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Learning Curve - Body by Henson, brain by Seuss. [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Kelly J. Cooper

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Learning Curve [May. 8th, 2008|06:22 am]
Kelly J. Cooper
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I often find myself impatient when I'm learning something. There's a part of my brain that says something like "I KNOW how to do this, so I should just be able to DO it!" But when I calm down and look at my process, I realize that I enjoy learning the details and the nuances.

A couple of weeks ago, I did my first round of bead weaving. I had bought a little $4.50 kit in the Artist & Craftsman Supply store (in Central Square, across the street from Pearl Arts) after The Chicken crammed it into my hands and said, excitedly, "BUY THIS!"

(To be fair, she knew I was interested in bead weaving and I certainly hadn't seen the kit before she handed it to me or it would've already been in my basket of craft supplies.)

I tend to get caught up and blocked if I have too many options, so my first attempt used only the supplies provided in the box and some quilting thread The Chicken had lying about. The beads were all different widths, I made up my pattern on the fly (so I messed it up in a couple places and had to undo parts repeatedly), and I made a bunch of unrecoverable mistakes. It was frustrating, but educational. I used white thread on purpose, so I could see all my mistakes, and I'll probably keep it to remind me to keep learning.

Last night I tried again. Well, first I graphed the pattern I'd invented the previous week (and made many of the same mistakes in the graph that I'd had to fix in the beading, amusingly enough). Then I picked through my beads, trying to decide what colors to use.

I didn't have the right color beads to do the project I had in mind, but I did have a LOT of a particular type of seed bead that I thought would look nice, so I decided to weave a bracelet out of just those, with no pattern. I immediately messed up, failed to correct several mistakes, found new mistakes to make, and generally got frustrated.

BUT! It was a good thing. Since I wasn't concentrating on the pattern, I paid a lot more attention to bead placement and found a better way to manage the tension within and between rows that worked more consistently than just pulling everything snug. Also, having beads that were a consistent width allowed me to see problems I didn't expect. And even though I'll probably undo the entire thing and try again (using all this stuff that I learned), it's not a "throw the bead loom across the room" type of frustration.

I remembered that, even when frustrated, I LIKE learning new things. It's a gratifying feeling. One that I need to remind myself is there, even when the perfectionist in me doesn't want to start anything because it won't come out exactly right the first time. Or the unmotivated in me doesn't want to try because I can never finish anything. Or the scaredy-cat in me gets nervous about trying new things, experimentation, and looking stupid. Ah, my neuroses. They are legion.

[User Picture]From: rmd
2008-05-08 07:31 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: liralen
2008-05-08 05:30 pm (UTC)

very cool that you're learning and see how you're learning and wow bead weaving!!
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[User Picture]From: cmeckhardt
2008-05-12 09:10 pm (UTC)
Me too! I procrastinate for all those reasons and I love the learning process because I love feeling my mind get bigger and stronger and feeling my hands get more capable.

The conflict between the fear and the eagerness makes me love hobbies, like beading (or pottery), where if it doesn't work, you can just take it apart and try it again, and nothing (besides the cheap thread) has been used up by the process. I get much more intimidated when sewing, for instance, where you have to make irrevocable decisions that will Use Something Up Forever. (But even in sewing you can buy cheaper fabric to make a mock-up, at least.)

(Right now I'm learning to drive. Terrifying! But it's working. Next up, highways.)
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