Process vs Product

One of the things I’ve “stolen” from the knitting community is the idea of being process vs product oriented. A process oriented person does things because they like the DOING of the things – they knit for the pleasure of knitting. A product oriented person knits for the END RESULT, and while they might enjoy knitting, they enjoy having a finished object more than they do the actual process of making it.

Most people are a little bit of both.

I have discovered that, in many aspects of my life, I am primarily product oriented. I don’t have any love for following a process, for the step by step doing of a thing, for the repeated effort of working on something. I get my fix from finishing stuff.

I do this at work (so much so that my boss knows that if I’m having a week where I’m bogged down in the process of five or six big proposals, she’ll assign me something small and quick, just so that I can have FINISHED SOMETHING DAMMIT that week). (My boss is awesome!) I do it with crafts – I like projects where I see the actual process quickly – big knitting on big needles, or small projects, or mandalas that only take a few hours to complete. The majority of the craft work that I do takes hours – not days, weeks, or months – to finish. I even hesitate to START big projects, because I know I’ll burn out on the process and they’ll sit, unfinished, for years.

And, I’m noticing, I do this with exercise.

Weight lifting is the first exercise program I have stuck with for more than six weeks (other than walking). The difference? I see real, measurable progress. I love doing yoga, but seem to have motivation issues to do it long term, because yoga doesn’t have any real markers for progress. Sure after months of work, I might notice I can go a little bit deeper in a forward bend, but it’s extremely slow, and yoga itself is essentially noncompetitive (which is part of what I like about it). With weights? I see progress – or not – every time I pick up a dumbbell. I have a little log book that tells me that in October, I could deadlift 35 lbs, and that this week, I can deadlift 90. While it’s not “finishing” something (I don’t suppose I’ll ever be truly finished), it’s giving me a real measure of accomplishment and results. (It’s also making the product about something I can DO, and not about how I LOOK, which is a good thing too.)

I know that I’m still in the “honeymoon” phase of lifting, where I’ll see fairly rapid gains in strength. I’m told that lasts 6 months to a year, and then the real “slog” begins. We’ll see how I do at that point. I am hoping that by then, this will be enough of a habit that I won’t be as bothered that I’m not adding weight every few weeks. For now though, I’m going to continue to pick up the heavy things and put them back down.

Flex nibs and flexibility

Sometimes I think my brain inherently seeks balance. Or rather, that it craves balance, and I use my various hobbies and interests to help with that balance.

I find myself involved in a lot of long-term pursuits. I’m 3 months into a new job and still firmly “in training” – it takes at least 6 months, if not a year, to get the hang of everything. I’m walking to Rivendell (a 458 mile project) … two miles at a time. I’m continuing with therapy, where nothing happens quickly. I’m growing out my hair, which takes very little actual work (just gentle delicate care), but requires a good bit of patience at half an inch a month.

So when I turn around and think about something like knitting, I’m just flat out not interested in a project that’s going to take hundreds of hours of my time. I love knitting, and knitted things. But my stick-to-it-iveness is just running out on all the other things I have going. I crave projects that I can start and finish in an afternoon. Like making pickles. Or playing with fountain pens. Or writing a letter. Or playing with markers until I have a mandala.

In some ways, I’m a little sad – I miss the big crafting projects. I really enjoy doing them. I have a whole wall of shelves full of baskets of yarn and spinning supplies, and a closet full of sewing stuff. I know and love the satisfaction of working for a long time on something and then being really proud if it when I’m done.

But I just don’t have the attention span or the patience for anything that looming just now.

I started a knitted dishcloth about a month ago, and I’ve done about 15 rows. All in that first sitting. I’ve lost interest now. (I’ve repeatedly said that this is why I’m a blogger and not a novelist. I can write a story for 500 words, but not 50,000. I don’t have the attention span, and forcing myself to do it just makes me hate myself and my project.)

I also no longer have big chunks of time to work on stuff. If I get home from work at 5:30, take a 20-40 minute walk (35 minutes gets me 2 miles at a decent pace, but some days are more tiring than others), make dinner, eat dinner, and clean up/pack my lunch for the next day… it’s getting close to 8pm. I go to bed at 9pm. Blogging happens in that hour, as does any video gaming that might happen. If I have to take a shower, back that up by another half hour. I’m trying to reread The Lord of the Rings, but that’s not been working out so well – not because I don’t love it, but simply because I want to sit for more than 10 minutes at a time to read, and doing anything involves constantly stopping to look at the clock because I don’t want to run over.

Sitting down in my hour of project time and looking at 14 repeats of a 16 row lace chart just makes me want to cry.

But I can tackle a page of calligraphy practice. Or re-inking my pens. Or a letter to a friend. Or making a mandala. Or watching a bit of baseball and blogging.

I guess sometimes I just need “instant” gratification and to feel like I’ve actually accomplished something tangible.

Priorities

Left Mitten, unblocked. Pattern is Bella’s Mittens, by Marielle Henault.
I’m just now casting on its opposite.

Yarn is Malabrigo Merino Worsted (single spun) in colorway Pearl Ten, held double. Knit on size 8 circular (yes, I know the pattern calls for a size 11 needle. I knit loosely, and my intended recipient is not a large person. These fit me, so I know they will fit her.)

These mittens are the reason I’ve not done any NaNo writing. They’re the reason we ate pizza for dinner last night. (I’ve managed to get a crock-pot dinner going for tonight.)

They are a gift. A last minute gift, and they need to be done by Saturday morning. I have two busy evenings tonight and tomorrow, and so everything else is on hold while I cram-knit to get them done. I’m really /really/ hoping I get finished.

Creativity

I’ve always been fascinated with art – for as long as I can remember really, even back as a tiny little thing, I’ve had a great deal of envy for people with visual creativity.  The closest I’ve ever come is tactile type things – and not creative as much as re-creative (following someone else’s pattern/design). I suppose you could argue that words are a form of creativity, but word-skill is not the same as word-art.

I think that’s why I’m currently both fascinated and petrified by Art Journaling (that and I know I’d start and then quit doing it after a couple of days when it dawns on me that 1) I suck and 2) I have a blog to journal in already).

Doesn’t keep me from looking up stuff about it on the internet though, and pondering whether any of the multitudes of old spiral notebooks and journals that people have given me would work, or if I have any colored pencils (I don’t, though I do have a pack of crayola markers and a couple of prismacolor markers I picked up secondhand).  And then convincing myself that I really do have enough projects (I do), and I don’t need another one right now (I don’t), and that I’m not really starved for creative outlets (I’m not).

I suppose it’s good that I can see my own patterns:

  1. hey that’s cool
  2. I should try it
  3. this is fun
  4. then I get distracted like a magpie in a mirror factory and find something else that looks cool… repeat ad nauseum

At the same time, forcing myself to work on one thing while I am interested in doing another isn’t all that great either.  It’s hard to explain the random impulses – and I wonder if I shouldn’t just purge all the craft stuff entirely and force myself to pick and stick with one (which would probably be sewing/needlework) – and then I look at the yarn and my spinning fleeces and think how lovely they are, or the various books teaching various things, or my giant and ever expanding recipe bookmarks folder… and it just doesn’t happen.

And then I wonder if I should just stick with writing – since I seem to do that every day, both for fun, for semi-work, and for work – and try to cultivate an appreciation for various forms of creativity that I don’t have, rather than immediately wanting to TRY all of them.