I've taken quite a bit of time since posting all about "Hell Builds" late this summer, after I finished Young Ursula. What is a hell build, you ask? In short, "a project that takes 100 hours or more in a month or less."
I've slowly been getting back into things, doing small projects here and there, but focusing on self-care and fun rather than speed or size. These were little forays, nothing like crafting a master-level competition costume. (P.S. This selfie is from CoTiCon 2017, where I wore one of my new little costume pieces - a revamped, wearable version of my horns)
I've begun planning my 2018 schedule, and know I'll need to put serious effort into keeping myself from Hell Building again. It takes consistent, measured effort to undo a well-trained process, especially if you were rewarded as well as I was for doing it. I'll be using a series of techniques, some that I've often employed when building, but didn't value, and some new ones, all to keep me focused, realistic, and balanced. I wanted to share these with you, so that we can sensibly build next year's costumes.
Make a budget
This budget needs to include both time and money. I've separated my three projects down into their major parts and accounted for all the expenses that I can. I padded a little, just in case I missed something, and made a maximum budget. I tried to do that for time as well, but that is harder to judge if you're working on something you've never tried before. I have given it my best shot, and will be doing a debrief after these projects to see how accurate I was.
I will be working on this year's costumes in a bit of a haphazard sequence. I'm hoping to fully finish one by the end of 2017. The other two I'll be working on with some overlap, with one scheduled to be finished around February and the other before MCC 2018, so about the end of June. Each costume is going to be broken down into a couple milestones, so that I'll know if my end goals are still realistic, and to keep me working small amounts at a time.
I have done this in the past and will continue to do so - I keep certain weekends and days of the week marked for crafting time, so that I don't fill them with things and then run out of time. When you're willing to spend 40 hours on a project, but also work full time, you have to keep your evenings and weekends free. I never end up crafting the full time, but it is nice to look on the calendar and know that I've accounted for it, rather than hoping the time will appear. This has helped me avoid doing things last-minute in the past.
Share your progress
Sharing WIP photos online helps me along. Sometimes I feel a bit like I'm five again, running to my parents going, "Look, look what I made!" but there's a reason you did that then, too - you want to celebrate! I love to show off to my friends and fellow cosplayers when I achieve something amazing - and I love to fangirl over them when they do likewise. The world is a better place because of WIP posts.
Pull the plug
It can be sad, but sometimes something just goes so far over time and over budget that you can't complete it. I've never firmly committed to ditching a project before, and honestly it feels so wrong. Like, if you've put this much time in, you might as well finish, right? However, my lovely partner (I affectionately call him "the Duke" on social media) has been teaching me about this concept called sunk costs. Wikipedia has a lot more data on this than I can explain here, but the short version is, that even though you've put in a lot of time, effort, and money - putting in more might not actually make the project profitable. You may not be able to get the amount of fun, visibility, or use out of the costume that such an investment would indicate. If the rewards of the effort do not exceed doing it - then it's time to stop, for good. For me, this could mean literally throwing the costume in the trash. I really hope not to do so, but the Zen of letting go should help me be more realistic.