Back in March, I issued a challenge to myself and my students. I told them about persistence and practice…and then found myself telling them I was going to finish crocheting a scarf by the end of the academic year. (Here is the link back to the original post so that you can see where my skills were and why I issued the challenge.)
Well, here we are.
Congratulations to me…it’s a scarf!
Is it perfect? No. Is it a functional scarf? Well, I managed to sweat while I was wearing it (it is May), so I suppose it does its job quite well. Plus, it’s a fun color. Who doesn’t like fun colors?
It’s relatively short, I had to unravel it more than a few times, and the number of stitches may vary from row to row…but I managed to start figuring out how crochet works.
Beyond that, I’m just thrilled that I was able to make my point. (Whew!) While this will likely end up in the pile of projects that I look upon with pity a few years down the line, it’s proof that I can and did learn the basics of crochet. (You should have seen some of my first knitting projects. Oh, wait…you can. Here.)
I hope that anyone who is reading will also realize that in order to master a skill, you have to keep at it. I’m going to need to practice a LOT more than this to be allowed to declare myself a real crocheter.
So, what should I make next? (Rectangles only for now, please. After all, I’m still learning.)
That’s the point I was trying to make to one of my classes recently. When you teach music, one of the most challenging parts is getting kids to realize that practicing on your own is what moves you forward as a musician. Time, effort, and patience are virtues.
I’ve been knitting for a while. I cringe when I think of the first scarf I finished and gave away as a gift, because it was evidence of my lack of experience and skill at the time. I kept working at it, though, and–as long as whatever I’m knitting is supposed to be a square or rectangle–it looks pretty good.
Crochet, on the other hand, continued to confuse me for some reason. Every time I would try to learn, I ended up with really colorful knots to throw in the trash.
“Oh, but crochet is so much easier than knitting!”
Yeah, that was never exactly what I wanted to hear while I was tying yarn into the kinds of knots that would confuse an Eagle Scout. I couldn’t get the hang of it. So, I put it away for a while and decided that maybe crochet wasn’t for me.
Well, not too long ago, I opened my big mouth and told one of my classes that I was going to prove that you can learn anything you want to if you’ll just make up your mind to do it.
And then I heard myself say…
“By the end of this year, I’m going to crochet a scarf.”
I asked myself some questions that afternoon.
Why did I say that?
Umm…you wanted to prove a point. Now you just have to–you know, prove it. Don’t worry. Setting that little deadline will help. Maybe.
Why is knitting so much easier for me than crochet if crochet is supposed to be easier?
My best answer for that one?
I like doing things the hard way.
(I’m stubborn. We’ve established that.)
Okay, so maybe the best way I can say that–to boost my self-esteem–is to say that I like a challenge. If everyone can crochet, well, by golly, I’ll take it a step further and knit instead. However, I’ve created a hole in my own argument here, because crochet apparently is a challenge for me, so now I guess I have no choice but to learn it. Darn. (Darn. Darning. Something else I need to learn. My socks have holes, too.)
Well, no going back now, so I got started with crochet…again.
Is this perfect? No, not yet. But, if I keep working at it, I’m sure it’ll be some kind of scarf by May…when it’ll be a thousand degrees outside and no one in their right mind will need a scarf…but I digress.
However, I’m making my point.
If I can learn how to do this thing that frustrated me to no end by taking a little extra time to slow down the process, taking the advice in the videos and the articles, and practicing over and over and over…then perhaps learning other stuff is possible, too.
I’d stay to explain more, but I need to get back to work on this lovely orange scarf that I said I’d finish.
Malcolm Gladwell is widely attributed to popularizing the so-called “10,000 Hour Rule.” (I’m a very big fan of his work; if you have the chance to read any of his books, I highly recommend them. He based the “10,000 Hour Rule” on a study by Anders Ericsson.) For those who are not familiar with the concept, the general idea is that mastery in any one particular field or discipline requires at least 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice.”
Of course, this “rule” is up for debate, as are many theories in the social sciences. Still, if I took it as an absolute rule, then it could get interesting for someone like me.
Why, you ask?
Well, as a self-proclaimed Meticulously Observant Observer, that title carries with it a (ridiculously impossible to fulfill) degree of perfectionism. Not only that, but I’m interested in lots of different subjects and activities. I don’t like doing anything halfway. I want to do things right.
I’m no math surgeon, but according to my (probably inaccurate) calculations, you obviously can’t achieve those hours in one year…unless you really can add hours to the day and you spend absolutely every waking hour devoted to one discipline. Not particularly practical.
Annnnnddddd…I’ve identified at least four disciplines that I pursue regularly outside of work.
If I want to be really serious about four of my specific pursuits, I figure I should start the mathematical breakdown with the disciplines I’ve been involved with the longest: writing and music.
Let’s start with writing.
According to my parents, I was able to read at the age of eighteen months. Writing followed soon thereafter. It was ugly, but it was writing. So, in factoring in my age and the number of hours I spent in classrooms throughout my formal education, I should probably be in good shape on that one.
However, was it all “deliberate practice?” Probably not. Passing notes to my classmates isn’t likely to fit the bill. Hitting every key on the typewriter just to see what it would look like on paper…nope. Besides, all writers know their work is never completely mastered, so this one is likely to be a lifelong pursuit without any kind of designated time frame.
So, moving on…
Let’s add music to the mix. I started playing the piano when I was five years old.
Once again, if I factor in my age, I should be well on my way. Not so fast, though. I didn’t just learn the piano, you see. I’ve spent some decades on the trumpet as well. And I had to learn other band instruments to a level of proficiency required to teach them in my current profession. Remembering that music is always a work in progress…yup, there’s another lifelong pursuit to add to the writing.
But wait…there’s more!
Photography. I started to get serious about photography about eight years ago. That would make it one of my later pursuits. Since I work, eat, sleep, write, and work on music as well…we’re starting to rack up some serious hours here.
Oh, and let’s not forget knitting. I really enjoy knitting. Another of my newer activities.
That makes four. Four disciplines, forty-thousand hours.
Assuming that I live at least as long as the average lifespan for an American woman, once I’ve totaled up all of these hours (carrying the one, multiplying by x, and accounting for sleep, laundry, work, channel surfing, reading, eating, proper grooming, staring into space, socializing, being placed on hold with the cable company, family obligations, waiting at the DMV, sitting at stoplights, travel, home maintenance, airport delays, the occasional illness, and other unforeseen circumstances), I think I can expect to be an expert on all four of these disciplines approximately thirty minutes after my funeral service is completed.
What are some disciplines you would like to master, and how long would you think you’ve been working on them? Do you think that any of this kind of work is ever done? I think there’s always room for improvement, but that could just be my perfectionism speaking. In any event, I should probably be working on something…