To unravel or not to unravel

My mother, who suffered a stroke a year ago, has recently taught herself to knit. I keep in touch with her by phone because we live a thousand miles apart.

I admire her spirit. She is determined not to let her physical limitations get her down. I have learned so much from my mother. One thing she has taught me is that if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.

The last time I spoke with her she told me that she had unravelled the scarf she was knitting because it was uneven, as you would expect from a beginner. Now she intends to do a job she will be proud of.

Some of the things I have been taught by my mother I have had to unravel and re-do for myself because they were not quite right. The old adage about doing a job well, to me started to sound like, “do it over until it is perfect,” or, “if you can’t do it well, then it’s not worth doing at all.” No this is not the same thing, but I think you can see how the progression can happen.

There are times when refusing the urge to perfect something can be a good thing. I have listened to writers who were so concerned about getting it right, that I seriously wondered if they would ever finish anything.

In a writing workshop I spent hours creating what I thought was an outstanding short script. My instructor’s comment to me was, “Is that the way you talk? You are trying too hard.” He did not want me to work so hard at achieving perfection that I did not even sound like myself.

Unravelling our writing can take a lot of time that might be better spent on a new project. I attended a watercolor class where the guest artist told us that he forces himself to throw away half of the paintings he produces. In my writing I also need to be willing to discard pieces.

On the other hand, denying myself the urge to perfect my writing, and still sharing it, can teach me to live with my imperfection.

My mother is now proudly wearing her knitted scarf. The call is yours–to unravel, or not to unravel.