Spindle lessons

This past weekend I got to spend time with some good friends, most of whom are fellow spinners and knitters.  It was lovely to have time to hang out and catch up, and also to work on spinning — in such a gathering, working on some kind of fiber project is pretty much a given.  I had a drop spindle with me and the last of a dyed wool I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks.  One of my friends was tearing through a much bigger batch of wool with ferocious speed, using her spinning wheel, and now and then I would tease her that I was going to beat her to the end of my project before she got to hers.  In truth, neither of us really thought we were going to reach the end that day; in actual fact, we both did, and I was first (by a tiny bit, but still first!)

I was mildly struck by my progress, fiddling with a full spindle containing the end of a project that I only started a couple of weeks ago, having just torn through a quarter of it in a single day.  For me, this is ferocious speed too.  It used to take me weeks and weeks to finish a project like that on a spindle.  As several people quipped in different ways, it’s amazing how practice makes one better and faster.

They’re right, of course, and I know it.  I’ve been putting a lot of time in with a spindle this year, first spinning up a big bundle of wool to become a sweater someday, and then working my way through this quick little short project.  My spinning has grown hugely faster and much finer than it has ever been, after five or six months of constant work.  Not really a surprise.  But still, holding the tangible evidence of it in my hand, I had to marvel.  And as I’ve continued thinking about it, there’s a lesson I really need to learn here.

There are a lot of things I want to practice and get better at, and I’ve been writing about some of them — better at taiji, better and more consistent at exercise in general, better at keeping my house clean and orderly.  Consistency is a real bugaboo for all of them, especially consistency sustained over time.  I do all right for a few days, but sooner or later I tend to get distracted and thrown off my game, and then it’s hard to get back.

The thing that sometimes makes spinning projects (and knitting projects, and weaving projects, and other things) different is that they have a built-in endpoint, an inherent goal: finish the project.  At some point, all of the wool becomes yarn, or all of the yarn becomes a sweater, or the crappy scribbled draft becomes a finished post and gets published.  There’s a defined goal, and the more visible both the goal and any progress toward it is, the more compelled I am to get there.  I’m not interested in doing things if I can’t tell I’m really doing them, if I’m not getting better, or getting finished, or preferably both.

There’s nothing really new there either.  I may not have defined this so specifically, but I’ve had a sense of it for a long time, that my lack of consistency is partly because I’m bad at managing work on things that are too open-ended.  I’m thinking and writing about this now because there are so many things I want to make serious progress toward now, and I’m not living up to my intentions.  I feel better when I do, I generally want to live up, but I don’t carry through well.  I need to learn some way of making progress on bigger things, on life-long habits I want to learn and grow in.  I want to develop better consistency and focus about doing things that are important to me.  And using goals in a more intentional way is a tool that I think could help.

I’m not sure yet how to transfer the idea of setting goals over from places where they happen fairly organically, to places where they don’t — like the endless cycles of housework that sometimes depress me with their constant presence.  There’s some danger, too, in setting goals that are too unrealistic, and becoming demoralized by “failure” in reaching them.  If goal-setting is a tool, then there are both appropriate and inappropriate ways to use it, just like any tool; there may be some danger of hurting oneself, just like a hammer can hit thumbs as well as nails and a saw can cut skin as well as wood.  But there are still good reasons to use hammers and saws, and learning how to use them safely is just part of learning how to use them, period.  Using and setting goals is the same.

I’m still thinking about how to start incorporating these ideas into my life.  If any of you have any stories or advice, my kind readers, I would like very much to hear from you — please leave a comment, or send me an email.  And since one of my intentions is to write and publish more frequently, you’ll hear from me again in this space soon!

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2 comments so far

  1. Lynn on

    So practice appropriate goal-setting. Hints: “Keep my home in perfect shape all the time” is not appropriate. “The sink is full of dirty dishes; I’d better wash them today or tomorrow” is appropriate. “I shall write a thoughtful, in-depth blog post every day” is inappropriate; “I shall write a blog post of some sort at least once a week” is appropriate. In other words, aim for a reasonable goal now, and ratchet up if you find you want to. And feel free to ask if Such-and-Such is an appropriate goal, either here or on Rav. And don’t beat yourself up; it doesn’t get you anywhere.

  2. Cat on

    To add to Lynn’s comment. One thing I learned was to reset my goals every day. So what if I didn’t walk/spin/knit/wash up yesterday – try and do it today. I found this helpful as a way not to dwell on yesterday’s failures but to look at starting fresh each day.

    Which reminds me – I must go and wash up as I have lost my sink under all the dishes.


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