Saturday, April 16, 2016

Start-itis Explained... Maybe.

You've been there... the sudden antsy, overwhelming desire to cast on all.the.things. We crafters generally refer to this phenom as "start-itis". But what is it really? What causes this, and how do you deal with it?

Start-itis for me is dangerous. I have to be really careful when I have an episode. Just about any project I cast on during a bout of start-itis is doomed to failure. I'm hectic, frantic, antsy and impulsive during these episodes. I suffer an overwhelming blast of creativity. I impulsively buy patterns; I'm sure designers LOVE this, but my wallet doesn't. My episodes almost always happen later in the evening, a mere hour or two before bedtime, or about 30 minutes before I need to leave for a trip, meeting, knit group, dr appt, etc.

I inevitably make tragic combinations of patterns and designs. I frantically wind skeins, search for needles and cast on disasters - often repeatedly and eventually killing otherwise excellent fiber. I make dozens of heavily edited charts, piles of sad swatches, and in the end, I'm so disappointed and burnt out that I often can't knit for days afterwards.

It took many, many episodes before I started to watch the symptoms and work out strategies to survive start-itis.

I think start-itis stems from the intersection of boredom (or fear thereof) and inspiration. When these two states meet, inspiration by contrast is exponentially bigger, and with a lack of structure becomes a wild fire. Therein lies perhaps an answer: structure.

Inspiration in a structured environment channels into great designs, great projects, great everything. Take the pressure cooker "Project Runway" as an example. Give designers a limited budget and limited timeline with a general goal and blam! Genius happens. Loosen this structure, give them a bigger budget, send them home for 6 weeks, and flop! Designers without discipline and self imposed structure develop expensive ten piece collections that lack coherence and vision and spend three days in a panic reworking and starting from scratch. My start-itis differs only in that I often have a time constraint, and I'm the only judge.

And so now when I recognize an outbreak coming on, I apply structure. My structure consists mainly of a forced lengthened timeline and a current project. I pull out a notebook, a WIP and I determine that I won't cast anything new on until x amount of the current project is complete and/or I have a definitive plan/design in place - with ALL the details worked out.

This plan can vary. As I work my WIP, I fantasize and work my way through a new design, plotting through shape, drape, color, sizing, stitch pattern, editing, and target market, whilst taking notes. Sometimes my start-itis takes on the form of knit.all.the.things because I'm over inspired by Instagram/Pinterest/Ravelry (aren't these AMAZING gifts?!?). In this instance, again, I mentally prioritize a list of these future projects determining wearability, color, feasibility, and materials on hand. Wearability is always a biggie - often patterns for me present a fantasy that doesn't necessarily fit into my daily wardrobe. Mindlessly progressing through a pair of useful socks whilst coming to terms with my un-glamorous life has saved me from casting on numerous ill-fitting expensive sweaters, dresses, capelets, legwarmers, ponchos, and novelty designs.

I've found this technique solves the boredom, channels the inspiration, prevents disaster and in the end I'm infinitely more satisfied with my cohesive plan vs being horribly disappointed and burnt out.

Have you found ways to channel or control your start-itis?