As a kid, I took piano lessons. I loved my piano teacher, elegant, soft-spoken Andrea, and I enjoyed our weekly sessions. I also loved the sound of piano music. Beethoven and Mozart were favorites of mine even at age eight; they’re still among my favorites.

With all this love for the instrument, it was a bit of a mystery to my teacher, to my parents, and even to me, why I could never ever motivate myself to practice.

The WIP is another of my Perfectly Practical Baby Vests, this one with a bit of fair-isle

For all the years I took lessons with Andrea, there was one week, ONE, in which I practiced diligently a half hour each day as I was supposed to. I know because this week, determined to impress my teacher, I made a complicated sticker chart and enlisted the help of my mother’s gentle reminding and nagging to get my daily practice in. Otherwise, I averaged maybe thirty minutes of practice per week, maybe even less. I would sit at the piano for 5 minutes, but the songs wouldn’t come easily, and I’d get distracted by the desire to return to the Redwall book I was in the middle of, or to color and cut out a new dress for one of my paper dolls. Eventually that distracting thought would become irresistible, and I’d hop off the piano bench and back to my world of play.

I quit piano lessons around age eleven, and it was then, ironically, that I found myself sitting for longer stretches at the piano. The best I’d ever played during lessons were children’s waltzes and rondos; now I taught myself Debussy’s Reverie! When she saw my renewed enthusiasm, my mother offered to sign me up for lessons again but I declined. I realized wisely that once I quit lessons, piano belonged to the realm of play and freedom in my mind, and I could really enjoy it. With no one to perform for every week I didn’t have to fight through anxiety, internal blocks, and pressure in order to play.

Today, knitting is like piano playing was at age eight. I love knitting, so I’ve decided to make it a bigger deal in my life than just a hobby, building a blog and a business around it. I love designing knits, so I’ve decided to create designs that have futures beyond my own craft drawer, designs to share with other knitters, some to hopefully even sell. But now that knitting and designing is serious, I’m finding it REALLY HARD to motivate myself to get up and work on it every day. Ironic? yes. Surprising? maybe it shouldn’t be, given the tendencies I demonstrated at piano.

Alexis, you’re saying at this point, the solution is right in front of you. You figured it out as an elven-year-old. Stop categorizing knitting as work, and bring it back into the realm of play. Don’t put the pressure of deadlines on your knitting designs, drop any design that isn’t fun. Write blog posts when you feel like it, rather than on a schedule.

But that’s no solution either. Unlike my piano ambitions (non-existant), I have real, exciting knitting ambitions. These ambitions may not directly translate into motivation to sit and work every day, but they do raise my heart rate when I think about them, they do fill my head with whirling, spinning plans, they do make me nervous and excited in a good way. With no great piano ambitions, once I’d taught myself Reverie that was pretty much the end of my piano playing achievements. I tinker around on an instrument every now and then, but I’m not a musician. Not even close.

Bubbles the Dolphin from Adventures in Mochimochiland, a bit chewed on by my 8 month old, but still swimming

On the other hand, I am a knitter. I want to keep getting better and better at knitting. I want to be a knit toy designer. I want to be a better knitting blogger. Letting go of these ambitions and allowing knitting to be “just” fun is not an option I want to consider. Somehow, I have to figure out how to find balance for my knitting between serious ambition and no-pressure play.

This is not a helpful tips blog post, where I tell you that I’ve figured it all out, and have a foolproof way to motivate myself while keeping things fun. (sorry!)  I haven’t figured anything out yet, really. Only that I want to knit, but motivation to keep at it is a real conundrum.

Have you ever struggled with knitting or another hobby in this way: what was once just fun becomes more serious, and suddenly it’s hard to find the motivation? What did you do in that situation to get past the challenge?

P.S. If this is a topic that interests you: I’ve become kind of addicted to this blog and podcast about creative small business motivation, and this podcast about small business motivation for moms.