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Procrastination and Perfectionism

February 15, 2013

One day in 2005, my mom and I stopped into my favourite pre-loved treasure shop and saw a sofa that was so me, I fell in love.  It was made of maple, with cane sides, AND it folded flat into a twin guest bed – a huge selling feature to someone who lived in a small space.  I thought the chairs were a nice little bonus, but what I wanted was the couch.   The springs were strong, and the upholstery, although definitely not to my taste, was actually in perfect condition.

$600 later, my mom and I heaved my old, worn loveseat over the balcony, and I vowed to slipcover the little set.

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sofa

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I said the upholstery was in perfect condition, and it was.  Until the household felines got ahold of the corners:

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pink upholstery

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Perhaps cats are just jerks, or maybe mine sensed my antipathy towards the upholstery.

Regardless,  I had “made do” with the furniture by tucking blankets and shawls around the pink flowers.   I was overwhelmed by the actual idea of fitting and sewing those slipcovers.  I had made some simple clothing in my time, and easy things like pillow covers and curtains.  But this seemed foreign – 100 ways I could ruin that project (and some expensive fabric along with it) popped into my head before I even started.  So I just kept telling myself I was going to re-cover them “…one day.”

And I pretended not to hear the shredding in the middle of the night.

It wouldn’t matter when “one day” came.

Whenever that was.

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“One day” finally happened, not in a brilliant flash of confidence, but in head-shaking moment of embarrassed laughter.  A few weeks ago, friends came over for Sunday potluck.  Lots of casual reclining on the chairs, as we do.  And every time somebody sat, stuffing poofed out the corners of the chairs.

“What’s this stuff on the floor?” someone said.  “Did a cat get sick?”

Later that week, armed with one of my old cotton duvet covers, a pair of Fiskars, and Season One of Torchwood, I sat down on the living room floor, duct-taping the corners of my chairs back together. It took me two days, eleven episodes, some intensive pinning and basting, and a lot of fingerpricks and cussing.  But I got ‘er done.

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slipcovers

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For eight years, I lived with something I didn’t really like - even allowed my pets to abuse it - because I was intimidated by a process I had never experienced.  And I thought it would be an expensive mistake to make.  In reality, the whole project cost me $1.25:   for the cloth napkins I used to make new throw pillow covers at the same time.  Not to mention that even shaping the toughest corners was no harder than fitting a sleeve into a garment, which I had done many times.

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slipcover back

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Perfectionism is a form of procrastination.  Creative people are the most perfect procrastinators around, because there are so many creative ways to avoid doing something!

But what we’re actually doing with perfectionism is setting unattainable standards for ourselves.  We believe that there’s little point if we can’t do something perfectly…likely while comparing ourselves to some other person who seems to be able to do EVERYTHING perfectly.  Or maybe we think we don’t have the “right” gear, the “right” materials or instruments.  (What we mean is “the expensive stuff,” because we have been trained to be perfect little consumers.)  Maybe we just think we’re too fucking old to learn new tricks.  (While perversely not getting any younger.)

So yeah, sometimes, we don’t even try.  We don’t start.  We keep telling ourselves we are “not good enough,” even “lazy” or “dumb” or “untalented.”  We work ourselves up in our heads, talk ourselves out of doing what we want to do most.

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One day last fall, I bemoaned to my mentor (best guitar player in town) that I wished my guitar playing was at the same level as my singing.  He bent down, inches from my face, smiled broadly, and said, “It’s because you don’t PRACTICE.”

I’ve read that mastery takes 10,000 HOURS of practice.  Musical instruments, watercolours, writing sonnets, probably sewing and housepainting, too.  Very few people come into this world as natural experts on anything.

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My slipcovers are not perfect, not of the finest material, not close to the taut, cord-trimmed ones I’d imagined.  And right now, the corners are encased in bubble wrap protectors.  (The cats are being re-trained on a new scratch post given to them by my mentor.)  But I love the way the chairs look now.  It was pretty decent for a first try.  I’m proud of myself.  I feel pretty confident knowing the next big sewing project will be the sofa – and it won’t take me another eight years to finish.

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bubblewrap

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You have to start somewhere.  Might as well start where you are.

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retraining

“Wut?”

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Dodie Goldney

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related posts by Dodie Goldney:

The Secret is to Know When to Stop

Colouring Outside the Lines

Animal Creative Consultants

Manifest Headboard

Soul Sustenance

Creative Tools

After and Before


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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Geta permalink
    March 16, 2013 12:23 pm

    You are sooo wise! And funny!
    Quite an inspiration, too.
    I’ve even bought some fabulous old curtains to use for redoing the upholstery on my couch, and it’s been sitting around for some months because I’m afraid I’ll ruin it. But after reading your post, I will go give it a try.

    • March 16, 2013 3:38 pm

      Thanks for your kind words! And don’t be afraid to give it a go. If you are nervous about wrecking your good fabric, you could try making the pattern for your upholstery with some inexpensive fabric first. I’d love to see some pics when you are done! :)

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