Alice's Voice

Creativity During Crisis or Five Reasons I Need Tim Gunn More Than Ever

The author’s quarantine desk and her mentor.

I’m having a creative crisis along with the stress of the global pandemic outside my door and the uncertainty of life when we emerge. I’m trying to take the ‘extra’ time I have during isolation to draft my next book, but I need help to keep me focused and motivated. What I need is Tim Gunn.

Making The Cut is Gunn’s new show on Amazon Prime

I am not a fashion designer. I do not sew. I wear yoga pants that I take kitchen shears to when the hem gets worn out. But I am racing to my Roku for Gunn’s new show, Making the Cut, on Amazon Prime. If you need some focus or encouragement on your creative project, here are five things I’ve gleaned from pretending that Tim Gunn is my own personal mentor.

  1. Know the Rules. 

Tim Gunn’s rule is simple — Fit and Proportion.  He says it over and over again, like a mantra. When he is in the workroom, he constantly brings it back to that home base. He doesn’t get lost in the emotions of the piece, the feeling of the designer or his own opinions. He doesn’t berate himself or wonder about an artist’s worth or value. He simply evaluates a piece by the standard: Fit and Proportion. If it meets that baseline it gets the ‘Carry On’.  

As a writer, and in my Tell Your Story seminars, my rule is Universal and Specific. Our work must be universal so people relate with specifics so they care.

Put on your imaginary blue pinstripe suit and gaze at your work and repeat: Universal and Specific. Fit and Proportion. The thread will appear. 

Gunn is the author of several books.

2. Focus on the Piece. 

Speaking of gazing, Tim Gunn has a gaze. It is deep and filled with intention. Whatever state a piece is in — pattern, muslin on a dressmaker form, cut fabric on a work table — he looks at the piece, not at the designer.  I imagine him seeing it on a human form. Walking the runway. Posing on the red carpet. Grocery shopping at Zabar’s. 

Now, go to your draft. Gaze at it with intention. See it in action. See it published, posted, or in the pages of a magazine. How does it look in it’s final stage? If it belongs in the workroom only, rethink it. 

3. Ask the Questions 

He asks questions that propel the creator to think. The questions are mostly open ended — it’s their opinion he’s seeking, rather than attempting to lead them to his conclusion. He is genuinely interested. 

Ask yourself the type of questions Tim Gunn asks: Could this be a ….?  Is it too much? Is there more? Does it need a…? Where can you edit?  

4. Be moved 

He is often moved by the work and the person doing the work. Dial up past seasons of Project Runaway and watch the deep affection Tim Gunn has for the designers in his care. He loves them. He loves their ideas. He loves their work. He loves their efforts. He loves their designs, whether they are totally off base or if they are bound to be the winner.  

Love your work. Love your unique offering in this world. Allow yourself to be moved by the wonder of the work of your hands. 

5. Make it Work 

Of course, his most famous line is the most important. It is terrifying to put your work out there, because, yes, there is some crap produced when you just do it. But there is also unexpected beauty along with the planned for beauty. So, get it out there. Make sure your model isn’t naked and Make It Work. 

Leading a creativity class to help others doesn’t mean I don’t have a breakdown over my project.

When I am feeling like I just can’t, I conjure Tim Gunn. He appears by my computer in a double breasted suit with a pocket square, gazing intently at my work. His arms move across his chest, one hand raises to his chin. He asks a few key questions — what was your intention?  What do you want to achieve? I answer and he says, “I love it.” 

I start to break down — it won’t work, there’s not enough time, no one will like it. He looks at me with his placid gaze and says, “Make it Work.”  

And so I do. Carry on. 


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