This article has been in the works for years. Literally. I have meant to write about this for some time but always put it off. Recently I was invited to present at a Fibre Arts Symposium. I was asked to talk and teach about how to create and run a successful Fibre Arts business from your home, specifically how to successfully publish your knitwear designs. In my presentation I included a brief introduction to this principle as one of my guiding forces. People were invited to sit and talk with me about whatever aspect of the topic they wished. One particular conversation reminded me why it is so important to share the “Fuck Yes or Fuck off” Principal. I met with a very talented woman who was interested in producing patterns for her website to drive traffic to her blog. After going over some details it became apparent to me that she didn’t even really want to be a knit designer. She wanted to be an author. I asked her why put all her creative energy into something she didn’t really want to do... if you want to become a successful author with an active blog, put your energy into what you love... writing! Don't build an audience that expects patterns from you or you will be stuck doing that. Instead build an audience that will love what you love doing... writing! Do what you love, and nothing else. My best piece of business advice for her was to follow the “Fuck Yes or Fuck off” Principle.
The last few years has been a very transformative time for me in my fibre arts journey. There are various reasons for this: becoming more confident in my design ability, giving myself permission to invest in tools and supplies that I love, making satisfying connections with other makers in the community and having very supportive people in my life who help me take my designs to the next level.
But there is another reason why I’ve come to find my art even more fulfilling than I ever did before, and why I feel I’ve started to feel my creativity and success grow exponentially. It’s a simple philosophy I like to follow in my creative projects that I refer to as the “Fuck Yes or Fuck Off” Principle.
Crass? Yes. But simple and too the point.
A few years ago someone dear to me shared this article: https://markmanson.net/fuck-yes with me about the importance of being all the way in or not at all when dating. Simply put, the law of “Fuck Yes” states: “when you want to get involved with someone new, in whatever capacity, they must inspire you to say “Fuck Yes” in order for you to proceed with them.”
This spoke to me. And then I thought “Why not apply this to my creative projects?”. Creative projects are a relationship after all aren’t they? You invest your time, energy and resources into making it happen and a good creative project brings you joy, satisfaction, accomplishment, relaxation, peace. It’s fun to be around. You crave more of it when you are away doing something else. It’s on your mind all the time… but in a good way. See? It’s a relationship.
I was tired of working on projects that weren’t doing this for me. This was supposed to be my creative time. My fun time. My hobby. My way to relax, unwind, de-stress. Yet it had really become a second job at times. Knitting the same scarf 20 times in colours you don’t even like for customers is not fun. And even when I wasn’t knitting something for income, I often found myself knitting out of obligation. I had promised someone a hat, or I had invested a lot into the wool for a sweater so I HAD to finish it despite being over it. Or maybe it was just a really boring knit… and it had become a chore, but I was pressuring myself to finish it before starting something else.
Not anymore. Now it’s either “Fuck Yes!” or “Fuck Off”.
I either can’t wait to get started, or it won’t get started at all. I either can’t wait to finish it, or I don’t finish it at all. It may sit in the corner for years… or be frogged… or given away in my donated yarn piles. Sometimes… I put something in the ‘bad corner’ and days, weeks, months or even years later I have been known to pick it back up because suddenly I am interested again. Maybe I’ve come up with a new idea to solve a design problem… sometimes it doesn’t feel like so much work to complete.
And you know what? My designs (and hence my business) have grown SO MUCH since using this principal. Have you ever followed a designer (knitwear or otherwise) and noticed when they produce an amazing design versus when they produce a design that seems… well… not to the level you know they are capable of? I’ve noticed. And usually, the ‘not to par’ design is one that was a commissioned knit, created on a tight deadline with no time to play or tight parameters about what they could or could not create. Some of the biggest designers out there, with the most fun, creative, unique and interesting designs are the ones who aren’t boxed into constricting (read: stressful) contracts or deadlines. They move at their own pace and follow their curiosity and passion. They follow what gets them excited. They follow their “FUCK YES!”. They achieve their best work and it shows.... and that is what their (or yours, or mine) audience is attracted to... your creativity at it's finest.
My time is precious. I sometimes only get to knit for a moment…. Sometimes I don’t get to knit at all. I have two small kids, a business to run (which I also apply the Fuck yes or Fuck off principle to), I work part time as a teacher and sometimes I need to clean my house. I have enough ‘need-to-dos’ in my life… knitting projects aren’t one of them. They must be a “want-to-do” or I am not going to come with my best work and I’m not going to feel like I’ve met my creative needs. I’m going to not like what I’m doing and my designs are going to show it. And it doesn’t matter if you don’t do this for your income, or if you create as a hobby, the principle still applies. I’ve been known to gift people some of my knitting months or YEARS after it was due (read: late Christmas presents, birthday presents and even wedding presents). I refuse to gift someone an item that felt awful about completing. I either knit love, and happiness into each stitch or I don’t knit it at all. Energy is a powerful thing and neither you nor the people you knit for need a garment that was created with stress, anger, frustration or boredom woven into it.
So that is it… my biggest piece of advice to anyone who wishes to take their art and design to the next level… be it for personal enjoyment, their mental health, business or otherwise. It has served me well and has given me permission to breath and expand at times when I felt constricted and stifled. I truly believe this principle has been the key to my success and I do not doubt that you will find the same satisfaction it has brought me if you are willing to apply it to your own creative life.
What kind of principles do you use in your world? Do you have any guiding forces or rules to help you navigate your art or craft? How do you create boundaries and parameters that keeps your art safe from becoming ‘work?’. I would love to continue the conversation!
Wolf & Faun Knits