading that quote I turned it over in my mind, parsing through how and where this struggle between perfectionism and the desire to connect with others impacted my life. This morning, I awoke with the thought that the act of choosing to self-publish is to shun perfectionism in order to connect with readers.

For most writers–or perhaps all writers–there are voices all around us and inside of us telling us we are simply Not Good Enough. A lot of it is arbitrary–“I’ve already read ten manuscripts with a smoke-breathing dragon and a boy wizard” or “No one wants to read a romance novel written in first person POV”. Some of it isn’t, such as when you’re a new author still testing your voice and storytelling ability. However, the existence of the author has but two truths: you write and others read. I’m not here to argue over concerns of quality with the ease of self-publishing, or the whole hoopla over the Gatekeepers of Publishing, because YMMV. All I recognize is that the act of writing is a desire to connect with others, and choosing to self-publish is to shake off those voices that shout “you aren’t good enough and never will be” in order to fulfill that desire for connection.