Friday, January 6, 2012

What I've learned from disappointment

Travel with me now back to 1976. The Bicentennial adorns America in ubiquitous red, white, and blue. Son of Sam creeps around New York City murdering young couples on dates. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" wins Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress nods at the Academy Awards. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak launch Apple Computer.


And I attend my first prom. I dreamed of going to the big dance ever since I was a tiny girl. Like most women my age, I was raised on Barbie and Ken, Archie and Veronica, and our favorite board game, Mystery Date. If you'd asked me when I was little what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said married. Everything else was secondary. Every love-obsessed prepubescent knows that a dreamy prom is the first step towards marital bliss.


In the winter of 1976, I started dating a smart, kind, and gorgeous blonde named Juan. We worked together at the movie theater; he was older than I and in college, too. AKA the catch of a lifetime! My stock went way up when this hunk of burning love asked me soon after to go steady. The ultimate in prom dates was born.


I couldn't wait until the first week of June when Juan and I would waltz to the Sheraton Ballroom in Washington, DC. Like Cinderella, I would wear my dream dress: a pastel cotton, ultra-prissy prairie dress. 



NOT. My mother, aka eternal maternal dictator, vetoed that idea right away. She liked unadorned, tailored, sleek dresses, preferably in polyester, with bright colors and big flowers. This wasn't the dress, but you'll get the gist of what I ended up wearing - and how far away it was from MY dream dress. Instead, I wore my mom's dream dress.


Now it was time to worry about Juan's apparel. I'd always envisioned my dream date wearing a white tuxedo jacket with black pants. You know, like what Ken would wear.


But Juan insisted on donning a tuxedo that coordinated with my dress. So he rented a lemon-yellow tux with a yellow-lemon ruffled shirt, and six-inch-high platform shoes. Much like this fellow, he looked like a handsome daffodil.


So off we went, Miss Polyester and her daffodil boyfriend, to the prom no-longer-of-her-dreams. Despite a lifetime of fantasies, my prom was... dull. Rubbery chicken and a bad band playing "Colour My World" into the night. The dance ended, the lights went up, and we made our way home. The highlight of the evening was making out in the car, but even that was cut short by my curfew. All in all, a big disappointment. I've had far worse disappointments over the years, but this was the worst of the first.

So why all this reminiscing? Because it reminds me of my current debacle otherwise known as my Carnation pattern. I've dreamed for ages of designing something spectacular with great options for ample women. I wanted to create a garment with a lot of pizzazz that eliminated any notion of matronly. The Carnation Pink was born and I love it - and the rest of you do, too. (Well, I guess no one who doesn't love it would tell me, but it still gets rave reviews.)


I worked on the pattern for weeks and thought I had at least the back documented well enough for public consumption. I sent the design out to the 18 kind test knitters. Within ten minutes, people started sending me corrections. Blushing, I quickly fixed the typos and reposted a new version - over and over again. Finally, Deb Gemmell, designer extraordinaire, told me the truth: you need to take down the pattern and eliminate all errors both great and small. I knew she was right, so down it went.
But here's the real problem. I'm a big-picture girl. I am very talented at a lot of things, including having the 50,000-foot view of any problem. I'm a great marketer and branding expert. I can create products and communities and design logos and brands that tell people instantly why they should buy or participate. I can write. I'm nice and supportive and a good friend. I can even design non-dopey sweaters that others want to wear.


But don't ask me to get down in those weeds and make anything perfect. I am NOT detail oriented. I know I should be but I'm not. I suck at details. There's a reason I'm not an accountant, lawyer, or admin assistant. I just can't do it.

I can knit anything I want; I just draw myself a little picture, cast on, and go. But despite my best intentions and greatest longings, I simply cannot give you accurate, stitch-by-stitch instructions for six sizes. I can point you in the right direction but you'll never get to the sweater I made. 

So I give up.


All is not lost. Deb has agreed to whip the pattern into shape since she IS detail-oriented and experienced in pattern writing. She's working on the Carnation pattern now and it will be ready for test knitters soon. Really ready this time, not just kinda sorta in a way.

This is all a big, embarrassing disappointment to me, much bigger than the lemon-yellow prom. But I've learned a big lesson. If I'm going to design, I will have to have a talented, accomplished, and competent tech editor who can take my design and turn it into a usable, accurate pattern. I literally design a new sweater in my head every single day. Time will tell whether I'll just knit for myself or will find a work-around to my non-anal-retentive brain. At least the Carnation will be available for all the nice people who want to make it. As much as I hate disappointing myself, I even more hate disappointing you.

28 comments:

  1. I feel awful for you about that prom. I had similar circumstances with my mom. Her idea of a graduation dress was peach satin and lace, skin-tight, tied up with a bow. I felt like a dressed turkey up for sale. I wanted a white linen shirt dress. Sigh.

    Live and learn. At least you now know what you need to do to publish patterns.

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  2. I go blind looking at line by line instructions; I'll do better with the little picture...so please don't leave that out! :o)

    Ruthann in NoVA

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  3. Don't feel bad about it! Nobody can be good at *everything*. In fact, it seems like a lot of people are either very creative or very detail-oriented, but not often both. The trick is in figuring out what you're good at and concentrating on that, and finding someone else (like a tech editor) who's good at the other stuff to cover the rest of it.

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  4. Aww. Hugs, Julie. Please don't be embarrassed. I hope we did not put too much pressure on you. Look at all the ample sisters you have inspired and helped to finally knit something for themselves besides socks.

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  5. Julie, you gave it the good try! I love the vest and am glad Deb is doing the detail work. I guess I'm the anal retentive type, too, because I love those calculations and schematics and planning. The knitting is the easy part.
    Don't worry! You are so talented and successful at almost everything. It's a learning experience!
    I have faith in your abilities!!!

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  6. You are a wonderful writer, I hae loved your magazine articles. Maybe as you are designing you need a voice recorder so you can say what you are doing and then go back and review it. I know that I have designed a bunch of hats and don't remember how I did them. I am not taking enough pictures as I go along, and writing each step down.
    Don't give up you are too creative to do that.

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  7. Me, I spent my working career as a legal/ executive secretary -- extremely detail-oriented but not one iota of artistic creativity. That's why I so love the vest that you designed and will love the pattern after detail-oriented Deb finishes with it. What a wonderful working team you guys have created.

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  8. Please don't beat yourself up. There are always so many others who will do that for us. You gave it a good try and realized it wasn't your strong point and very graciously told everyone. I think you should be proud. :-)

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  9. Give yourself a break! This is your first time working on something like this. I think you're brave for trying designing, and I think you're even braver for sharing the difficulties.

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  10. Hey, don't beat yourself up! I am very much *not* big picture oriented and I wish I was. I'm very detail oriented, but I don't have the big ideas. I'm the girl who puts other people's big ideas into practice. But I couldn't do that if there weren't big picture people to have the ideas in the first place!

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  11. You are the greatest! I love your blog: your honesty, your humor and the fact that it all takes place in my hometown that I guess I miss more than I realized living in MI. Knowing your weaknesses makes you stronger - no need to apologize!

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  12. julie, i echo the sentiments above. i admire you for trying! it takes courage to attempt a challenge and admit you realize your limitations. we, humans, learn from our experiences, whether positive or not-so-positive. so keep learning, girl!!

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  13. What a great writer you are, Julie!
    Like me, you are a royal perfectionist.Playing music through the years has taught me some wonderful lessons on growth and patience combined.
    I imagine there are many many others(even 'experienced others') who have tech editors working along in conjunction to produce the idea they have in mind..you most likely are not alone!!!!
    You defeated??!!!No Way!!!! You're just pausing to catch your breath before diving back into the pool,gal. Give it time.
    t_a

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  14. Julie - Don't be tough on yourself. It didn't work out perfectly this time - there is always a next time and I know you will do it. We can't all be perfect about everything. You have given us all advice on our problems and gotten us through some tough decisions which certainly accounts for the great knowledge you have. IMO you are the greatest! Don't give up! We'll always be here to gain more knowledge from you.
    Sandee in PA

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  15. Julie, you do a great job. Your vest is a beauty. I hope there will be many more creations in the future. TEAMWORK is an excellent way to work. I'm honoured to be on your team.

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  16. I LOVED the Daffodil Boyfriend!! I even had one of my own,usually chocolate or baby blue to go with those psychedelic shirts I bought him!! And I hate to let you in on the Second Great Disappointment in the World but it's gotta be said - YOU CAN'T BE GOOD AT EVERYTHING! So you just keep telling us what to do & dream up those sweaters. Let Deb write down the patterns. Sounds like a great collaboration to me!!!

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  17. I hope this isn't the last pattern! Thanks to your lovely blog, I have resolved to finally knit something that fits my body instead of waiting for my body to fit the pattern. I agree with the rest: keep at it! You are so talented, you'll get the hang of it before long. :)

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  18. Darling, you are WAY too hard on yourself! I've recently knit sweaters from two patterns that were riddled with errors, the first because the designer hadn't gotten the design to her tech editor yet, and the second because the designer hadn't realized, yet, that she needed a tech editor. I'm the person (freak?) who spots the typo on the page within the first second of laying eyes on it, but we can't all be mired in minutiae. You INSPIRE people! Please keep doing it.

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  19. Great post, Julie! Left and right brains don't often play well together. Keep doing what you're good at and farm out the stuff you're not.

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  20. It will be beautiful when it is ready. Plus I know a really great knitting and crochet Tech Editor. Knitting Alchemy on Ravelry.

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  21. Very well written, and thank you for being brave enough to write it out. Don't give up. There are plenty of detail oriented people who would love to be able to design, but maybe get bogged down by the big picture. Keep going.

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  22. Maybe this isn't the disappointment you think. Maybe this is a plan still evolving. Maybe all you need is a partnership with a tech editor who can help you deliver the brilliant and beautiful designs you create. Maybe this is really the start of something new and beautiful (and maybe even profitable)!

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  23. I think you have hit on the issue: Idea CREATION...does not go hand in hand with idea EXECUTION!

    Two talents at opposite ends of a continuum is how I look at it. I also think it utilizes different areas of the brain.

    Add you decided to climb Mt Everest on your first hike? Nothing like sitting yourself up for failure girl! A 3 mile walk would set most of us up for failure when starting from zero!

    I do think you can train your brain and learn skills to enable you to be successful. Determining if it's worth the effort is the real question!

    I love your sweaters, motivational posts, etc...think of how many people would never get started on a larger project like a sweater without your example, motivation, and insight? I think that's a mighty impressive donation to the creative world!

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  24. so totally over-dramatized...IMNSHO... it's a wonderful pattern, just needs a bit of tweaking and will be ready to go... but i can understand the frustration... as no 2 people modify anything the exact same way... so KUDOS are in order and it should not be long at all... I can say this because I'm not in need of too much shaping and can follow the straight-line pattern and just add a couple decreases along the way, but I think it is a STUPENDOUS FIRST and should be celebrated as such!!! - XOXO - Dottie

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  25. I did the same thing, sort of. I have designed ONE pattern in my life--mittens. I sent it off to my daughter-in-law who has sent me not one but two batches of corrections. Writing a pattern is HARD WORK. I was very thankful for her detail oriented approach.

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  26. Aww Julie, no worries... really! It's a very nice design and it'll get fixed. So, cheer up and hugs! You know, the suggestions about tech editors are right on.
    BTW... I'm sorry your prom wasn't what you had dreamed... I know that can be hard and especially for that age (everything is felt so much deeper and bigger then). I didn't go to Prom. We moved my senior year and I didn't know anybody well enough to go stag with, and I sure didn't have a date. But that's different for me because I never dreamed about it that way. 'Sokay. I'm where I'm meant to be now with the person I believe I was meant to be with. I might not be here if I had gone to Prom... who knows!?
    Then again maybe I'd be married to a gorgeous millionaire yarn company owner... Hah! Who knows!?!

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  27. Julie, you add so much color and fun to my daily life, not a day goes by when I don't check your blog or ravelry for your comments. I am just happy you didn't totally give up designing. You did try and realized that you need assistance in the technical department, good. I really want to see this sweater made. Oh, and I have a dream of meeting you in person and spending a day knitting and trolling yarn stores.

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  28. No one can do it all. It takes a wise person to realize that and ask for help.

    I think the coming up with ideas is the hard part. I can do the technical stuff, it's the big picture that's hard. I keep wanting to dive into the details.

    Thanks for keeping us posted on the progress and for getting a tech editor. The design is too nice to let it languish.

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