Pop quiz: What do "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", Terry Pratchett and the New York Times all have in common?
I'm pretty sure you didn't guess this: a knitting epiphany.
But with the confluence of those three items, I may have found the answer to one of the biggest knitting frustrations I've had in the past few years:
Why don't I get any knitting done?
Up until this year, my excuse has been "teaching". But I'm not doing so much of that these days. So I've got to get to the bottom of the problem. (Failing that, I've got to find a new excuse, or I'll have an awful lot of yarn to un-stash…)
Let's start with "The Seven Habits" book.
Even if you are not familiar with the whole book, you may have heard of
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw.
Wikipedia says, in part, it means "to sharpen our skills in order to achieve better results."
Well and good. I've spent a lot of time over the past several years sharpening and even honing my knitting skills to a rather nice sharp edge.
What I haven't accomplished is getting a lot of actual knitting done.
You'd think I'd have a closetful of sweaters, wouldn't you? Or DH would have more socks than he can shake a stick at? uh-uh. Well, why not?
I hadn't been giving this problem a lot of active thought, but it has been nagging at me for quite a while. Then, not too long ago, I read this article on memory techniques in the New York Times. It's a fascinating article in its own right, and it's also very long — so I'll save you the trouble and give you the part that made me sit up and take notice:
In the 1960s, the psychologists Paul Fitts and Michael Posner tried to answer this question by describing the three stages of acquiring a new skill. During the first phase, known as the cognitive phase, we intellectualize the task and discover new strategies to accomplish it more proficiently. During the second, the associative phase, we concentrate less, making fewer major errors, and become more efficient. Finally we reach what Fitts and Posner called the autonomous phase, when we’re as good as we need to be at the task and we basically run on autopilot… To improve, we have to be constantly pushing ourselves beyond where we think our limits lie and then pay attention to how and why we fail.
I think by this time, it is safe to say my knitting skills are firmly in the "autopilot" category.
For example, when my friend Kim asked for some hats, and told me which ones she liked, I whipped out all three in a couple of weeks with very few issues, other than those brought upon myself, mainly by yarn substitutions.
So, given that I can pretty much accomplish any knitting project — why don't I?
The coup de grâce came while listening to Terry Pratchett's Discworld audiobooks, in which a saying keeps cropping up: "You're so sharp, you'll cut yourself."
Generally, it's used to tell a person he's a bit too smart for his own good.
I'm thinking for me, this just might be the knitting gods, or the universe, or whatever, trying to tell me I've gotten a bit too
picky snooty ambitious about my knitting.
I almost never just find a pattern and make it. No, I have to be a show-off and design something new EVERY FREAKIN' TIME, just because I can…
…or do I?
Maybe not every single sweater I make must be designed by me from the ground up? I can use Ravelry to find cute existing patterns that work with the stash, no?
Maybe not every new pair of socks for DH must be a unique and different stitch pattern? Do I really think he'd complain if his next pair was plain 2 x 2 rib?
Hmmm… maybe my saw is sharp enough, and maybe I should just start using the damned thing?