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I decided that this year I would hand make most of my holiday gifts. Because a lot of hand made gifts end up being things that people would rather not get, I made it my business to try and make some really original things that people would actually like. With originality in mind, I imagined some things that seemed to me to be relatively simple, but still totally unique. It seemed like a good idea at the time and I deliberately set out to keep my projects from being overly ambitious or complicated. The problem is, no matter how simple my projects start out being, they hardly ever end up that way.
The problem is my brain, which always engaged in a struggle between practicality and creativity that generally leads to all sorts of mayhem. By nature I am a practical person. I'm not much into frippery or fro-fru or excessive behavior. I like things to make sense and be useful and get the job done. But when I get an idea I can never get through implementing it without discovering 5 or 6 ways to make it better along the way, and when I think of a way that something can be improved I am compelled by some evil force to figure out a way to do it. I suppose that it is a kind of creative compulsion and could probably be cured by years of chatting with a mental health professional, but who has the time?
One of the things I wanted to make was a hat for my sister-in-law. Since she didn't really need a hat, I wanted to make her something kind of different and just for fun. My sister-in-law is very blond, blue-eyed, and beautiful with a definite Nordic look. I decided that I wanted to knit her a hat that looked like a Viking helmet, completely fictional horns and all. I put a simple plan of how to do that together in my head and so impressed myself with my cleverness that I decided to make my brother a couple of joke hats as well. I wasn't worried about designing and creating a pattern for each hat or the possibility that I might fail to do either because I had a plan already and it was a good one! I anticipated no problems, no delays, and no difficulties. All would proceed on schedule. Only all didn't proceed on schedule and the problems, delays, and difficulties I had not anticipated showed up anyway and things got hairy (or given that I was knitting, fuzzy) fast.
No matter how hard I try to keep things simple I always manage to complicate them horribly before I am done, and no matter how clever I imagine I am I always end up realizing that I am not anywhere near as clever as I assume. I inevitably talk myself into changing, adding to, or altering my original design, which generally entails changing almost everything else. I start out with one drawing of what I want to do and end up with mountains of them as I change the stupid thing either because I want to or I have to. In the beginning I think that I have figured out exactly how to accomplish some particular effect and sometimes find out pretty quickly in practice that I was utterly clueless. This creates problems, of course, and I am cursed with a personality that is driven to solve problems rather than change course or settle for something less than what I want to achieve. In the course of my holiday projects I must have made and unmade about a zillion stitches. One night my teenage son walked in on me sitting in a couple of miles of yarn and stood staring at me for a full minute as I sat miserably in my nest of yarn. I gave him a silent, warning look that is supposed to signal that it would be best if he made no comment which he totally usual.
“I gotta tell you, Mom, if you plan on spinning that stuff into gold you might want to start looking for a short, ugly guy with a bad deal and a stupid name.” Ha, ha.
At my feet in a pile were the many pieces of paper I had generated in working out designs. I did them on graph paper in order to create a pattern and there were mathematical equations scrawled all over them. My son picked one up and his brow furrowed as he attempted to figure out what I had drawn and written. He ended up turning the paper slowly a full 360 degrees and didn't look any more enlightened.
He commented that somehow, I had managed to turn a knitting project into an engineering project and was amassing enough paper to rival Leonardo Da Vinci's notebooks.
“No kidding,” I snarled, “except Leo had a really big brain and I don't.”
My son pointed out (needlessly, I might add) that I was entirely to blame since I task myself with these big, complex ideas and then torment myself to make them work. He's right, of course. It is all my own fault. After years of doing this kind of thing to myself you would think that I would learn and stop doing it. I also know that I never will. It's a Catch 22 situation. I either have to get a bigger brain or find a good therapist. Personally, I would prefer to take the bigger brain option. But that's a project for another day.
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