On Identity and Iteration
This is a post that I have been thinking about and wanting to write for a very long time. It all occurred to me at Morsefest 2016. Ok, I know already that sentence raises a LOT of questions, so here goes:
First, you are asking what is Morsefest, right? Ok, so it is a yearly music festival that takes place in Cross Plains (about 30 minutes north of Nashville), TN. It features the music of one of the best and most prolific Progressive Rock singer/songwriters, Neal Morse. He started to gain notice in a band called Spock's Beard, at the height of the bands popularity, just after the release of their album called Snow. At that point, Neal quit the band and branched off on a solo career, where he basically invented the sub-genre of "Christian Progressive Rock."
So one of the features of Progressive Rock music is musicians who are basically prodigies. No, really. Many of the bands feature musicians who studied at Berklee or Juilliard, or play multiple instruments. The music itself features, typically, many odd time signatures that shift suddenly and frequently, use of more complicated and less often visited key signatures, extended chords, runs... Suffice it to say it's difficult to play and for some, difficult to listen to. It's really heady stuff.
Have I mentioned I have my degree in music education? Ok, that might clear some stuff up. Music, math, complexities that I have to unfold on the fly all appeal to my brain. So when my husband introduced me to Progressive Rock music, I was pretty much in. The Progressive Metal, I have more trouble with, but that is another story for another for another blog post. This does all tie back to quilting, I SWEAR, stick with me.
So while at Morsefest 2016, watching these musical prodigies perform the epic Snow album (for the first time ever), my thoughts always go back to how jealous that after 4 years of intensive college study and 16+ years in some choir or another, why am I not able to do what those musicians on stage are doing. And it occurred to me: Iteration. Iteration is a concept that my husband explained to me when he started taking Agile training as part of his job as a Software Engineer. It's where you get the basic of a piece of software going, then you iterate over it, adding more and more each time to get it to where the end product needs to be.
I can't do iteration. I can NOT handle practice, I can't do the same quilt time after time, I can't work in series. I can't make multiples of the same thing at the same time without a break of doing something else. That is my downfall as a musician. I couldn't handle the practice. Repetitive actions are literally tuned out of my brain after maybe the second time through. It makes it hard to put in the effort to get better at a musical instrument or at singing.
My husband on the other hand, can do the same thing time after time after time after time. He can listen to the same song on repeat for the whole weekend. Iteration IS PART of his identity. That explains the fact that he can play a pretty mean keyboard and has never been formally taught. He has the ear for it. I don't LUCKILY, I have the BRAIN for it. The puzzle is worth it to me.
So you know that 10,000 hours theory, right? You have to put in 10,000 hours at a task to become proficient and make it part of your make-up... How is it that I was able to get proficient at quilting without being able to handle the 10,000 hours of iteration? I did LOTS of different things. I made LOTS of quilts in different colors and styles, and I pushed myself to try hard things to make myself better at the easy things. I think it has worked. My quilts are better and better and my 8-Bit Quilts have reached a level that I am super proud of what I am sending to customers! Granted, I'm still getting better, I'm still learning tips and tricks, I'm still iterating, but I'm iterating over lots of different quilts, and I'm forcing myself to finish, even when I put it on the back burner, or when I'm hitting big trouble. I finish, and I learn, and I gain hour after hour of non-repetive iteration that my brain CAN handle. :)
I may never be a musician onstage again, and I'm ok with that, even when I watch how easy the prodigious Prog musicians make it look easy and I'm schooled enough to know how difficult it really is. Quilting is the part of my identity that I have that many others can look at and marvel. Possibly jealous at how easy I make it look. Some of it is, some of it I took a long time and a lot of hours to get right. Just like those musicians. So keep working, let me know in the comments if you are an iteration person or if you are totally turned off by repetition like me. Take Care and until next time: