What We Make

How to Handle Maker Envy

Written by: Hannah Kimmel


What is maker envy, you ask?

If you’ve ever made something and saw someone else doing it better, you may have experienced it.

Let’s describe the scenario.

Not too long ago you created something. You were pretty proud of it. It might be the best thing you’ve made to date. A couple of friends came over and nodded their heads appreciatively. You made something worth noticing.

That is, until…

You log on to Instagram and start scrolling through your feed. You thought what you made was pretty neat, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the beautiful high-crafted items you start to see. Not only are their projects way more complicated than anything you’ve ever tried to make, their photographs are also 1000% more gorgeous than anything you could stage in your poorly lit garage.

OR… you log on to YouTube and your favorite maker created the most incredible thing in 20 “easy” steps. You don’t even know what they’re talking about. The tools they have are far out of your financial reach. You’ll never have that kind of workshop. You’ll never be able to make those kinds of things.

Dun dun dun… maker envy.

Should you give up?

Should you be embarrassed?

Are makers only valuable when they’re making lots of $$$ and have 50,000+ followers on Instagram or YouTube?

We’re here to say that you can have zero followers on social media and the things you make are still of value. You can make zero dollars with the things you make, and the things you make are still of value.

Here are some ways to not let the maker envy blues drag you down as you journey through the world of making.

1. Be a Maker for YOURSELF First

Woman Making Clay Pot

If you make something in your woodshop and no one sees it, does it still have value?

Yep, it does. And here’s why.

When you make something, you’re not only doing it so you have something to show off. This is pretty counter to our current culture where we take pictures of just about everything interesting or productive that we do.

I write content for a living and I love Instagram, but at some point, we have to learn to enjoy making things for the love of making. If not, our joy in creating will only be fulfilled when other people adore our work. This is a poor precedent because, unfortunately, other people’s interest can be fickle. The things that go viral are often fleeting and don’t hold longterm worth.

If we learn to appreciate the things we make and create for our own enjoyment, the work we do will be a lot more fun and less burdensome.

2. Remember Making is Therapeutic

Man in Grey Hoodie Jacket Holding Black Metal Near White Socket Power Supply

Many people love creating things because it’s therapeutic. It can be an escape or a break from stress and way to channel negative feelings into something positive.

According to Psychology Today, “Research has shown that hand activity from knitting to woodworking to growing vegetables… are useful for decreasing stress, relieving anxiety, and modifying depression.”

Most people who make things know that making, creating, and building is good for mental health. I know when we need a break from our everyday, it’s extremely beneficial to escape into our making spaces and work. It’s a major stress reliever and it gives us real joy!

Therefore, it doesn’t really matter if your end results are as magical as someone else’s. The process itself is a huge part of why making is important.

3. You Don’t Need All the Costly Things

If you’re just starting out, or even if you’re not, you probably won’t have all the best tools or the most expensive workshop. You may watch YouTube and feel like it would be impossible to make the things they’re making since you lack the proper equipment.

It’s often true that better quality equipment and tools can make it easier to make polished looking items. However, a person’s zeal should not be quenched because they lack expensive tools.

I’m reminded of a little story about our kids.

Recently, a public school in our area was shut down, and our kid’s school was offered some of the equipment they left in the building. We were invited to go help pick out tables and chairs that could be used in our kid’s school.

While we were there, my kids started playing in an old classroom. Someone had left behind pencils and a stack of blue paper. Unprompted, my kids immediately began to draw on and create things out of those pieces of paper. They made paper airplanes, hats, and swords. I didn’t tell them to do it. They just wanted to. Their imaginations were spinning as they put on their hats and flew their airplanes around the room.

All of this was done with only a few sheets of paper.

If you want to make something, you’ll find a way.

If you need some inspiration, check out some of these links for amazing art that people have made with everyday items.

4. Be Happy for Other Makers and Artists

It may not be easy at first, but one way to avoid maker envy is to retrain the way you think about other people’s art. It’s so easy to feel inferior when you see the things that other people are making. But, instead of feeling inferior, just be happy for them that they were capable of creating it.

It’s a freeing experience when you recognize that creation isn’t a competition. You aren’t in some kind of race with other people. You can just be happy that they were able to make something so lovely that it made you stop to look at it.

You can also use their work to inspire you. If you see something you love, think about how you can incorporate that into your creations. Certainly, don’t steal someone else’s intellectual property, but their work can most definitely be a launch point for your own work.

5. Keep Practicing

Instead of feeling envious of what other people can do, see it as a goal in your making life. Think back to the first thing you ever made. Was it your best work?
I know mine isn’t.

A few years ago I decided to teach myself how to sew. I was awful. TRULY horrible. I didn’t know how to fill the bobbin, thread a needle, or stitch a straight line. And I’ll tell you the truth… I’m still not a phenomenal seamstress. There’s a lot of things I don’t know how to do. But, I did finish making my daughter a blanket the other day, and that’s pretty cool.

If you see something that someone else has made and it blows your socks off… keep working hard so you can achieve similar goals. You can’t expect to make something out of this world when you’re just starting out. Those other makers have put a lot of time and effort in mastering their craft. You too will be amazed by how far you’ve come by next year if you continue to put in the hard work.


Keep on Keeping on

Maker envy may stop you in your tracks, but it doesn’t have to. Be happy for other people, and keep passionately pursuing your art. Most importantly, enjoy the process. Even if you end up with something that makes you laugh, you’ve not wasted your time if you enjoyed doing it. Learn from it, and continue creating. Don’t let envy trick you into giving up something you love.

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