On Persona: Don't Be Afraid to Try

Sir Andras Salamandra

There are two kinds of prisons; the ones others build for us, and the ones we build for ourselves. It is easy to see the work of others, and thus easy to break out of the mold set for us by others. Unfortunately, it isn't so easy to see the self-imposed limitations that we set upon ourselves. How many times have you heard someone else say "They are so talented, I wish that I could do that. But I can't, I don't have the talent." It's a safe bet that all of us have said it! The only sure thing about someone who believes this is that they can't do it because they will never try.

Many people don't believe they have the talent or ability to do high-quality craftwork. That's an unfortunate belief, but simply not true. Every single person that Fuil and I have taught in the last several years has succeeded in learning, and in learning quickly! Every one of the crafts in Early Period is easy to do with a little practice. Most of them require simple tools, simple techniques, a small budget, practice and patience.

Perhaps the most important attitude that one can learn is not to be afraid of failure and to expect a certain amount of it as part of the learning process. Keep a positive mental attitude, don't give up, practice, and success will come your way. In fact, when learning a new craft, I expect to fail at first and am surprised when it's right the first time! When I started on the Sutton Hoo cithara detailed in EP#3, I bought enough materials to make two instruments. I expected to mess up the first one, and I did.

Keep your first projects small in scope, so that you have the opportunity to master the basic techniques before tackling the advanced ones. As you master the skills of your craft you will learn how to cover up the mistakes that you make. Very few people knew (until now) that I literally broke the fist cithara into two pieces just before starting to string it for the first time. It was repaired and the marks of the breakage hidden.

Before you begin a new craft, try to break it down into several smaller, simpler steps, and use a building block approach to learning it. For example, before making the decorative Celtic shield detailed in EP#3, I practiced all the steps needed on small brooches and scrap pieces of wood. This has several benefits; the cost of mistakes in time & money remains small, and the 'keepers' can really enhance the appearance of your medieval equipment.

Keep this in mind: all those 'experts' were beginners once. Most of them were beginners for a long time. You have an advantage over them because you can draw upon their expertise to learn more quickly than they did.

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