I’ve been listening to the audiobook Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s about the pursuit of creativity and covers both creative obstacles and also ways of transcending them. Gilbert speaks to topics such as fear, courage, permission, creative entitlement, and originality vs. authenticity. I don’t know that I’ve ever truly connected with “magic” as part of my own creative process, but there have definitely been moments of tingly excitement as an idea takes shape in front of my eyes.
Maybe that counts as magic. At the very least, it feels good.
creativity & fear
What has stood out to me the most from Big Magic are sections describing the process of overcoming fears related to creativity. Fears such as “someone else has already done it better” and “I’ll never top what I’ve just created.” As Gilbert points out, these kinds of fears are born from a “scarcity” mindset, in which we believe there is only so much of the good stuff – in this case, creative juju – to go around.
I constantly have the thought/fear when designing that whatever I make will turn out to be derivative and bland. Or will too closely resemble something that I’ve already seen. I get so much inspiration from others’ designs that sometimes the line between what is mine and what is theirs feels blurred. And that can be worrisome.
I like Gilbert’s assertion that far more important than originality is authenticity. At the end of the day, there are only so many variations on a limited number of ideas. And that’s okay. Barring copying others’ designs, whatever I create, using the same stitches as everyone else, will always be authentically mine.
Another section of Big Magic that spoke to me referenced “creative entitlement.” Gilbert asserted that, in essence, creativity is our birthright. She dismisses the idea that there are such things as “creative people.” At some level, we are all creative people.
Nevertheless, it can be difficult to own this birthright. In my twenties, when I was studying and teaching physics, I declared all the time that I wasn’t a creative person. I thought that I lacked an artistic sense, maybe because I was so immersed in the physical sciences. Or maybe because I also held the belief that there is a hard line between those who are creative and those who are not. I didn’t practice any kind of creative endeavor, so I must have not been a creative person.
After my mother taught me how to crochet, almost a decade ago, I still didn’t think of myself as a creative person. Probably because I wasn’t very good at crocheting! It took me a long time to confidently assert my identity as a crochet designer.
It wasn’t until I had published some patterns, and really not until I was approached about writing my own book, that I could call myself a designer. And introduce myself to others with that title. What I liked about Gilbert’s notion of “creative entitlement” is that I didn’t need the external validation to claim my place in the world as a creative person. I always had been.
And so have you.
magic mandala pattern
All right, let’s get on to the pattern, shall we? I designed this mandala while listening to Big Magic without any thought to what I would use it for or where it was going. The stitches just sort of announced themselves on my hook and I went with it. I don’t think it’s the best thing I’ve ever made. But what makes it important is that it’s a part of my ongoing practice of creativity. Gilbert stresses that practice is the first, last, and only thing that’s really important in pursuing creativity. Perhaps you can use my mediocre pattern to work on practicing your own creativity!
Written in Standard US terms
Difficulty level: Advanced Beginner/Intermediate (you need knowledge of back post stitches)
Finished size: 10” point to point
Hook: Clover Amour US G (4.0 mm)
Yarn: DK weight (#3 Light) in 4 colors; Shown here: Paintbox Yarns Cotton DK
Gauge: Mandala measures 3” after 4 rounds
Here are some of the special stitches used in this pattern. You can find a full stitch guide here.
Back post double crochet (bpdc): Yarn over, insert hook from back to front to back around the post of the indicated stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop, (yarn over and draw through 2 loops) twice.
Double crochet four together (dc4tog): [Yarn over, insert hook in stitch, yarn over and pull up loop, yarn over and draw through 2 loops] 4 times, yarn over, draw through all loops on hook.
Double crochet three together (dc3tog): [Yarn over, insert hook in stitch, yarn over and pull up loop, yarn over, draw through 2 loops] 3 times, yarn over, draw through all loops on hook.
Front-post single crochet (fpsc): Insert hook from front to back to front around the post of the indicated stitch. Yarn over and pull up a loop. Yarn over and draw through 2 loops on hook.
Single crochet three together (sc3tog): [Insert hook into stitch, yarn over and pull up loop] 3 times, yarn over, draw through all loops on hook.
Rnd 1: With A, make adjustable ring. Ch3 (counts as 1st dc, here and throughout), 11 dc in ring. Join with sl st to 1st dc. Fasten off A. (12 dc)
Rnd 2: Join B in any st, ch1 (does not count as st, here and throughout), 1sc in same st, ch1. *1sc in next st, ch1* Repeat from * to end. Join with sl st to 1st sc. Fasten off B. (12 sc, 12 ch1 sp)
Rnd 3: Join C in any ch1 sp. Ch2 (counts as 1st hdc), 1bpdc around next sc. *1hdc in next ch1 sp, 1bpdc around next sc* Repeat from * to end. Join with sl st to 2nd ch of initial ch2. Fasten off C. (12 hdc, 12 bpdc)
Rnd 4: Join B in any bpdc. Ch2, 1dc3tog (counts as 1st dc4tog), ch4, sk 1 st. *1dc4tog in next st, ch4, sk 1 st* Repeat from * to end. Join with sl st to 1st dc4tog. Fasten off B. (12 dc4tog, 12 ch4 sp)
Rnd 5: Join D in any skipped st of Rnd 4. Working over ch4 sp, ch3, 1dc in same st, 1fpsc around next dc4tog. *2dc in next skipped st of Rnd 4, 1fpsc around next dc4tog* Repeat from * to end. Join with sl st to 3rd ch of initial ch3. Fasten off D. (24 dc, 12 fpsc)
Rnd 6: Join C in any fpsc, ch1. *2sc in fpsc, 1sc in each of next 2 dc* Repeat from * to end. Join with sl st to 1st sc. Fasten off C. (48 sc)
Rnd 7: Join A in any st. Ch5 (counts as 1dc, ch2, here and throughout), 1dc in same st, sk 1 st. *(1dc, ch2, 1dc) in next st, sk 1 st* Join with sl st to 3rd ch of initial ch5. (48 dc, 24 ch2 sp)
Rnd 8: Sl st into ch2 sp, ch5, 1dc in same st. (1dc, ch2, 1dc) in each ch2 sp around. Join with sl st to 3rd ch of initial ch5. Fasten off A. (48 dc, 24 ch2 sp)
Rnd 9: Join D in any ch2 sp, ch1. *2sc in ch2 sp, ch2* Repeat from * to end. Join with sl st to 1st sc. Fasten off D. (48 sc, 24 ch2 sp)
Rnd 10: Join C in any ch2 sp, ch1. *1sc in ch2 sp, (4dc, ch2, 4dc) in next ch2 sp* Repeat from * to end. Join with sl st to 1st sc. Fasten off C. (12 sc, 96 dc, 12 ch2 sp)
Rnd 11: Join B in any ch2 sp. Ch5, 1dc in same sp. *1dc in each of next 3 st, 1dc3tog over next 3 st, 1dc in each of next 3 st, (1dc, ch2, 1dc) in next ch2 sp* Repeat from * to end. Omit (1dc, ch2, 1dc) on final repeat. Join with sl st to 3rd ch of initial ch5. Fasten off B. (96 dc, 12 dc3tog, 12 ch2 sp)
Rnd 12: Join A in any dc3tog, ch1. *1sc in dc3tog, 1hdc in each of next 2 st, 1dc in each of next 2 st, (2tr, ch2, 2tr) in ch2 sp, 1dc in each of next 2 st, 1hdc in each of next 2 st* Repeat from * to end. Join with sl st to 1st sc. Fasten off A. (12 sc, 48 hdc, 48 dc, 48 tr, 12 ch2 sp)
Rnd 13: Join D in any ch2 sp, ch1. *(1sc, ch2, 1sc) in ch2 sp, 1sc in each of next 5 st, 1sc3tog over next 3 st, 1sc in each of next 5 st* Repeat from * to end. Join with sl st to 1st sc. Fasten off D. (144 sc, 12 ch2 sp, 12 sc3tog)
Weave in all ends.
I like the idea of wandering through life with a belief in magic. All in all, I’m probably more of a believer in everyday magic, rather than “big magic.” I try my best to keep an eye out for the magic of other people’s smiles, of feeling the sunlight on my face, of “clicking” with someone in conversation. And of creating new and beautiful things. Maybe those things aren’t magic, but they’re definitely markers of a good life.
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