Progress. It's ephemeral, at times. When working on a 'big' project, or even just living a life, each day can seem endless. Progress can seem incredibly slow. At times, not noticeable.
When I was writing The Intentional Weaver, life interfered on numerous occasions. It seemed like I would never get it done. And every time I was poised on the brink of giving up, tossing the manuscript and declaring that Big Project a 'failure', something would happen and I would open the file again, and try to slog through it. Again.
Frankly I had no intention whatsoever of writing (and self-publishing) a second book. I had poured everything I had into Magic in the Water, I'd said all I needed to say.
But the more I taught, the more I saw that there was something I did need to say. I was saying it over and over again in my classes. Ergonomics. Efficiency. Peeling back the layers to better understand the basics.
One of my Olds students was the impetus to begin but other students kept me going, asking the same kinds of questions. Questions which I had thought about, researched, implemented in my own practice.
Most people really have no idea of just how efficient I became over the years. I remember the first time I posted a video to the internet showing me weaving. The very first response was something along the lines of 'that's interesting, but why did you speed the video up?'
I found it amusing that the person thought I was speeding the video up when the fact was that I'd actually slowed down in order that people could see what I was doing more easily.
People, including weavers, have constantly commented that I must never sleep I was producing so much. I am, was, just that efficient that I can do a lot more in the same amount of time others have.
Plus weaving was my job. I worked at it. I became good at it. Some even call me a 'master'.
But here's the thing. What I do isn't anything special. If someone really wants to, they can learn how to be more ergonomic, more efficient. Learn how to work ergonomically, learn how to reduce extraneous movements, stay focused and in the zone, and efficiency will increase.
It doesn't come overnight. It takes work. It takes mindful practice. It takes those 10000 hours - but those hours have to be mindful. Because repetition without analysis just makes permanent, not perfect.
Now that I am 'retiring', shutting down my business, learning how to weave 'better' on a brand new loom which is very different from any other loom I have woven on, my progress has been slow. Much slower than I expected, given my level of expertise. But a return to beginner mind is good. It reminds me that people learning new things need time to learn the new thing. My impatience at how long it is taking needs to be tempered with constant reminders that progress is progress. A single step in the right direction...is progress.
Constant reminders that I am no longer doing craft fairs, so I no longer need to be producing lots of inventory, means that the rate of my progress is just fine, even if it is just a single step.
I remind myself daily that I am still alive to take that single step, two or three on a really good day. So many others I love/respected are gone. I am still here. Still able to teach (I hope). Still able to weave, as slowly as that may be. Still around to encourage and support others. Mentor when I can, amplify when appropriate.
During Art Market, a woman came by and asked to talk to me. It was Sunday morning and it wasn't very busy so when I finished with the customer I was dealing with, we talked for a few minutes.
She wanted to thank me for my DVD. She had somehow injured her neck and for two years she went from doctor to specialist and finally saw one who commented that he had only seen such an injury in people who did a lot of (demonstrating the motion of taking shuttle out of the shed at too high an angle). She asked him "Do you mean weavers?" "YES! Is that what you do?"
Turns out she had her bench in a 'bad' position and her posture wasn't great either. She and her daughter went through The Efficient Weaver DVD and they re-arranged her loom bench and she is working on her position and posture, learning how - after 30 years of doing it in a poor ergonomic fashion - to throw and catch the shuttle in a way that will be friendlier to her body. She is now weaving again, although she will always have soft tissue injury to deal with. But she wanted to thank me for the advice and the techniques shown in the DVD.
This is why I keep leaping up on my soapbox. This is why I will keep teaching. Blogging. And count my progress in inches if not in feet. Because at the end of the day, the end of my production career, I am still learning. And I have always loved to learn.