ALL THOSE MONTHS AGO, when the first phase of the pandemic hit, Tim and I packed up our lives and our SUV and headed for the mountains to “ride things out.” I look at that time now as both lovely and terribly confusing; we were remote thus comparatively safe, and yet every morning we woke up to that incomprehensible reminder the world had changed. Like so many, I recognized my mental and emotional health required intentionality and discipline, and so I made of list of things to do each day that I felt would maintain some normalcy and balance. (I wrote about this on The Daily Grace at the time. The list is still a good one.)
A key part of this strategy was a commitment to exercise. It seemed a goal of walking two miles every day was reasonable, and as we’d moved our old treadmill to the mountain place, it was something I could accomplish rain or shine, bear season or not. (I am very serious about not running into a Black Bear, alone, I’ll just say.) As further incentive I decided I could do some great Tim-would-not-love-this-show binging during my walks, but only with the very strict rule that once I’d started a series, it was restricted to treadmill-only. This worked well for me, and all these months later I continue the 2-mile practice.
WHICH IS TO SAY this is how I came to watch Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum and the show MAKING THE CUT. It airs on Amazon Prime, and the premise is that a collection of professional clothing designers is brought together to take on a series of challenges and hopefully win a bunch of money. But the competition is really secondary for me, as at the show’s core is a study in creative process. It’s a glimpse inside the heads of super-talented designers as they consider, sketch, problem-solve, make, abandon, remake, present, and justify their works. Add to this Making the Cut’s on-the-spot critiquing and thoughtful judging, and mile after treadmill mile there I am, worrying with every designer on every design, concept to bitter end.
SEASON TWO IS MY FAVORITE. Reality shows like this tend to include a lot of silly contestant drama, and on MTC2 this is largely omitted. Plus the contestants include a wonderful designer with whom I have become a bit obsessed. His name is Gary Graham, and in the first episode he chooses as his fabric A WOVEN RUG due to its beautiful and significant historical pattern. I loved this audacity. I loved his commitment to history and storytelling. He and I had a future! I was Team Gary all the way.
And yet how he struggled. Oh how he struggled, my amazing, talented Gary, wondering and second-guessing, heart knowing full well and still. He is an archetype, I realized, a brilliant, tortured soul baring it all right there on my iPad, this man who represents so many of the feelings of inadequacy and indecision shared by creators everywhere who are doing the hard work of creating.
Not to fear, though. As he does in his quiet, nurturing way, mentor Tim Gunn makes it pay. He stops by Gary’s table during a later episode and finds the designer in a full-on swivet. Gary is paralyzed; he is unsure of the work (per usual) and this time he is also caught up in the spin of fretting OVER ALL HIS FRETTING. Tim strikes his trademark hand-to-chin pose, considers, then provides Gary with this insight:
“I don’t envy you emotionally or psychologically. But it might just be your process.”
Wait, I thought. What?
I stopped the video and replayed.
It might just be your process.
DOES THIS OBSERVATION give you the peace and permission it gives me? Because in that moment, Tim Gunn illuminates a powerful truth. Creation is a journey that starts with an idea, a possibility-filled idea that takes shape—(hooray!)—then evolves, and evolves, and evolves until—suddenly, right there in front of you, OMG a hot mess. A fat waste of time. A humiliating lost cause. You throw up your hands. You step away; you pace. You pray for a miracle, then you come back and face the thing down and as if in miracle, courage steps in. Tenacity takes over. A shape takes form, a shape emerges that is beautiful by golly, that never existed before, that is coming to the world new and wholly original because it is yours, distinctly yours, it is distinctly of you.
Good lord but the wrangling to get it out can be difficult, that’s true.
But the process is trustworthy. That’s the real point. You can trust your process because it, too, is fully of you.
Photo credit: Making the Cut