The Gift You Can Give

Recently, my good friend Pamela, a fellow blogger, sent this to me, which caused me great delight.

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If you’ve never read my blog before, you’re probably shrugging now and wondering (a) why yarn—and various textures of yarn at that—were sent to me and (b) why you should care. What does this have to do with your life as the post title implies? Let me address (b) first. Far be it for me to demand that you care. But perhaps if you knew what this gift means to me, and how you could do the same for someone, even without spending money, you might care. So, I will now address (a).

The Power to Create
I knit and crochet—mostly crochet. My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was a kid. I picked up knitting by looking at a how-to-knit book when I was 11. I love working with my hands—taking yarn and needles and making something out of them. I love flowers and other plants, but I manage to kill them. So for someone like me, the textile arts are the next best thing. After all, you can’t murder a flower made of yarn. That’s why I love anything that inspires me to create: yarn, a journal with blank pages, felt, pens, pencils, and markers. (Um, yes, I also write on the computer.) They remind me that I have the power to create.

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Believe it or not, this “poodle” is a flower.

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The same flower, only with less fuzzy yarn

The Power of Implied Competence
The gift of yarn is meaningful because of the implied competence factor. My friend believed I had the ability to make something beautiful from it. She didn’t send a craft book with it, telling me how to improve or announcing that others are more competent at needlework than me. She just sent the yarn.

By now you’re wondering what this has to do with you. Here’s the punch line you’ve been waiting for: you can use your words to stimulate the power to create in someone or to remind that person of the power of implied competence. Just by telling someone, “Your story (or blog post) meant so much to me,” “I appreciated your efforts the other day,” or “You can do this” can work wonders.

A paradigm shift might be necessary for those of us with a tendency to criticize first and admire second. 🙂 While constructive criticism can be a good tool, it doesn’t have to be the first tool we take out of the box.

If you’re a parent with young children, you can encourage their creativity by reading to them (or letting them read to you), drawing or painting with them, or working with them on a building project with Legos® (and that’s the only time I’m adding that registered trademark symbol). Give them the wings to fly. The great thing about Legos is that they provide the power to create and imply competence. Anything a kid (or you) makes is awesome. For inspiration, check out this Lego event post by another good friend and fellow blogger, Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Or, watch The Lego Movie (2014) with your kids. Creativity is a theme of the movie. (“Everything is awesome!”) 

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Maybe the person whose creativity needs to be encouraged is you. We all know about the inner critic—the discouraging voice that tells us we suck or that we’ll never finish what we’re working on. Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves that we have the power to create and that we’re more than competent at it.

Well, I’ve got a gift box full of lovely yarn and a cup of coffee at my elbow. I think I’ll go make somethin’.

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28 thoughts on “The Gift You Can Give

  1. In my wiser, later years, I’ve decided that knitting and crocheting and all manner of crafty stuff is very punk! People always accentuate the negative, nihilistic side of Punk, but a lot of ‘non-sanctioned’ people just got off their backsides and created music and record labels, album covers, and clothes. It was very DIY creative.
    That riff aside, my wife taught herself to make stuff – mainly because my up and down career left us skint at birthdays and christmas and we couldn’t afford to buy our own children all the expensive consumables the other kids around them had. Ask them now, as grown-ups, what they love and remember about birthdays and christmases and it’s always the hand-made gifts and DIY versions of these traditional celebrations that we’d invent.
    We did our own thing. Being poor forced us to get creative. We understood what processes were shaping us and revelled in the resulting freedom that came with. We were allowed to be different.
    So, more power to your elbow! (and your fingers, for indeed that crocheting is tricky.) Give someone the gift of implied competence – I’m sure they’ll make the most of it.

    • Your wife sounds awesome. And I’m glad that the textile arts are very punk.
      And with such beautiful flowers practically in your backyard, you have great inspiration. 🙂 The best things in life truly are free.

  2. Extremely well said. I’ve seen a lot of modern parents try to stifle a child’s imagination, which is rather disturbing to me. Some even say they’d rather die than let their child take a career in the arts, so they stop them from exploring creative pursuits. I’m not sure where this idea came from and it’s strange that it appears to be my generation pushing it. Unless it’s all people who tried to be a career artist, failed, and are determined to help their child avoid their ‘fate’. Yet, so much can be gained from doing what you’re saying. A child who creates with Legos may become an architect, an engineer, or almost anything else. Probably depends on the Build Set that you get for them.

    • You know, Charles, I was thinking of you and other dads with small children. I love The Lego Movie, since it is such an encourager of creativity. I wish people realized that as you mentioned, toys like Legos can help motivate kids to follow many different fields. All of the animators and other technical people who worked on The Lego Movie were very familiar with the blocks. They’d collected them as kids!

      I also can’t help thinking about the people at Pixar–probably many of them CalTech grads. Brilliant people who got into the film business. When I was growing up, a career in the arts was definitely frowned upon. Over and over I was told to major in something more “useful” than writing because I wouldn’t make money as a writer. Ha.

      • I haven’t seen the movie yet. My son loves Legos, but he refuses to sit down for a full-length movie these days. Can’t even get him to watch ‘Frozen’ anymore.

        I got the same ‘advice’ when I was younger . . . and these days. I think people see artists as those who need to be saved from their own dreams.

      • I can understand that. The kids I went with were a little older than your son. Kids are so busy these days! They have so much to entertain themselves.

      • Strange thing with him is that he hasn’t watched ‘Frozen’ in 2 weeks and he was only watching it once a day for 1.5 weeks. Yet, he keep reciting new parts of the movie every day. I wonder if he has most of memorized.

      • He must have! I’m amazed at the memories kids have. Do you think he’s going through a phase? Maybe when a movie comes out that really interests him he’ll watch it.

  3. I love this, Linda! What a lovely gift from Pamela. She obviously knows how you can turn yarn into a beautiful work of art. I’m looking at some of your lovely artwork right now. In fact, each day, it makes my day a little brighter…so thank you! We often forget the power of our words.

    • Yay! So glad that the flowers brighten your day, Jill. I used to want to work in a flower shop, but I was afraid I’d be a terrible influence on the flowers. But I could crochet flowers all day!!!

  4. How very sweet and thoughtful!! I am witness to your works of art! The flowers you sent me hang right next to my bed and the bootie is on my dresser! I am sure you will enjoy creating more with the special yarn given to you as a gift. That makes it even more special. 😉

  5. Thank you for the shout-out, Linda! Those guys at the Lego Fan Event in Lisbon are amazing! I found it a bit intimidating, but the best thing about attending is that various sellers of Lego bits and pieces were there, and I bought a bunch of small, plain books that I’m now using as the punch line of my latest Lego story. Oh, and I built my own little flying vehicle from a Toys R Us event (and one of the books). It was called a Master Builder event because the bag of pieces the attendees received had no instructions. If you could make something on your own, you were considered a Master Builder. It was scary to see that at the store where I was, the kids were totally at sea with no instructions. Especially the girls, which was even scarier.

    • Oh that’s so cool, Lyn!!! I’m not surprised that you’re a master builder.

      I loved the flying vehicles in The Lego Movie. I’ve now seen it about three times and watched the behind the scenes documentaries. Even the fake movie trailers are hilarious. Now I want more Legos!

  6. You’re right, Linda. It’s so important to hear “This is great.” That’s been one of the best things about the people I’ve trusted to beta read for me so far……..they always include exclamations of greatness in the midst of all that isn’t working for them. It’s so awesome to see a big “HAHAHAHA!!!!” or “OHHHHHHHHHNOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Can’t stop reading!!!!!” in my manuscript. 🙂

    • That’s great affirmation, Andra. I think people sometimes think that a critiquer should only tell you what’s “wrong” in a manuscript. But we need to know what works too. 😀 I’m glad you know what’s great about your book.

  7. Now I really need to see the Lego movie and make sure it ends up on Angus’ watch list, though obviously not for a few years. Thanks for the lovely reminder post… Think I’ll go write some now.

  8. I like the first flower, actually, despite its fuzziness — it actually reminds me of a dandelion, although it seems to take some artistic license because it is done in darker colors than I would expect in a real dandelion. Those colors, to me, evoke the coming of fall, or perhaps the setting of the sun.

  9. The secret is out: You yarn people are as intense as anyone about anything. Crocheting seems, on the surface, like a gentle hobby, but to think that is a dangerous mistake! My friends who crochet… i can see the way their pupils dilate at the sight of a mixed basket of yarn. The fact that one can make a virtually unlimited array of crafts from a bundle of colorful thread is what fascinates me as an outsider (do you have a word for yarn muggles?).

    My grandmother crocheted me a pair of werewolf feet when I was a kid. I didn’t want to take those things off.

    • It’s true. We’re very intense. And we carry needles. Be. Very. Afraid. 🙂
      Now I will have to make some werewolf feet. Thanks for the tip and for stopping by! ;-D

  10. I love the fuzzy flower, gives it a mysterious character. Great post. We all need encouragement, especially in this line of work. We spend an awful lot of time creating only to wonder if the result is worthwhile. Enjoy your wonderful gift!

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