On creativity. / by vanessa

One of the countless creative projects I've undertaken was an advice column called Dear Brutal Truth. I started it with my friend April in 2006 as a way to rail against skinny jeans and people who didn't wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Boy, was I wrong. I've now worn skinny jeans for almost a decade. As it goes when you start most projects, we couldn't help but dream big: The new Dear Abbies! And then as it goes when you have to manage most projects along with things like work, reality set in. Somewhere along the way we lost the steam necessary to keep it alive. Also the questions started getting really hard.

We had stickers!

April and I have bonded many times over making fun of thingsokaypeople and the fact that both of us best deal with most emotion through humor. But it's really hard to find the light side of someone being beaten by her boyfriend. In truth, we weren't exactly ever qualified, unless you consider that we had previously consulted each other for advice.

I have yet to let being qualified stop me though. There was the time I started an ill-fated lady t-shirt and undies company called Boys Can Tell with my friend, Sonya. I suggest not googling that on a work computer. We had zero background in fashion but we had a love of soft, white fitted tees and visions of petal pink piping so we found a Sikh Kundalini teacher who also happened to be a pattern maker. It was the first time I had seen a white lady in a turban. She drafted our prototypes. We traveled to LA from our homes in Austin to buy a shitload of cotton modal which was ahead of its time. We found a really lovely sweatshop housing ten people pouring over sewing machines behind a garage door in an unsavory part of Los Angeles. We placed our order and never heard from our seamstress again. We lost about five grand.

Years later I told my friend Jessica this story. Jessica is an incredibly talented shoe designer who went to FIT and is, among other things, legit. Jessica now runs her own line and consulting company where she has to fix and counsel the mistakes of people like me. Getting into fashion without any training is, as I understand it now, sort of like opening a restaurant because you have a good chocolate chip cookie recipe. I had known Jess about four years before I admitted what we'd done. I didn't tell her about the time I started a menswear line with my friend Heidi.

For years I measured the time in between creative projects, afraid of starting another one that wouldn't "succeed." I had watched my mom--an artist in every sense of the word--try her hand at literally dozens of endeavors over the years, only to have them inevitably be scrapped when she had either mastered her craft or hit a roadblock, always short of financial solvency. Thus, I thought of my own varied interests as a character flaw. But I am not her. Not entirely, at least. I have been fortunate to have fallen into a career that repeatedly forces me to finish things and over the years, I've developed the business sense to identify that which is set up for failure or success from the start. Most importantly I've learned to divorce being creative from needing to make it anything other than what it is: just another expression of my current interest. Nothing more. Nothing less.