My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #499: The Power of Labels

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 10-22-2011 01:27 PM 5180 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 498: Unexpected Inspirations Part 499 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 500: A Milestone »

It is funny how sometimes we can take a simple task and turn it into something far more difficult than it needs to be. I think we all have been there. We know in our hearts that we are capable of accomplishing something (in fact, many times we have done it successfully several times before) and then someone will ask you to do it for them and it becomes something that feels unnatural and difficult.

I call this a ‘command performance’ in my own mind when this happens to me. And I am learning to overcome the negative aspects of times like this and turning it into positive results.

In considering this phenomenon, I try to understand the cause of my anxiety. (Knowing your enemy is the first step to conquering them, and all of that!) Without understanding the reasons for these issues, I feel that it is impossible to overcome them.

Case in point – my editor said she would like me to write more articles for the magazine.

“OK.” I said to myself. “That should be easy.”

After all, I look at the title of this post and see that I am on #499 of this blog series. Who would have ever thought that I had that many words in me? But each morning I get up here and sit at the keyboard and things just seem to flow. It isn’t always easy – especially on the days when things are quite routine, but once I begin, usually the floodgates open and things start to flow and before long I have an entry.

So why would this be different?

I believe that I have come to a conclusion that is probably the best reason so far. ‘Expectations.’

When I come here to write every morning, much of the reason that I feel that I can do it is because there are no expectations placed upon me. Now I know that it isn’t quite as true anymore, as if I am late or miss a day, there are some who are looking for my morning posts. (It is nice to know that I am missed!) But that is a rather friendly expectation and I have learned to not allow it to bother me.

For some reason it seems quite different when I am actually going to get paid to write. It changes the entire mindset of my thinking and kind of messes things up in my mind. Who would actually want to pay me to read what I have to say? With the payment comes expectations of writing something relevant and enlightening. And with that comes pressure to preform at a certain level. That can be a big stopper.

Here’s an example I can give you:

You just made a nice trinket box. There wasn’t any reason that you made it other than because it was your heart’s desire. Maybe it was because you acquired a beautiful piece of maple and it was just crying out to be a box. You plan the design carefully and take pleasure in every step of seeing the box come to being. In the end you are satisfied and proud of what you accomplished.

Now your friend sees the box. He wants one. You aren’t ready to surrender your own box to him, and agree to make them one for him (he is going to pay you, of course!) Now, suddenly the whole demographics of the situation changed. Creating this box is no longer a sweet indulgence that you allow yourself. It is a job and even though you like doing woodworking very much, it has a different feel than when you were doing it simply for the pleasure of accomplishment. It isn’t that it is bad, it is just different.

A similar circumstance occurred with me in regards to writing this article. I believe they call it ‘writer’s block.’ I began the article several times and each attempt seemed awkward and unnatural. What the heck was wrong with me anyway? I have no trouble (most days) rambling off a post here every day. I honestly knew my subject matter quite thoroughly. This made no sense to me. Why was this so different?

After several aborted attempts, I decided to take a step back and think things over. I thought about my writing and this blog and all the nice things that others have told me about how they liked my writing style and finally the fog began to lift. I figured out that in writing this article that I was trying to be someone other than myself. I was trying to be a ‘writer.’ I wasn’t concentrating on the teaching aspect of the article or the points that I was trying to get across, I was trying to be something that I didn’t normally consider myself to be.

As soon as I came to that realization, things began to improve. In my heart, I don’t view myself as a writer. I like to look at myself as a designer and teacher. Coincidentally, a by-product of designing and teaching happens to be writing. A large part of what I do involves teaching my designs through the writing process. But I look at that as a residual part of who I am.

So I looked at the assignment again, but this time in my own mind I applied a different label to it. This wasn’t a writing assignment, it was a teaching assignment. And that made all the difference in the world.

I felt no pressure whatsoever in teaching my subject. Once I got started, the words began to flow. Soon, after a relatively short time (a much shorter time frame than I had spent struggling) the article was finished. I am quite satisfied with it and I am pleased with the way things were presented. I think that others will learn from it and hopefully my editor will feel the same. I think it will be a positive contribution to the issue and it is something that I can feel good about.

Moral of the story is that sometimes we allow labels to define the way we approach some of the things we are trying to accomplish. Some of these labels can be quite intimidating, even if we, ourselves are the ones who applied them in the first place.

Our minds and attitudes are very powerful factors in how we view a task in front of us. Sometimes we forget that we have a great deal of power over our own lives and something like a small adjustment in our own attitude towards things can make a huge difference in both the outcome and success of any venture we choose to take on. Sometimes the answer is as simple as changing the name or the label of the task at hand.

I hope you all consider these things the next time you may feel overwhelmed with something you need to do. Allow yourself to use the power you have inside to not only accomplish your task, but to excel at it. Show them what you are made of!

Who knows? Maybe one day I will be a writer after all.

Have a wonderful Saturday.

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

7 comments so far

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3005 days

#1 posted 10-22-2011 03:47 PM

Thank you, Sheila. This helps me more than you know.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3054 days

#2 posted 10-22-2011 04:10 PM

If you can actually cause a cat to perform any action that will require as much thought and effort as the
one in your picture, the you are a teacher beyond compare. Thank you for all your blogs, and this one is
really helpful. The attitude and reason we start a task with does make a lot of difference in its difficulty.
Thank you for sharing.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View leanne's profile


45 posts in 2380 days

#3 posted 10-22-2011 04:15 PM

Good to know I am not the only one who feels like this. thanks Sheila I am going to print this and look at it when I start to dout my self. I have dyslexia and sometimes let that hold me back.

-- Leanne, Australia,

View ShopTinker's profile


884 posts in 2737 days

#4 posted 10-22-2011 08:32 PM

Performance anxiety comes in many forms. I like your work around. I too struggle when trying to “write on demand”. Sometimes I ask someone else to write a a few sentences or paragraphs on the particular topic to get me started. It always works. I’ll read what they’ve written and I’ll say to my self “that’s not what I wanted to say”, then I’m off. I start out re-writing what they’ve written and then the block is broken and the words are flowing.

Sometimes I just have to get something on paper and then come back the next day to re-write it.

-- Dan - Valparaiso, Indiana, "A smart man changes his mind, a fool never does."

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9222 posts in 2888 days

#5 posted 10-22-2011 09:44 PM

Thanks, Martyn. My hope is that others see themselves in what I express here each morning. I like the possibility of opening up discussions about topics like this and hearing different ways that people face similar problems. I think in that way we all help each other.

Gus – never underestimate the power of a cat.

Leanne – Believing in yourself is the first and most difficult step that you will encounter. Once you do, nothing will be able to stop you! One of my favorite philosophies is ‘we follow where we focus.’ If we focus on being productive and positive, there usually isn’t time to worry about the negative people that may be trying to derail us and stop us from achieving our goals.

Dan – I agree that sometimes walking away from something you are stuck on is a great strategy. It is amazing how much better you can see things (and how much more objective) when you have fresh eyes.

Thank you all for your comments. :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10054 posts in 4021 days

#6 posted 10-22-2011 10:04 PM

... and sometimes, when you have a problem and just can’t seem to find a solution, merely telling someone else what the problem is WILL give you the answer / solution to your problem…

... and then you will say… “Why didn’t I think of that?!” LOL

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9222 posts in 2888 days

#7 posted 10-22-2011 11:39 PM

You are absolutely right, Joe! There is nothing like having some wonderful friends to bounce your thoughts off of when you are stuck. Sometimes they just help you look at things from a different perspective and the answer was right there all the time. That is one of the reasons I love this group so much! :)

have a great night,


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics