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I Can't Knit for Profit

I have had my grandmother's knitting needles sitting in the basement for years. My husband has learned to tiptoe around the subject of tossing out the "stuff' in the basement because although it is "stuff" I find it very hard to part with.

So, two years ago I brought up the knitting needles from the basement and I sat down with a good friend and learned the basics of knitting. In weeks to follow, I would show her with excitement an awful looking pot holder and she would praise me and encourage me to do more. I was hooked. It relaxed me and gave me a sense of satisfaction when completed.

Fast forward a few years and I'm now a knitting machine. I've made scarfs and blankets for family and friends, teacher gifts, the staff at my Great Aunt's nursing home, coworkers, and once for a total stranger. My husband jokingly gives me a look when I say I'm headed to Joann's for the second or third time in a week. Even the dog knows to go pick up a skein of yarn and rough it up a little bit so I'll stop knitting and give him some attention. I'm obsessed. It's my happy place.

So, with the encouragement from my husband and friends, I started to really consider creating an Etsy account so I could make a profit off my passion. Knitting and then getting money for knitting, means more knitting! I created a name and label and even took a few pictures of my creations in case I really got serious.

Now I don't know about you but November through January is when we always feel stretched for money. So this Christmas, a few people insisted on paying me for a scarf. Maybe an Etsy shop IS the way to go. So I agreed. I took orders and got to work. Work is the key word there. Knitting started to become work. My mind started to think about deadlines, cost, and creating perfect scarfs. Someone was paying me so the stakes felt higher and although extra money during the holidays is always welcomed, I was left feeling less satisfied with my creations.

I didn't understand my thinking really. All I knew was knitting was fun when it was for me and not when it was for profit. Then I started reading Daniel Pink's book, Drive. Recently I read about what he calls the "Sawyer Effect". The idea is that work can turn into play or play can turn into work. He named it after Tom Sawyer because Tom tricked his friends into painting a fence for fun. If I am understanding this correctly, I was knitting for play and when I accepted payment, the knitting started to become work for me.

What's puzzling is that an extrinsic motivation such as money sounds like a great way to increase and enhance an activity. I can buy more, make more, knit more! Yet, the money made the task less enjoyable. I learned that while initially productivity and motivation does at times increase with extrinsic rewards, these very same rewards can often hurt productivity and motivation in the long run. So, for now, I can't knit for profit. It turns the play into work for me.

Daniel Pink's book, Drive, promises to share the surprising truths about motivation and what our "if and then" statements might be doing to our kids in the classroom. It has me thinking. Do we motivate kids in a productive way? Are we slowly killing their love of math, spelling, (gasp)

He's got me wondering.

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