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It’s just wool on some sticks

One of the things I do for my own creative quiet time is knitting. I started doing it years ago so that I’d have something to do in front of the TV rather than aimlessly fiddling around on my phone, but I find it really calming and in some ways meditative.

And, apart from having a great supply of warm cosy jerseys (I’m a selfish knitter), it’s also taught me a pretty valuable lesson about sweating the small stuff.

I’m a slow knitter, and I don’t have much time to do it – an hour or so in the evenings. It takes me forever to finish a section. So, I’m working on some project, I don’t know, attaching a sleeve or something, and I realise something’s gone wrong. Horribly wrong. I forget what, but the upshot of it was that I snarled at my husband like a rabid hellhound when he tried to talk to me, a well of creative swear words bubbled forth, and I flung it on the floor because I AM TERRIBLE AT THIS AND I DON’T EVEN LIKE IT ANYWAY.

Such is the creative process.

Once I’d calmed down enough to be ashamed of myself, a mere five minutes later, I realised something.

“It’s just wool on some sticks.”

This was a couple of years ago, and I’ve found myself coming back to it again and again in all situations where I find myself overreacting and need to calm the f*** down.

Smashed a plate? It’s just a disc of cooked clay (albeit a pretty one I liked). Dog dug a hole in the garden? Just some displaced soil and grass. Got a work email I didn’t like? Shapes and symbols in pixels and a difference in people’s perceptions.

You get the picture.

It’s the act of breaking down whatever it is to its most basic form that seems to remind me that a problem’s not as big as I think it is. I suppose in some ways it’s a bit nihilistic, but to me it’s a way of stepping back from a problem and reminding myself that it’s not as much of a catastrophe as it seems in the moment.

Maybe you’ll find it a useful way of looking at problems in life and work – maybe a launch doesn’t go off as well as you’d hoped, or a new product doesn’t get off the ground easily.

It’s just wool on some sticks. It’s not a reflection on you, your skills or your business. Something went a bit wrong, but you can fix it. Pop it off, unravel it back (however much it hurts to undo all that work), try again.

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