The work before the work never ends

When I learned to crochet many, many years ago, I never attempted to make clothes.  You need an even tension to create a piece of crochet fabric.  The front and back must match.  If your stitches are one size on the front and a different size on the back – well, it just doesn’t work.

I’d look at the gorgeous pieces in crochet magazines and knew I had a long way to go before I could make something like that.  My skills with yarn were just not up to it, so, nah… not that one.

What I needed was to improve my skills, but what I did was ditch the idea.

Have you ever done that?

Beginning a creative project means we have to face our skill level first.   We realize we have a long way to go and are immediately intimidated into inaction.

We can imagine, say, writing a book.  We know it will be great!  The characters will be memorable, the plot enchanting and the writing style stellar!  Then we sit in front of the keyboard and freeze.  That blank page is so… blank!

We visualize perfection and realize inadequacy. 

We give up before we start.

We all do.

So, what to do?

My friend Cynthia, when she decided to become a writer, gave herself 5 years to build her writing skills. She wrote poetry, she wrote screenplays, she wrote fiction, she wrote non-fiction… she filled notebook after notebook with writing.  And now she’s a published author – with 7 books to her credit.  You can see her publications here. 

You can build your skills too.  Here’s how she did it.

  • She decided:  Since she was a little girl, she knew she would write. You may not have had that certainty, but you do have a curiosity.  Maybe you look at drawings and wonder if you can capture the delicacy of a flower the way that artist did.  Maybe you hear a lilting melody and wonder if you could play it or perform it – or even write your own.   

Decide to apply your attention and action to what pulls you and you will improve

  • She gave herself permission:  Her perspective was that she was in writing school.  When you’re in kindergarten, you have permission to write like a baby, to draw like a baby, to sing like a baby.  It’s OK to be awful when you’re a baby at it. 

Give yourself permission to be awful. 

  • She released judgment:  Once she declared her desire to write, she judged her work only by its improvement.  And at first, she kept her work to herself.  At some point you do need outside opinions (i.e. teachers) in order to stretch and grow.  But first, you need to witness your own progress.

Compare yourself only to yourself, and keep it to yourself until you are ready to improve.

  • She did the work:  For 5 years, she practiced.  And still practices to this day.  Improvement never ends. I call it B-I-C (butt in chair)-time.  Doing the work means doing the work.  What matters is volume, not perfection.  If you’re talking about it, you’re not doing the work.  If you’re bragging about how good you are, you’re not doing the work.  If you’re blaming your tools or teachers, you’re not doing the work.

Do the work.  Practice. Commit to B-I-C-time.  Do the work.

Looking at a pattern in a magazine no longer intimidates me.  I have worked with so many mediums of fiber that I’m confident I can make anything I want.  I did the work and built my skills. Now, crocheting a sweater seems simple

 I’m stretching in new directions.  I’m playing with color, texture and drape.  (Note:  the photo above is my first freeform beaded collar.)  I’m building my design skills by inventing my own patterns.

When it comes to fiber design, I’m still a baby, so I do my B-I-C time.  I do the work.

What is pulling you?  What’s the skill you must build?

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