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Failing Well

When I’m not writing or conducting research for Emmett’s book, I’m sewing.

Sewing is like writing, in that it is creating something unique out of fluid, occasionally hard-to-manipulate content.

Sewing is not just about manipulating fabric and thread, but it is a hands-on exercise in creative problem solving using pre-determined directions (a pattern) and supplies at hand in your creation.

For example, the Big Four sewing patterns (McCalls, Vogue, Butterick, Simplicity) are drafted to fit the average American woman, who, according to the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, is 5’6″.

I’m definitely not 5’6″, so whenever I sew one of the Big Four patterns, I have to adjust the pattern to fit. This may sound like a PITA, especially when sewing is an expensive hobby, but I figure it is more cost effective to make what I like, using the materials I prefer, instead of wasting time fighting traffic or tramping around a mall.

Sewing is also like writing in that it teaches me how to fail well; i.e., to not give up after making a mistake, no matter how big it seems.

In sewing lingo, a ‘wadder’ is a sewing fail. I usually have wadders after inadvertently choosing the wrong fabric for the pattern, or discovering the pattern style doesn’t suit me, or I didn’t follow the sewing directions.

What do I do with wadders? I don’t throw wadders away — part of me hopes that the offending garment-in-development will miraculously disappear on its own! — but just as I do with writing, I put them aside, with the intent to come back later.

The time away is important, because a fresh perspective always puts the wadder in a different light:

For example: Maybe the offending garment would be better reworked as a shirt for one of my daughters?

And with wadders pertaining to Emmett’s book: Maybe the information in the chapter needs a different arrangement to work?

In both cases, I try again: I unpick the seams. I use a different point of view. I take the project apart. I reconstruct it.

Without fail, a workable solution falls into almost always falls into place.

When the new garment is finished, and the new draft of Emmett’s chapter complete, I’m often reminded how remarkable the ‘process’ is — that the workable solution could not have come about unless I had failed the first time around.

And once again, I am reminded that FAIL stands for First Attempt In Learning.




Categories: Family The Writing Life

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Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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