So I’m away on holiday for three months. Well it’s not really a holiday – it’s traveling which is not really the same thing. A holiday to me implies sitting in the one lovely spot having a bit of a relax. This isn’t that. This is living on the road, which has periods of relaxing but also bit periods of inconvenience that you wouldn’t experience if you were at home. It’s rained the last three days running and we and our caravan are damp. Really damp. Sleeping in the damp, drying yourself with a wet towel, clothing your children in damp outfits…. And trying to work out what to do with kids in the rain. Anything but relaxing, and really time consuming. Anyway I digress.
The point of this post is to tell you about a little aha moment I had while sitting in the damp caravan over the last three days.
So when I was packing to leave Melbourne a month or so ago, I was throwing together a bunch of wool and half finished projects into my Wool Box. Trying to grab the right amount to last me three months, while also trying to do a shifty number on myself with a couple of WIPs that had stalled. Bringing them along to force me to finish them.
Wool Box Inventory looked as follows.
- A tiny baby Granny’s Favourite that I needed as a sample for the Workshop release that was nearly finished.
- A sweaters worth of wool for my boy child’s birthday present - he has since said he doesn't need it until Christmas when we are heading back to the UK.
- A sweaters worth of wool for a hoodie for my smallest which she has been begging for.
- A half done pair of socks for the boy child's birthday.
- A half done Shore Cardigan for my lovely SIL.
- A done-except-for-the-sleeves sweater from last year’s top down Fringe Association KAL
- A yoke-done-but-long-way-from-being-finished Piece of Silver KAL
When I gaze into this box I feel a mix of slight trauma and happiness. The slight trauma is intentional.
When I get stuck on a WIP – like I have with the last two projects on the list – I have a suite of tools for helping myself shift through and get it done. Now generally before I employ any of those tools I engage in an extended period of procrastination/self-recrimination where the WIP in question stares at me with reproach from it’s scrunched up ball in the cupboard. Loathed and avoided in equal measure.
My favourite-but-traumatic trick for dealing with a-grade stalling is to wait until I am going on holiday. I then pack the project in question along very little else. That way there is no way but through the procrastination to the finish line. Unless I decide not to knit at all…. which as you all know would be pretty extreme. Most knitting, even knitting I’m really not enjoying, is better than no knitting at all, isn’t it?
Anyway, so back to the damp, condensation filled caravan. I had a night the other night when I had completed the socks, the baby sweater, the cardigan for my SIL plus an opportunistic pair of fingerless mitts for the boy child. Therefore as far as WIP go I really only had the last two.
Neither of them were easy but I decided I should finish the one that was closest to finished. My Fringe Association KAL from last September - a top-down sweater in a beautiful camel-y yellow.
Two sleeves were all that was left; only a few nights work. And yet the sweater stalled last November and hasn’t been touched since. How come? Well if I really put time into thinking about why, a question I was also avoiding, then the why is very clear.
It stalled because I’m not sure I’m going to like the result. I'm uncertain and afraid that all my work is in vain.
Aha. Such a tiny thing, but such a useful reminder that this is one of the things in a project that I get stuck on.
There is often a point in projects where I am unsure about whether I am going to like the outcome. It might be that I have stared at it too often, or worked on it too much, or are trying something out, and when I hit this point I put it down and walk away muttering under my breath.
My uncertainty causes me to discard the project (or at the very least shove it in a cupboard) because I don’t like sitting with uncertainty. I like answers. I like clarity. I am a solver, a fixer. And if I can’t sort it out or understand it then I am likely to walk away.
The thing is that in the back of my head I know the project is there, lurking in the background of my study, taunting me with it’s unfinished-ness and my inability to get it done. Sometimes I leave them long enough I almost forget about them, which is of course a valid choice as I wrote about here years ago when I talked about getting stuck in the middle.
My little aha was simply this. Putting it in a cupboard is simply me trying to look for a get-out for a problem that doesn't have a get-out!
The cupboard doesn't help. There isn't a decision to be made and I can’t think, or wait, my way out of the uncertainty. The finished product might be genius or it might suck. The only way I will ever know is if I knit it and see. No way around but through.
If I want the sweater finished I have to sit in the uncertainty of not knowing, and power through regardless!
The other night as I pulled out the sweater and worked on the sleeves - the sleeves I was worried I wouldn’t like - I pushed through the uncertainty. I knit, and it actually wasn’t that bad. I felt a little uncomfortable and annoyed that I had to do it but in many ways I really quite enjoyed it.
Over the next two nights I knitted a whole sleeve, and did a tubular bindoff (which I’d also put on hold) for the front and the back. I was a champion. Momentum had pushed me forward. Once I finally started, I kept on going.
I'd love to tell you that this was the end of procrastination. The part where I got to wrap the blog post up with a Hoorah! and show you the finished sweater looking beautiful/hideous. Sadly it was not the case. Hitting a part I was unsure about I stalled again. The very next night when it came to me picking up the stitches for the other sleeve I piked. I started thinking "well that looks a little bit tricky", and "I can’t exactly remember what I did for the other arm", and "what if I don’t really like it?" And so I cast on for something more entertaining and sparkly. Rid-ick-u-lus but true.
I'm on a mission now though - by writing this post I've outed myself as a champion procrastinator and avoider of tricky things. I've done a number on myself though and upped the stakes by setting myself up. I’ve also not put the offending sweater away. I’ve left it on the couch of the tiny damp caravan knowing that it will reproach me much more loudly if it is in view.
Pushing through is the only way - and tomorrow is another day.... I will get it done!
Do you have this issue with uncertainty? And what do you do to push on through?