It’s Play Time
Ten years ago, had you asked any of my coworkers to describe me they’d all have said the same thing: “He’s the weirdo who knits in meetings.” It’s true. I am a weirdo, and I did knit furiously through every meeting that didn’t require me to check my needles at the door.
I am sorry to say it was not a very nice place to work. Some days, the soothing influence of knitting was all that kept me on the side of perfect propriety. It is not easy to slap someone when both your hands are otherwise engaged.
Stuff I was knitting began to draw notice in the burgeoning online fiber arts community. I was asked to write articles. I was asked to write a book. I was asked to teach knitting classes. I was asked to design patterns. I said yes. Also yes, yes, yes, and yes.
Suddenly knitting was no longer the thing I did to survive meetings. Knitting was the reason I had meetings. Knitting became my work. Alice, having popped through the looking-glass and into an alternate reality, was not more startled at her new digs than I.
Like Alice, I was by turns delighted and frustrated. Knitting is all fun and games when it’s all fun and games. When it becomes work, the games are postponed indefinitely. Deadlines don’t leave much room for rambling. You have to pick a topic and stick to it.
That is a pity.
In my experience the best sort of creativity is the messiest. I have been asked a few times about the creative process, and all my answers have been lies.
To talk about creative process in an interview, you have to make up a story about it. You cannot speak plain truth. You are not, for example, allowed to say that you have no creative process, unless by “process” you mean lying on the couch watching cat videos and crying until the thing is due in forty-eight hours and, fueled entirely by Mallomars and Diet Coke, you squeeze out a new mitten pattern in much the same way one forces the last squirt of toothpaste from the tube.
Instead, you have to shake the Mallomar crumbs out of your beard, smile brightly and present a narrative something like this:
I had an Idea.
Then I did some stuff. (This is the “creative arc.” In movies, it’s always a montage during which the artist maniacally paints/dances/types while the Pointer Sisters sing “I’m So Excited.”)
And then I had made my Idea into a Thing.
And to be honest, sometimes it does work like that. The tight deadlines of a competitive business can force you to lock your focus on Point Z and scoot towards it with little to no deviation.
But that, too, is a pity.
Because I find the best work comes often from a creative path that looks a little more like this.
…and then suddenly…
Those loops and switchbacks and zigzags–those are the moments when you mess around. Those are the times you let go of Point Z and just play. Me, I find my very best work happens when I never make it to Z at all, and when my final product is wildly different from my original idea.
That’s what this project with Makers’ Mercantile will be all about: playing. All sorts of playing, too. Knitting, yes–but also crochet, weaving, felting, embroidery, rug making, and anything else we can dream up. We are going to let go, move forward, and see where we end up.
We are going to have adventures.
And here is what I promise you:
I will show you the good stuff that we find.
I will show you how we got to the good stuff.
I will never pretend to be perfect.
When we run off the road and into a ditch, I will show you that, too.
Are you ready?
I am. Let’s go.