Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Conflict of Deadlines


There are very few occasions when my projects have hard deadlines. These usually come up when I've made promises to others, and a deadline is necessary for their sake. In general, though, I set deadlines to put some pressure on myself to complete my projects. If I have in my head that I want to wear the thing I'm making by a certain event, it helps me feel excited for both the garment and the event.

Until this green wool dress came along. 
It had been my intention to have the dress done in time to wear to Coronation. As the deadline approached, I realized that my desire to finish the seams by hand in a manner consistent with my personal quality standards would make that an impossibility. But here's the thing. When I mentioned to friends that the dress was behind schedule, I got the same types of advice from many of them. "Can you just get it together to wear, then go back later to finish it?" 

The thing about setting deadlines for ourselves that we tend to gloss over is that sometimes those deadlines conflict with our needs. Sometimes our process needs more time than we think it does, either because we misjudge our standards or our skills. Sometimes we get caught up in a movie, game or book we enjoy and get satisfaction out of. Sometimes we have a chance to spend time with family or friends. There are so many factors that play into the time between starting a project and the deadline you set for it, both with the project and in your life. In every moment you have available, you make a choice about what to do, and for the most part, in any of these cases, no choice you make is wrong.

Unfortunately, when we make choices that set our projects back, there's a weird and uncalled for feeling of guilt that follows. This guilt leads to pressure, which leads to panic. There is no doubt that panic leads to crappy results.

The conflict of a deadline can inadvertently encourage a tendency to short-change our talents or to mitigate our actual skill level. The conflict of a looming deadline in the midst of those choices we make can prompt us to cut corners, take shortcuts, and skip ahead to "just be able to wear it."

There are times when this is appropriate. I had 2 weeks to finish my garb for my elevation, and a vision I'd had that I wasn't willing to give up. My dresses were done enough in time thanks to my mom's help. I pay the price for that now, however, by having a beautiful Laurel dress I can't wear again until I actually do the work for real. When deadlines are important, the only advice I can offer is to plan ahead and do your best to not procrastinate.

Most of the time, though, I would challenge that the deadlines we impose on ourselves are, in large part, bogus, and can do us more harm than good if we're not careful. When we let deadlines dictate our abilities and force us into stunted skill levels, we do both ourselves and our hobby a huge disservice. We have to ask ourselves a very simple question: Is it really that important that this garment is done by this certain date?

The answer will sometimes be yes, even just because we need to get the thing done. There have been moments in my own progress in which a deadline has forced me to work past some anxiety, think creatively and come up with processes that have improved my efficiency. I think it's a good idea however that when we say yes to a deadline we acknowledge what that pressure may do to our project. We should at least be aware and mindful of how our processes change under the constraint of a deadline. 

When the answer is no, it can be a victory for our skill and vision. Afterall, what purpose does it serve to question whether we can complete the things we wanted to do with a garment simply because of a lack of time? In the end, what would you be happier and more proud of? The garment you created quickly with lots of missed or rushed steps, or the garment you labored over and did as thoroughly as you know how to do? (This is rhetorical. I can't answer this for you, nor would I want you to believe I'd judge you for choosing a deadline. We all play this hobby differently.)

I missed three deadlines with this dress. Life happened. Breaks with the sewing happened. Mistakes in making the dress happened. But if you'll pardon the gif...


The dress will be completed. But more importantly, it will be completed closer to my original vision than it would have if I'd rushed through and stressed myself out trying to get it done for Coronation. It will have better sleeves than if I'd stayed up late rushing through to get it done by Crown Tourney. The forearms will actually fit and button because I didn't get it done last weekend. And I'm good with that. 

If I'm going to put any pressure on myself, let it be to create the best garment I can, however long it takes.

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