This is a picture of a sweater I am knitting. Nice, huh? I started knitting this sweater in November of 2011. It's taking me a long time to complete this particular sweater because I am designing the sweater – not only the color pattern, but also the style, the shape. Don't worry, I have a book to guide me through the process.
Now I want you to look at this sweater and admire it. Notice the color. Think about how amazing it is that a human has taken two sticks and a piece of string and created this. Then say goodbye because I have to rip out the top 3” of this sweater as well as the sleeves. Oh, and by the way, this will be the FOURTH time that I will be starting over on the sleeves.
What? That's crazy, you say. Heidi, stop the insanity. Go to Walmart and buy yourself a nice sweater made in the Dominican Republic or China.
No. I won't. Not today. Here's why.
This sweater represents more than a piece of clothing. This sweater represents my creativity played out on a completely different stage. Here I am, exploring color, texture and space, elements that rarely come into my usual creative work as a singer and actor. But this sweater represents even more than that.
This sweater represents my willingness to make mistakes and to recover.
Was I frustrated when I tried this sweater on last Sunday afternoon and realized it wouldn't work? You bet. I was extremely frustrated. So I dashed off an email to my niece, who is also a knitter, expressing my frustration. That was a good step. Instead of holding that frustration in and letting it eat away at me, I let it out. Boom. Gone.
Then I put the darn thing down, ate dinner with my husband and, believe it or not, WENT TO MY NEIGHBOR'S HOUSE TO KNIT. I took the sweater along. I proudly displayed my mistakes, and accepted the sympathies of my knitting friends. When I got home, having taken some time away from the problem, I sat down and wrote out a possible scenario to fix the problem. You see, in that time away, I was able to realize what I had learned so far, most of which is knitter mumbo jumbo. Important to me, not to you. What is important to you is to understand that I learned valuable information from making my mistakes. Now let me tell you, that felt great. Nothing like information and a possible solution.
As soon as I have an hour or so to myself with 12 brain cells intact, I am going to put in a lifeline (that's a piece of yarn that holds all of the stitches) and rip out as far as I need to. As I do that, the sleeves will fall away. Then I'll rip each one of those back until they are nothing but yarn again.
And then I'll start over on one sleeve, this time with a different pattern, because the pattern is the big reason the sleeves don't fit. When that's done, I'll do the second sleeve. And on and on.
As Thomas Edison either said or didn't say (Go ahead. Google it yourself.):
I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
I'm assuming I don't need to connect the dots for you to see how my failed sweater relates to your ability to have a fulfilling and creative life.
Go forth! Fail! Make mistakes!!! Rip them out! Try again!