7 Life Lessons I Learned from Cosplay

It’s funny how lessons you learn from different hobbies will start to bleed into other aspects of your life. The more I do cosplay, the more I learn not only sewing and prop-making lessons, but I learn some helpful tidbits for normal life.

  1. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
  2. Prototype.
  3. Don’t rush it.
  4. Make a schedule and stick to it.
  5. Ask for help!
  6. Track everything.
  7. Have fun!

1. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Making that first cut into fabric can be terrifying. Fear of making a mistake can paralyze you, making you think “If I don’t do anything, I won’t make a mistake!” Sure, you can sit in your bubble filled with full yards of fabric, but that’s not gonna make a cosplay. You have to start somewhere. The only bad mistakes are ones that you don’t learn from and continue to repeat. So if it turns out you’ve wasted some fabric cause you cut it wrong, or you glued a weapon piece on the wrong way, take the time to acknowledge the mistake, learn from it, and move on.

Being afraid to make mistakes applies to any stage of life. You could be worried about doing terribly on an essay, or asking someone out, or interviewing for a job. But if you let fear consume you to the point that you do nothing at all, that would be far worse than any mistake you could make. Embrace mistakes. Think of it as just the process of elimination: you tried one thing and it didn’t work, now you know this for the future!

2. Prototype!

Photo Mar 05, 1 39 38 PM

Top – Shrug prototype 1.0; Middle – Prototype 1.1; Bottom – Final shrug lining

There have been too many times that I have wasted final fabric by messing it up with hot glue or some other new technique that I should’ve tested on a small piece of scrap fabric first. Whenever working with a new pattern, you’ll want to make the whole thing using scrap fabric first to make sure everything fits as it should. Otherwise, you may end up using up all that expensive fabric on a dress that won’t go over your head or pants that won’t fit around your butt.

The digital or work-related equivalent of this would be to save often and save different versions. Don’t hedge all your bets on one piece of fabric or one computer file. If you mess that one thing up, you’re gonna be back to square one. So make copies of your files and label them with some sort of versioning system. At a previous job, we numbered by both rounds and versions. Rounds are determined by the last time client reviewed it and you can have multiple versions in a single round. We’d have files going all the way up to R3V20 at times. Having them labeled clearly is super easy to do and helps tremendously in the long run. If, say, the file for R2V10 get corrupted and no longer works, no worries! Just make a new copy of R2V9 and do what you need again. Sure, you may have to redo work that you already did for V10, but it’s better than reverting all the way back to Round 1.

3. Don’t rush it.

Yeah, this one probably seems impossible to cosplayers out there. “If I don’t rush it, how am I supposed to get this giant cosplay done in time for the convention that’s in two days?” Well, for one thing, it probably would’ve helped if you had started sooner. But, for another, you have to recognize that cosplay is an inherently time-consuming hobby. The sewing, crafting, painting, waiting for said paint to dry, waiting for fabric swatches to arrive in the mail: it all requires patience. Rushing through a cosplay job will not only give you subpar results, but it’ll leave you drained and fatigued. Take time with your cosplay, enjoy those still moments of hand-stitching beads. Find that moment of zen as you lose yourself in your craft.

I remember rushing through my Sylveon cosplay for Kumoricon. I was just so excited that I worked on it every spare minute I had. I’d wake up early before work, work on it immediately after getting home, and continue working on it way past my bedtime. By the end of that three week process, I was physically and mentally drained. My brain was suddenly very confused by all the free time. I went from manic around-the-clock cosplay work to nothing. The boredom was deafening.

Take your time not only because it’ll yield better results but also because it’s better for you in the long-run.

Cosplays are a marathon, not a sprint.

4. Make a schedule and stick to it.

You can allow yourself time to meticulously and carefully work on your cosplay if you schedule enough time to do it. You’ll always be frazzled if you wait until the last minute to start working. This of course is assuming you’re capable of picking one cosplay plan and sticking to it, which I know is very difficult.

An app that I’ve found very helpful lately for not only budgeting time but also money is Cosplanner. In it, you can list all the cosplays you’re working on (or want to work on in the future) and all the different things you need for it. You can set a budget and when you add a purchased item and include its cost, it’ll automatically calculate what you’ve spent and how much of your budget you have left. You can also track your time (manually, there’s no stopwatch functionality) and add progress pictures.

cosplanner

Of course, to be able to set an accurate schedule, you need to know how long it takes for you to do certain tasks. That’s why tracking your time is valuable. It not only shows you how long a certain cosplay took, it shows you how long you can expect a future, similar cosplay to take. And of course, the more you do it, the better and faster you’ll get, so your schedule may become more lax as time goes on. More on that in Step 6!

5. Ask for help!

No one is perfect. No one knows everything there is to know immediately. Sometimes you try to figure it out on your own and you can’t. There’s nothing wrong with that. So when you’ve hit a roadblock, ask for help! For cosplay, there are countless resources online that can help you. Just a quick google search of anything can usually get you on the right path. There are blogs with tutorials, youtube channels with How To’s, forums with answers; it’s all there! You don’t have to do this all alone. There are probably already a lot of people who have cosplayed that character you’re doing. And if not, there are countless cosplays out there that will have similar enough techniques that can come in handy for yours. There may not be an exact step-by-step instruction manual for your cosplay, but there’s enough out there that you can put together your own.

Asking for help can be hard. You may be tempted to call yourself stupid or terrible or weak. Don’t! Asking for help is actually a sign of strength. It means you’re willing to learn and you’re willing to swallow your pride so that you can do what you need to do. This can apply to many things (including mental health) and it’s something I can struggle with sometimes. But thankfully, if you’re self-conscious, you can ask online with the help of anonymity!

6. Track everything.

Documenting your process and progress on a cosplay is great way to track not only your budget, time, and supplies, but your progress in your skills. It helps you remember all those little new techniques you learned or all those mistakes you made that you’ll be sure to avoid in the future. Think of your blog, instagram, facebook—or whatever platform you use—as a journal you can look back on.

show-your-work-cover1

One book I keep going back to time and again is Austin Kleon’s “Show Your Work!” It’s a fantastic little book that you can read in an hour or so. In it, Austin goes over the process of getting your work out there into the real world and building a community around it. I highly recommend you buy/read that book. But if not, here’s the short little bulleted list of tips from it. You should buy the book if you want to expand on each concept further.

  • You don’t have to be a genius.
  • Think process, not product.
  • Share something small every day.
  • Open up your cabinet of curiosities.
  • Tell good stories.
  • Teach what you know.
  • Don’t turn into human spam.
  • Learn to take a punch.
  • Sell out.
  • Stick around.

Austin Kleon, “Show Your Work!”

Tracking your progress is fun and an easy way to post content without having to post finalized and finished products every single day.

7. Have fun!

Why do it if it’s not fun? Well, in this matter, I of course mean cosplay. There are going to be things in life that you just have to do, regardless of whether or not it’s fun. But as far as hobbies go, you should be having fun with it. Don’t stress. Remember that this is just for you. Sure, you may be entering a cosplay contest with it, but at the end of the day, cosplay is for one person only: YOU. So make that person happy.


Thumbnail image credit to Off Duty Costography at Kumoricon 2016

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