Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fresh Eyes

Warning: Another sewing analogy.

So, there's this blouse. It's a pattern I've made several times before, but I made a cutting error and had to let it sit for about a week while my backbrain worked on a way around it. I got back on it this week, solved the problem all right, and yesterday I was all but finished - just the buttons and buttonholes to do. Buttonholes are hard in themselves, but my machine has a wonderful automatic buttonholer that makes them much, much easier. So the only stressful part of buttonholes for me is cutting them - there's always a danger that you'll lose control and the buttonhole will be bigger than the buttonhole stitch intended to contain it. But this concern is largely obviated by inserting a pin to block the seamripper (or whatever) from going too far.

Guess what happens if your pin is bent, though?

So on the verge of finishing what was going to be a very cute blouse, I ripped a buttonhole right through the front edge, ruining the whole thing. Unless I could think of a way to fix it. No way could my limited darning and patching skills cover it up, nor make the cut area strong enough to hold together under the strain of daily wear. But I didn't want to give up on it, so I dropped it, did something else, and when Damon got home I griped to him about it. Damon knows about as much about sewing as I do about programming, but he gripes to me about programming problems so I get to gripe about sewing problems to him. Fair's fair. He took it, turned it over a few times, started to suggest something, realized it wouldn't work, and than asked if I could edge the blouse front with a ribbon or something, to disguise the patched area and restore structural integrity to the blouse. Which made me realize that I might could; and as it happens I even have some double-fold tape in the right color to do it (unless I decide a contrasting color would look better. Hmmm. And I might want to do the bottom and sleeves the same way).

And this is why humans have that annoying habit of griping to other people about problems they can have no realistic expectation of solving. Obviously, I would have preferred to have griped to someone who could sew; but as it happens, a pair of fresh eyes was all I needed, not a level of expertise. I do the same thing with him and his programming gripes sometimes. Mostly I can only make sympathetic noises, but sometimes I'll ask an intelligent question that will help him see his way clear. If I could program, I might come up with better questions more often and if he could sew, he might have been able to offer helpful advice in implementing the solution to optimal effect, but what we do for each other is better than nothing and good enough.

This is why authors join critique groups, team with writing partners, and swap manuscripts with friends. Such arrangements work best among people in the same field. The author of a book for children and the author of an adult romance may not understand a lot of each other's problems, and a writer of biography could find writers of fiction frustratingly focused on all the wrong things. But those who write children's books may also read romances, writers of fiction often love biography, and a problem is a problem is a problem.

It is not fair to give a manuscript to a non-writer, or a sketch to a non-artist, and expect a useful critique. Don't do that to them. But listening to problems, soluble or not, is part of the social contract. Creative problems are like any other problems, and a non-specialist is as likely to be of service with them as with any other kind of problem in which he has no particular expertise.

And if not, you can at least get feedback in the form of sympathetic noises.

No comments:

Post a Comment