The Crafty Polymath’s Guide to Failure

Greetings, friends, Romans, countrymen. I thought long and hard yesterday about whether or not to post, and what, should I decide to take the plunge. If you have read this far, you have probably put two and two together: “a guide to failure?” you thought, followed by “didn’t know what to post…this woman never shuts up! She must have had a setback!” If you thought this, or something along these lines, give yourself 10 points and a hug because you are correct! Then you can slap me in your mind because I am obviously being obscenely bitter about all this and kind of taking it out on you. Sorry.

I didn’t start this post to be sarcastic. Well, not toward anyone, and certainly not in a mean way.

I did start this post to paint a humorous picture of what happens when I begin a craft and it goes terribly wrong. To be completely fair to the interwebs, I am using the format of Cracked articles – a list!

Step 1: Have an idea

This idea must be one that seems inexplicably easy to complete. Preferably it is one that comes to you in that hazy state between wakefulness and sleep, a late-night brilliant moment that absolutely cannot fail because it is obviously so easy. It is so easy, in fact, that you wonder how you hadn’t thought of it while in the craft room earlier. Silly you, the idea just had to wait until your mind was quiet enough to work.

The problem: It’s a lie. Your mind is playing you! Your mind is making all of the steps happen so easily, and if you have done any crafts, you know logically that your mind is full of shit, but you’re too tired to call it out. It lulls you into a false sense of security by showing you every stroke of a brush or clever cut out of paper. It shows you every step you must take, and then it shows you the final product, and it’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.

Step 2: Begin working

Using the images provided by your brain earlier or the night before, you sit down to begin working. The first few steps are easy. For me, it was a base coat on a new miniature. Simple! Cover the thing in paint and let it dry. It is literally impossible to screw the first step up. Your mind made each step manageable, so you start on high hopes! Maybe your first step was finding the background for your newest scrapbook page. You have plenty to choose from, so you merrily go about sorting your options, looking for that one design that you know you have somewhere because you hadn’t used it yet!

This is where things start to go wrong, but you don’t notice it yet.

Step 3: The first problem (minor)

Here is where the first hint of your mind’s diabolical scheme comes to fruition. There is a minor problem. It is so minor. It’s probably not even worth mentioning! But it’s still there.

In my case, it was that one of the color paints I wanted to use was drier than it needed to be. It was a little goopy (that’s a technical term), not as liquid as it should be for coating a fine miniature.

For you, it might be that you didn’t have the exact background you wanted. You have one that is so similar, but it’s not the same. Still…

Also, just a quick disclaimer, I am not assuming that you or everyone scrapbooks. But it’s the best, most consistent, example I can think of right now. So no offense intended those of you who do not scrapbook. Honestly, I don’t even scrapbook. My scenario is probably wildly inaccurate. So if you do scrapbook, please forgive my ignorance.

Step 4: Find a sensible solution to Step 3

This being such a minor problem, you know that there is a sensible solution. You are, after all, well-versed in what you are doing, and you know how to roll with the punches.

So I added a little bit of water to that goopy paint, and voila! No longer goopy. Okay, maybe a little watery, but that’s what I was going for, right? Problem solved! I was now ready to continue with the plot that my mind had laid out for me.

And, okay, so maybe the design isn’t exactly the same but it will work! At least you have a similar design, right? Go with it; it is sure to come out the same either way.

The secret though, dear reader, is that your mind has now been angered. You have defied its image of perfection, and it is now coiled tightly, ready to spring. Beware!

Step 5: The sensible solution? Yeah, it doesn’t work.

With a reasonable way to maneuver around the roadblock, there appears to be smooth sailing ahead. But that’s not the case. The simple plan that your mind had laid out for you provided no real solutions to potential problems because, in your mind, the world is a perfect place that always has ample craft supplies on hand.

The paint was too watery. It didn’t coat well. And I was working with a bright color (yellow), which I never work with. It simply was not coating. It was too watery, and then it was leaking onto other parts of the figure, which I had already painted, and it was looking sloppy, and it.wasn’t.coating! My husband assuaged me by saying, “Hey. You could just put some yellow ink on it, and that will make it work.” I agreed via grunt.

The design is off just a tad too much. The layout in your mind simply will not work on this new design, and while normally you could think of hundreds of ways to rework it, your mind is being stubborn. Maybe you’ve already started, and in your confidence, you’ve already pasted an accent onto the page, so there’s no turning back now. You figure, well, you can just move everything a half inch to the left, right?

Step 6: The simple solution actually makes things a lot worse

Somehow, your expertise is failing you because, through no fault of your own, I assure you, the solution has become a bigger problem. Had you been flying by the seat of your pants, you feel you could have done a better job at this juncture. Instead, the project is falling apart in your hands, and your mind is thrashing about with a righteous fury that screams at you, “This isn’t my fault! You just didn’t listen to me!”

The yellow ink, so help me, made itthat much worse. Now I had not only watery yellow that did not coat over the base coat very well, but the green was discolored because of it, and the grey-blue of the base coat was simply more pronounced. Since I had had to water down the yellow paint, there was not enough for me to do a second coat, and I was not guaranteed the same color if I mixed another batch. This is when I felt the first moments of panic and hatred.

Okay, so you’ve shifted everything just a half inch to the left. And now the piece de la resistance will not fit on the page. Your measurements were fine; what has happened here?

Step 7: Take drastic action

Your solution made things worse, so now you must throw caution to the wind and do something that, deep down, you know is a bad idea, but you’re seeing red, and you can come up with no other answer.

I painted over the yellow and the ink with turquoise, telling myself that this would make it way better. Gritting my teeth and with an intensity bred of ire, I went about coating over the areas again.

You put the main attraction on the page anyway. Maybe this page was showcasing a photo. You’ll just trim the photo down so it fits.

These are the moments in movies where the villain is laughing manically as they begin pushing levers and turning dials, not really aware of the sparks that are flying in the background.

Step 8: Your gambit doesn’t pan out

The drastic measures you’ve taken are not working. In fact, they are making things worse. Much, much worse. Your mind is in a veritable fit of rage, and it is spitting all kinds of nasty things at you.

The turquoise covered any and all detail work in the pewter. There was simply too much paint on the mini, and in my frustration over the yellow, I had just kept slathering paint on like a madwomen until there was no trace of the offending watered-down color. Except, of course, there were traces. For a color that hadn’t coated worth a damn, I couldn’t seem to cover it all. My sanity started to fall apart and land in tiny pieces on the globs of bright paint in my hands.

This is where you begin to trim the picture, and you accidentally lop off the top of a head. Maybe it’s not the focus of the picture, but it doesn’t work now. Maybe it’s even too small, but regardless of what happens, it is wrong, and your beautiful idea is crumbling to ash.

Step 9: Slowly descend into madness

Your reality is now shattering. Well, not your reality, but the absolutely unassailable perfection in your mind is unattainable, and your mind cannot handle it. Everything you’ve done to fix the minor problems has failed and in fact only made it worse. This is not what you pictured.

I handed the miniature to Eric, “Get this away from me before I throw it.” I went downstairs, feeling dejected and let down by my miniature and my mind, and I sat on the couch to brood. When Eric felt it was safe to approach, he did so, and I suggested that we burn the miniature. This seemed a reasonable reaction, in answer to the pain and suffering that the miniature had caused. Watching it melt down to a puddle of metal was quite appealing. Then I listed all of the reasons that the miniature and everything associated with miniatures was stupid, and he waited patiently for me to finish my tirade.

At this point, I don’t know what you do. Maybe you rip the page into tiny pieces. Maybe you simply walk away, like I managed to do. Perhaps you burn down a small village. Regardless, your anger stems from a place of insanity because your mind is broken by the failure of its seemingly simple plan.

Step 10: You realize that your mind is the one to blame, and you regain control

At some point after the ash has settled, you remember that the ideas that come to you in that hazy space between wakefulness and sleep are always a little crazy. It occurs to you that this is not the first time you’ve done this. And it occurs to you that every time it happens, you forget the previous ideas and failures. The realization soothes you, a cool balm to your ire and frustration.

When it was safe to do so, Eric offered a final solution: strip the model of all paint and start from scratch. This is usually the only solution at this point – to start all over. And it takes some time before it feels safe to do so. But with a clear mind, I was able to think of how I could paint the miniature in a real-world scenario.

This is the cycle of failure for crafts. Unattainable idea of perfection, inevitable fall from grace, and eventual peace. It’s just like the stages of grief.

But practice makes perfect. If you are able to get back on your craft horse after falling, then you will eventually succeed. And maybe one day, I’ll stop trusting my brain and its wild schemes.

Realistically, though, I’ll be making a similar post in a few weeks. So until then…

Published by Polymath @ The Safin Hold

Hi. I live in Michigan, but I'm from Georgia, Pennsylvania, Seattle, and Arkansas (no, not an Army brat). I live with my husband and our cats, Cirilla and Dandelion. I'm a bonafide Salesforce Admin & Marketo Certified Expert. I like to craft. I like to cook. I like to eat and drink. I like to laugh. I like comic books and video games and sci-fi. I like a whole lot of things, and chances are, I will like you! I've also been a lot of things, like a 9-1-1 dispatcher, a teacher, and for a while I wrote obituaries. Right now I am a Salesforce Consultant! Who knew? Friends?

4 thoughts on “The Crafty Polymath’s Guide to Failure

  1. I can totally relate! I am an artist and although I have never been fond of crafting, I repeatedly think to myself, “Oh I can do this.” I used to have a farmer’s market booth selling a variety of arts & crafts. My neighbor for one of the markets sold antique miniatures and a few handmade items. We would commiserate every Sunday about our dastardly experiences trying to CRAFT! It’s true, it’s all in the mind and foiled by expectations.

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