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Fear the Creative Process, Then Do It Anyway

By in ACT! e-Marketing Copywriting Tips, Drip Marketing, Email Marketing | 6 comments

TiaraSometimes a diva needs her own personalized silver soldered tiara.

That was the mission on my recent vacation to beautiful San Diego where I was fortunate enough to land a spot in Portland artist Sally Jean’s workshop, “Totally Tiara.”

I’ve been designing and creating jewelry for the past five or six years as a hobby. In my recurring fantasy, I quit my day job, liberate my 70s Bohemian skirt and peasant top (again in style, I might add) and set up a table selling my handmade wares at the Farmer’s Market.

But then Carolyn, our bookkeeper, reminds me that payroll is Friday, so I get back to work. (My good friend, Sue, says, “Why do you think they call it work? If it was fun, they wouldn’t pay you to do it.”)

There were about 20 of us aspiring artists in this class. Besides me, two others had traveled great distances to study with the Queen of Silver Solder. One woman flew in from Hawaii, another was from upstate Illinois. All the rest were from up and down California.

Besides trekking home with my very own tiara, my other objective was to master a new skill that used an entirely different section of my brain. As The Database Diva, I spend a lot of time thinking about the best way to present complicated relationship-building tactics to my clients who want to leverage their customer databases.

Burning Brain Cells vs. Skin Cells

You burn a lot of brain cells mastering the creative process for email or drip marketing campaigns. You must think of exactly the right words and offer such compelling ideas that your readers are entertained or educated enough to buy what you’re selling or ask to stay on your list. (Or at least not opt out). Very. Tough.

With soldering there’s a specific hand-eye coordination required–while holding a soldering iron that’s 100-plus degrees Fahrenheit.

I sat across from a woman who had taken Sally Jean’s class 13 times. She owned many crowns. I was in awe of her prolificness. Her pace was brisk as she added spikes to the base, and she was very fluid in her work, even though she was conducting 7 or 8 simultaneous conversations around the room. I thought I was a multi-tasker. I was truly amazed.

Within the first few hours of the 3-day class, I had dripped molton solder on my index finger. It was so hot, I didn’t even feel it at first. (Just a flesh wound, as Monty Python used to say.)

Within 5 hours I felt like a dismal failure. Everyone was soldering much faster than I was, and my iron was operating on the scorched earth principle. Instead of beautiful shiny charms, I was cremating my pieces (or inventing the Goth look of the technique…never one of my favorites).

I burned a lot of skin cells in that class. I could not get the hang of Sally Jean’s loving command, “Melt and Flow! Melt and Flow!”  I had soldered precisely zero times before this. Why did I think I could show up and master it in a mere  3 days when almost everyone else had been a Sally repeat offender?

My fellow artists were encouraging. “Keep going, you’ll get better; it takes practice,” they all said. “When you get home, solder something everday,” said another. I doubted this advice as I pushed yet another ashy charm off to the side and picked up my next victim–with a death grip on the pliers.

How much longer would I have to endure this ego bashing (which hurt more than my finger)? And, surely, Sally was not serious about taking a group picture with all of us wearing our crowns. I guess I could hold up my iron as a lightsaber. Darth Diva.

“Done Is Better Than Perfect”

But then a miracle happened. I realized I was trying to be perfect. I was totally out of my comfort zone–where I typically live everyday. I was being tentative because I didn’t want to ruin my expensive stash of class supplies. I didn’t want to wear a Goth tiara or put it on display as evidence of my vacation at the art colony. I was putting a ton of pressure on myself expecting to produce first-class craftsmanship, while the reality was I was a soldering virgin! And I was failing anyway.

(Ironically, Sally had also taught “Soldering for Virgins” a few days before, but I couldn’t attend. Even if I could have, I proabably wouldn’t have signed up. I assumed it was the “beginner’s class.” I wanted a challenge–until now that I had one.)

With the realization that there was no way I was going to produce jury-level art, I relaxed. I breathed. I ate some chocolate (not on the low-carb diet, but, heh). And I created my first beautiful silver-soldered charm. It was magnificent. I didn’t care that I had 45 more charms to go.

So, success. I got my new learning experience. But I did not finish my project in Sally Jean’s class. I did not fly home wearing a tiara. But I did turn on the soldering iron as soon as I got home. The solder amazingly “melted and flowed.” I am now a soldering addict.

You can see my finished masterpiece, entitled “Inspiring Divas” above. It features pictures of the wonderful line of women in my family tree that I am lucky enough to descend from. The spool of thread is from my great-grandmother’s Marshall, TX, dry goods store. It’s close to 100 years old. The brooch in front was my grandmother’s.

The takeaway: Your art could be your career, your writing, your marketing, your tiara. How committed are you? Only you will know where all the little flaws in your crown are. So to some degree, you must suffer for your art if you care about it and you want it to someday be better. The secret is to fear the creative process, and then do it anyway.


  1. Oohh, Lori, I really enjoyed this post! I am definitely one who can overwork a project, searching for a perfection that only I will see.

    I’ve taken about 10 pottery classes (at three different studios) and the best lesson I ever had was at the end of a 16-week course. Each person set up their work table with everything they’d created, then we went from table to table and first asked everyone else’s opinion, then the artist got to talk about their pieces.

    This was a real eye-opener for me. I had several pieces that, because they turned out nothing like I had originally envisioned, I had written them off as failures. As it turns out, nobody knew what I was trying to accomplish. People were so focused on the shapes, textures, colors and craftsmanship, that they never even wondered what anything was ‘supposed’ to look like.

    The secret is to fear the creative process, and then do it anyway.
    – Lori Feldman

    (I just added that to my Quotebook Notebook!)

    • Thanks, J-Net! Glad to see a fellow artist having the same thoughts 🙂 (When you gonna write for me again?)

  2. Lori,
    Even more inspiring than usual. As I read your piece I thought about one of my interests, roman mosaics. You’ve inspired me, I’ve just found a class less than 40 miles away which will teach me this ancient art. But boy would I love to have one of those tiaras foo!
    I love your writing, it always touches something deep inside me.
    Thanks for a wonderful story.

    • OMG, Elene! This is the studio in Italy on my wish list. Maybe we can go together! So pleased you liked my post, and so glad you’re taking that class!

  3. Dear Lori,

    Thank you for sharing the JOYS of soldering! I took Sally’s Class, in Virginia, several years ago. I made a crown for my mom, which was way too big for her head! (I had a lot to say in those tiny tiles ; ) )

    Recently I made a tiara for my Doula instuctor. I had my classmates make the inchies with words and sentiments that were truly for her. I soldered it all by myself. It was a labor of love. The more you solder the better you get. I would love to share a pic with you so you can see yours would stand up the the ART “snobbies”. Happy Soldering!

    Madeline I. Cruz

    • Thanks for commenting here, Maddie. I bet your doula appreciated your gift. Would love to see a picture of it. – Lori

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