The Upside of Stubborn

I saw this video on how to make an argyle pattern with a crochet stitch and got all excited. I had to try it. I went through my stash and found a yarn I thought would work (based on their explanations) but after several tries, I hadn’t succeeded.

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One of many failed attempts (this one used a sock yarn I had in my stash). NOTE: I’m pretty sure I could get this yarn to work now that I know more about it.
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Intentional crochet color pooling, or how to get an argyle pattern using only one yarn.

Determined to make something using this fun technique, I went out and bought a yarn that was on one of many lists of yarns that have been tested and work. I bought a crochet hook (I) to match the yarn and went to it.

I tried. And I tried. And I tried. I started using smaller and smaller hooks to see if I could get the pattern to work, but nothing was working. I went through 5 different hooks (I had to buy 3 of them). I crocheted, then ripped it out, then crocheted some more. Lots of ripping it back out.

I had ideas I thought would fix my problems and none of them worked.

But I still wanted to succeed.

So I watched another video. This one had a few details I had missed before, plus it cleared up a misconception I had about how the pattern should develop. She was much more adamant about the fussiness of this technique. I knew I might need to adjust tension now and then. She explained it was something that must be done constantly.

I started again, this time with a set of 3 hooks (G, H, I). I kept close tabs on how the colors were showing up in the stitches, and would change hooks to fix the tension (pulling out stitches to re-make them) until the colors were in the right places.

It is a fussy technique, but at last, I got it working. And I realized that stubbornness (more kindly referred to as determination) only makes us successful if we recognize that something isn’t working and we change what we are doing. To keep doing the thing that doesn’t work over and over again doesn’t get us anywhere.

I changed hooks. I gathered more ideas about how to do it by watching another video. I made more notes to help myself figure out how to get the colors to come out right.

And I succeeded.

FOR THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED: Click here for the tips and tricks that helped me most.

When has being stubborn paid off for you?

The Secret to Being A Writer? Keep Writing!

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November is halfway over and by now, many people despair of finishing their NaNoWriMo challenge. I’m here to remind you that there is no magic. There is only determination.

Over the years I’ve noticed that the most significant difference between the people who keep writing and the people who stop writing is no more and no less than this: The people who keep writing are the ones who keep writing. … There’s no magic to it, only sheer bloody-minded stubbornness. — Rachel Kadish

As I’ve been saying all month, any writing beats no writing, so make time to write a few words today.

If you are not meeting your expectations, try lowering the bar. Sometimes less can lead to more.

Whatever you do, pat yourself on the back for the things you accomplish today.

Did you write 2000 words? 20 words? or 2? It’s all good.

You deserve credit for showing up. And if you are stubborn enough to show up again tomorrow? Even better.

Keep writing and let me know how your novel is coming.

No Talent or Patience? You Can Still Make Great Art

Not long ago, I asked a friend if she was interested in writing a book. I was gearing up for NaNoWriMo and hoping she might join in the fun. She loves to read, she’s articulate and smart, and I was pretty sure she would be interested in writing.

I asked her if she had ever done any creative writing. She said once, long ago, but she was very bad at it.

She gave up because she didn’t have any talent.

Her misunderstanding made me sad.

As a beginner, she couldn’t expect to write a brilliant story right away. If she wanted to be a good writer, she needed more practice. What looks like talent from the outside is really lots of skill built through experience. Just like a new runner does not start by running a marathon in their first week, novel writers train up, writing lots and lots of pages before they write a book worth reading.

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People often say “I’m not talented enough to do that” when they see a beautiful painting, hear a musical performance, or read a great story. We must remember that what is masterfully done is the result of hours and hours of practice. The artist must develop their skill set before they can expect to get the results that are so admired. They must make lots of art, good, bad, and mediocre, before they can achieve great.

Which brings us to the other comment often made when someone admires a really complex or large piece of creative work: “I don’t have the patience to do that.”

I thought a lot about patience as I was putting beads on Tiny’s Elizabeth I costume. It took me hours to do, but believe me, I am not a patient woman. I don’t want things now, I want them yesterday. Much of the time I was stitching beads onto fabric, I was looking forward to being done. It was certainly not patience that got helped me finish that project. It was determination.

Skill and determination, not talent and patience.

However, there is one place where having some patience is handy: while you are learning your craft. Practice takes time.

You are going to write bad stories, hit the wrong notes, and draw crooked houses while you are learning how to write, play, and draw. Lots and lots and lots of mistakes will be made. There will be successes, too, but it may be a long time before you are able to perform at the level you dream of. This is when patience comes in handy.

If you’re not all that patient, my advice is: use it. Your impatience can drive you to work harder. The more you practice, the quicker you will get better.

So no more excuses. Get to work.

Virtual Hiking Update: Why I Refuse to Panic About My Deadline

My Hadrian’s Wall virtual hike is nearing the end. There’s only 11 days left but Dory and I still have 23 miles to go. If we had been able to keep to our earlier pace, we’d have a doable 12 miles left, but my assumption that things would get easier as we got farther into the spring has proven completely wrong.

It seemed obvious that as summer approached, the weather would warm up and there would be more nice days for taking a walk. Initially, the weather did improve and made walking a pleasure. But instead of a steady gradual improvement in conditions, the weather has been erratic at best.

Some of our warmest days were also horribly windy. The howling of the wind around our house was so bad that I could barely stand it while I was indoors. Going out to walk in the maelstrom seemed impossible.

Dory riding in Kurt's vest during a hike too cold and snowy for her. She's ready for spring!
Dory riding in Kurt’s vest during a hike too cold and snowy for her. She’s ready for spring!  photo by Dana Geary

We’ve also had some winter flashbacks. Right now, we’re in the middle of a snow storm. Lots of heavy, wet snow coming down steadily, making it too cold and too wet for Dory to be out. So we’re losing time even as I type.

If I’d thought about it, I might have realized I couldn’t count on the weather. But I was certain that as my fitness improved and I got in the habit of walking nearly every day, it would get easier to reach 94.5 miles of walking. I was right and wrong about this one.

My fitness has improved and I look forward to our walks. But because of the bad weather days, I’ve found myself at the gym, taking a yoga class or lifting weights, to get my exercise fix. Great news, except that I’ve remembered how much I love yoga. I’m back to three classes a week, plus our weekly training session, so on those four days it’s hard for me to find the time for a long walk as well.

As far as improving my own fitness goes, this is a win-win. But helping Dory build up some endurance before we start our mountain hiking season was one of my goals. Without our walks, she doesn’t get the training she needs.

If we take our long  walk for 10 of the coming 11 days, we can still finish the virtual hike on schedule. But a quick look at this week’s weather forecast has me wondering when exactly these walks are going to happen.

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If we don’t meet the mileage goal, I will still consider this project a major success. We’ve already walked over 70 miles since March 17th, and we would never have gotten out this much if I hadn’t set a goal. Dory’s in better shape than she was, and so am I. Also, I’ve had fun while getting some exercise.

So I’ve decided not to panic. It won’t really matter how many miles we’ve covered by the time the 23rd rolls around.

Only it does. Despite the obstacles that have cropped up, that competitive part of me will do its best to get those last miles walked before time runs out.

Have you had unexpected obstacles crop up when trying to reach the goals you set? How did you deal with them? Is reaching the goal you set more important than what happens along the way?