Friday, March 28, 2008

Put some muscle on it

I would like to state for the record that I don't actually EAT Peeps, but I think using them as little characters in a diorama is hilarious.

I am the kid least likely to have ever become an artist. I don't remember anything about elementary-school art except that I was positively fascinated by tinfoil drawings. You take a big sheet of tinfoil, fold it up a few times so it's layered, and use a toothpick or some kind of stick to 'draw' on it. I loved that. Seriously. And I remember trying to draw the type in magazines in about third grade, because I really don't remember knowing that a printing press actually, uh, printed type.

These days I can wax positively poetic about six-colour Heidelberg web presses and bore you to sleep with fantastic tales of saddle-stitch binding, Pantone chips, and UV coatings. But it wasn't always this way.

I want to remind everyone out there who is a new knitter or maybe just struggling with some cursed technique that knowledge is built over time. Remember when you learned to knit and it was all 'um, yeah, I'm a "knitter" kindof,' when people asked you, and you could hear the scare quotes in your voice? Once I was like that about 'artist.' There was a time I couldn't draw my way out of a paper bag. I felt like an imposter through many, many classes in college. But here I am, doing it.

And it really surprises me to know that some of the kids I graduated college with who were way better than I am are now selling cars and stuff - not in a prideful way at all, just kind of "how did I manage to make it?"

I have become convinced that 90% of the battle to do anything well consists of simply showing up. You want to be a runner, fashionista, newspaper reporter, politician, salesperson, knitter? The first thing to do is show up.

Right away that will separate you from all of the people who are just talk, who spend a lot of time saying they are going to do things but don't actually do them. You will never get above 'passable' if you don't show up.

Then, you have to first spend your show-up time learning some basic skillz. For a runner, this means learning good form and training your lungs and body to go a distance. For a fashionista, you must learn about cut, fit, colour, drape, and quality. The newspaper reporter has to learn to write. An artist has to learn how to see, and to translate that seeing into something practical. Most often this is done by learning to draw.

And if you are a knitter, you need to learn to knit. Simple, right? Well, a lot of this means doing things you haven't done before. Try new stuff! Learn new skills. Get a basic proficiency in knitting - decreasing, increasing, seaming. I recommend learning at your own pace, learning by doing, and making sure you learn something well.

The next step is finding a practical outlet for your expertise. Usually this means having a goal - running a 5k, finishing a project, getting that sweater done no matter what.

People who are experts in this kind of thing will tell you that conquering challenges is one of the main ways that people continue to evolve on a personal level over time. Don't be the knitting or artistic equivalent of the person who never let go of his high-school hairdo. You don't have to be trendy, but you should try to grow. And don't let your identity as an artist become your software or pencils. You are not the sum total of your gadgets.

I write this to myself more than to y'all. I've kind of failed to show up for knitting lately. I don't know why - I have gobs of gorgeous yarn, all the tools I need, and yet...I am lucky if I get a few rows a night done. There isn't anything in particular I'd rather be doing...I'm just kind of off my game lately.

So it really surprised me when I cast on for a swatch last night and got a 6x6 swatch done in about an hour and a half. And read a bunch of reviews at Television Without Pity while I was at it. And watched some Terminator.

Muscle. Apply some muscle to what you are doing. Go *do* things. Don't just talk about them!


Anonymous Heather said...

Well said...I think showing up is entirely under-rated.I find myself wishing on a number of occasions that I could do something better, or I wish I had that job, or I wished my ass looked like so and so's but if those things REALLY were a big deal then I would make the effort to show up right!?! It's easy to get stuck in a rut and not want to make yourself vulnerable by having to learn something new or starting at square one. Knitting is a perfect example for me - my first project was a sweater and I never looked back - but I'm a thrower, not a picker and I've always wanted to learn to knit with my left hand. But I haven't, I've tried, but not long enough to practice, just long enough to get irritated and feel like an amateur - which I feel like i'm far from - so what's the deal. It's my ego getting in the way, who wants to go "backwards," but the only person I'm really hurting is myself. So it's nice to sit and daydream about things coming easy, but it takes work to make it a reality.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I am currently working as 'publications officer' in a medium-sized organisation. This means that I am using programs everyday that, a year ago, I barely knew existed. And I'm doing pretty well, if I do say so myself.

I would never, never ever have considered going for such a job, except that I was already working here, and I went for it in a 'well, I'll show up and see' kind of spirit. I got the job, and I LOVE it. I never though I would.

For the first month or so I felt like the biggest fraud. Then i realised 1) most of the things I'm doing do not need to be complex. The fact that I'm now 'a designer' is sometimes an advantage, since I can let go of creative control when it needs to be design by comitee (still drives me crazy, but at least it's not personally insulting. 2) many of the people who are qualified in this stuff actually don't know much more than me. This is because 3) I am a big fat geek and actually find it fun to go home after a long day and practice drawing in Illustrator.

I always say that I don't like to do things I suck at. It's not fun. But what's less fun is never finding somethng new that you're good at.

(PS, my verification word is 'ixbent'. I think we should invent a meaning for that.)

9:56 PM  

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