On a mission
I have been enjoying this book so much. One of the best things about it is that each of the interviews is presented without any context beyond the barest thumbnail description ("designer, producer"), so there's nothing for the reader to compare herself with. Maybe you know who the subject is, maybe you don't (in most cases, I don't), but you don't have to try and figure out how they've achieved their success and how long it took them and how you measure up. You just accept that this is someone making a go of creative work, and read their thoughts about it.
The other thing I love about it is that everyone gets the same questions, and the real insights come from seeing all those answers together. Some of them are strikingly contradictory: this one says you have to be prolific to be successful, because only 1 in 10 things will turn out any good; another says she can only work very slowly, but what she makes is worthwhile. Which tells me that everyone is different and you have to trust your own process. Then again, there are some perspectives that come up consistently – I was struck that so many women talked about the importance of growing their businesses slowly. Even those with Harvard MBAs, who were aware of the cliché that men go for aggressive growth and women are more cautious – the common view is, women are too cautious – emphasise that building their thing at a pace that they can control is vital. Some talk about mistakes made when they tried to do things differently.
I like that a lot. Men take big risks and build big things – or fail big. But people don't talk about that so much; they focus on the big goals as if that's all that counts. Women typically are more comfortable with a slow, controlled approach. And why should we think that's a bad thing? What's with this idea that size is what matters?
One of the more challenging questions in the book is, what does success mean to you? Which of course draws enormously varied answers. It also prompts the reader to address that question for themselves. For many of these makers, success isn't defined by wider business goals; it comes down to succeeding at the piece of art in front of them. Telling the story they want. Getting the reaction they want. Or building the creative life they want.
I haven't worked out what my own idea of success is, though it's been on my mind for other reasons too. Beyond career, I wonder, what is a successful life? What will enable me to look back one day and say yes, I've used my years well?
I believe in following joy, and doing what makes you happy. Knitting, and specifically designing, makes me happy. l am very lucky to be able to do this; it's not a career, but it is rewarding. It's how I think of myself: I am a knitter. I make things, and better than that, I help other people to make things. Making, as I've said, is meaningful. So that matters.
It's a good thing I'm not founding a business, because I'm very far from formulating a neat little mission statement. But it seems to me that the closest I'm going to get to meaningful work in this lifetime is to help people make things; to do it better, and find more joy in it. Maybe that's why so many of my patterns have tutorials. Maybe that's something I need to make a specific rule. Studio Miranda patterns are here to encourage knitters to try new things, and enjoy the adventure.
Hm. It's not much of a mission. But in the spirit of never-ending learning and adventure – I'll keep working on it.