One of the things I’ve developed through knitting is grit; for me this means an ability to tackle larger, longer-term projects, and persevere, despite setbacks, until they’re done.
Keeping my eyes on the distant prize, working through blocks, and bringing projects to completion doesn’t come easily to me, and I’ll be the first to admit that I have still got a lot of learning to do! Yet, with Alexa by my side (metaphoric cattle prod in hand) together we have managed to complete several book projects which have taken months or years from our conception, through gradual stitch-by-stitch and word by word development, to print.
Grit as behavioural trait has been recently popularized in part by the work of Angela Lee Duckworth; you can listen to her popular Ted Talk here. It is a bundle of learnable behaviours or orientations including motivation to work hard over the long term toward goals, willingness to stretch and possibly fail (courage), the ability to bounce back after setbacks (resilience), and belief that your actions matter.
I feel that grit and endurance is something that knitters cannot help but gradually gain, because knitting is such a SLOW way to arrive at anything useful! If you keep up with it, finishing one project and casting on the next, you can’t help but teach yourself that YES, stitch by stitch I CAN tackle this hat, new technique, sock, shawl, cardigan, king-size bedspread, college degree, or even parenthood!
This week I’ve survived a household full of the cold, and also the desperate last few days of my month-long novel project. I bet there are a few of you out there who signed up to knit a sweater in a month during NaKniSweMo, right? I hope you’re ready to bind off today. I’m pleased to say that I have just this morning written the final words ‘The End’ on my 50,000 word novel.
Working on that project, I REALLY enjoyed the daily chunks of time I dedicated to writing, putting it ahead of pretty much everything else, generally getting most of my daily 1700 words onto the paper before 7:30 am. Despite a hectic schedule of nearly full-time work, plus two toddlers to get out to nursery then home, fed, books read, and to bed every day, 1.5-2 hours per day was actually possible (and to my surprise, almost entirely pleasurable!). Making it a daily necessity meant that it simply got done, and hour or two at a time.
This creative marathon finished, below are a few of the things that I struggled with, which may relate to your own knitting or creative work.
nasty voice of SELF DOUBT
Nasty Little Voice of Self Doubt: “This is a stupid, pointless project. It’s rubbish and you’ll never share it with anybody anyway, so what’s the point?” or “Geez this is embarassingly BAD, what were you thinking?!”
Emily: “Surely this isn’t any less pointless than an hour or two of Netflix, and it’s way more fun!”and “If I don’t try, if I don’t write a first draft or knit a first prototype, I’ll never make anything beautiful or meaningful!”
Of course, if you’re struggling with uncertainty over a knitting or design project, you may be able to work on it WHILE watching Netflix… possibly an even bigger win-win?!
The SLOG in the middle
Oh the middle. Self doubt can cripple you there (see above) as can the sheer daily slog of getting the work done, bit by bit. For me the middle of the novel writing was a bit like knitting the stockinette body of a man-sized seamless jumper in the round. You can the time in, but sometimes it feels so pointless, as the work grows a meager inch per day. Keep going! Find ways to distract yourself and celebrate every of forward progress you make.
The difficulty of FINISHING
I find finishing things VERY difficult. The novel project has been harder to finish than many, but I honestly come up against this difficulty with all but my simplest and least-demanding knitting projects too. The piece below (check out the finished cowl here) languished for at least a year!
I’d hoped for creative spill-over from this writing project into my knitting and design work. And I think that I’ve started to feel this. First, in the drafting of work; both written work and design work – I’m inspired to begin sooner, work more iterations, and explore more ideas before completing a project. Second, in the taking on of very large projects, I’ve become even more confident in my ability to finish. And third, in the desire to wrap things up, and get the big pile of niggling works-in-progress out of the closet and into my life!
This is just a part of the pile of WIPS (works in progress) that I’m aiming to complete or let go by the end of the year. And that’s only knitting… I guess I’ll tackle my sewing and home decorating projects-in-progress next year!
What’s your style?
Do you stick to quick projects, or invest the long-term effort in epic big ones?
Are you a monogamous knitter, or do you have a million unfinished objects lining your closets?
Which part of a project do you struggle with, and does perfectionism hold you back?
Itching to cast on? Some big TCK projects we recommend: