The Fear of Showing Up: Learning to de-Lurk

Strands of warp threads

Joining the School of SweetGeorgia is the easy part, but for some of us, participating in the community is hard work! There are lots of good reasons to be a lurker, and if you feel like your fear is holding you back, I can relate.         

When I first joined the School, I watched the videos; I completed the courses; I did not post a comment. It was quite a while before I introduced myself in the forums. Self-doubt prevented me from taking part in the community and ultimately prevented me from learning and applying new skills. I needed to acknowledge my vulnerability and work to become an active member in order to grow.    

Knowledge, Vulnerability, and Community

So much of the fibre arts relies on tacit “know-how” knowledge—just like riding a bicycle or kneading bread dough, it is the kind of knowledge that is difficult to articulate. It’s why professional fibre artists train in apprenticeships and other mentor/mentee relationships. It is why learning to weave or spin from only books is difficult, but videos and in-person classes can be illuminating. Tacit knowledge is the stuff of experience, instinct, and intuition.

Felicia, in a recent vlog, suggested bridging the gap between “reading” and “doing” requires lots of time and effort when you are learning from old books. Think about when you’re learning how to control the force to apply to the loom’s beater to achieve the right weft density, learning to add just the right amount of twist to your singles, or learning to balance the yarn tension just right for two-handed stranded colourwork knitting. These are things that take time, patience, and practice to master, but are difficult to do without some form of shared experience. Practical experience is crucial to learning how to do activities in the fibre arts but learning from each other and seeing our shared experiences takes our education to a whole new level. Learning not just “from” but “with” others makes our fibre arts learning so much better.

Overcoming fear by sharing a handful of mini skeins in autumn colours

Learning something new, whether it is from scratch as an absolute beginner or whether it is a new technique in a familiar craft, can be uncomfortable. It is not a bad thing to be open and vulnerable. A trusted community of people at different stages of learning and from different cultures provides a safe space to grow in a way that you cannot easily achieve on your own. Knowledge is reinforced when you share your experiences with others. You never know when a forum post or a meetup conversation will spark something new for you or someone else.

Learn to de-Lurk

The more you talk with people, the more you realise that almost everybody struggles with imposter syndrome. If you are feeling stuck or inadequate, you are not alone. This is a great time to join conversations and learn alongside others. If you are struggling to overcome your fear of participation, here are some tips that helped me:

  • Read the forums: reading posts can give you a sense of what is happening and how people interact so that the community space becomes more familiar to you.
  • Know what you want: set goals for what you want to achieve or gain from participation in the school. Once you have set yourself some goals, then you can prioritise specific activities within the school that suit your needs. There are no wrong answers here.
  • Give a little: Not ready to dive in with your own questions? Get used to posting in the forums by encouraging others and just answering their questions.
  • Make friends: Crafternoons and study groups are a great way to meet members of the community. You’ll start to recognise names and faces which can make taking part less scary.

The goal for the School of SweetGeorgia is to show how fibre crafts are not independent silos but are a continuum of practices. I may have joined the school to learn weaving and advance my spinning, but I’ve also reignited my joy for crochet and started natural dyeing. I’ve even realised I understand more about knitting than I thought! My confidence is growing because of many moments learning with my peers, and I don’t think I would have grown so much if I had stayed a lurker. I encourage you to jump into the forums and come say hi. The moderators won’t bite, and neither do I.

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