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Krista Suh (Photo by Rachael Lee Stroud)

Krista Suh is the creator of the Pussyhat Project and her book, DIY RULES FOR A WTF WORLD, is out now. In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re excerpting a chapter from her book (chapter 14 entitled “Idea Squelchers vs. Idea Nurturers”) where she talks about the origins of the Pussyhat Project:

I was raised with a very specific idea of what a correct path in life is: I was to be either a physician, or a lawyer, or a professor, or maybe all three. When I told my parents that I wanted to be a writer, an uncertain pause followed. I still remember the exchange of glances as my parents tried to figure out how to make their daughter snap out of this obviously dangerous fantasy. The dangers included, but were not limited to: social humiliation, empty bank accounts, relationships with boys of similar penniless writer ilk, divorce, more social humiliation, family shame, dying without any children or accomplishment to be proud of. Couldn’t their daughter see that all of these dangers could be avoided simply by becoming a physician, a lawyer, a professor, or all three?

But I didn’t want to be a physician. Or a lawyer. Or a professor. So I live with that uncertain fearful pause, full of dangers and shame, and every time I put pen to paper, I have to shoo away the squelchers it spawns. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Someone smarter already did a better version of this. This job is just make-believe, isn’t it? But shooing them away is not enough. I have to actively nurture my ideas.

Here’s the thing about ideas. They start out like babies: cute, clueless, and totally incapable of fending for themselves. Have you ever seen the scrap paper of an inventor? Full of ridiculous doodles that should never see the light of day. Prototypes are usually riddled with mistakes and miscalculations. For example, early beta versions of video games are often stuffed with awkward bugs and weird, inside jokes the designer threw in at 2:00 a.m. because it seemed like a reasonable thing to do. As a whole, ideas start out goofy and meandering, and even if they start out full of energy, they tend to be incomplete. They need time and attention to develop into a mind-bending story or an economy-disrupting invention or a genre-busting game. Or a world-changing event.

Now, nurturing an idea takes time and energy, so whatever proto-idea you choose, make sure that you love it. Even if the squelchers tell you the idea is dumb-as-toast. If you choose an idea that you’re only sort of lukewarm about, but the squelchers are quiet on, you’re just letting yourself be held hostage by your self-doubt. Listen to yourself, and when you get an idea that you keep circling back to because there’s something about it that scratches you in juuuust the right place, you’ve found the idea you’re going to develop. At that point, your work begins.

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The idea for the Pussyhat Project had humble beginnings. When I first made plans in November to attend the Women’s March, I was focused on just what I could do, what sign I could hold, what clothes I could wear that could visually express what I was feeling and how I wanted the world to change. I figured just one iconic photo could make a huge impact in this visual, Internet-savvy world we live in, but I couldn’t think of anything. Until I realized that as an L.A. girl, I’d be really cold in DC during the winter. A coat wasn’t a decorative accessory; it was a must. I’d have to button it up all the way and seal the cracks with gloves, a scarf, and a hat. Because knitting was my latest obsession, it occurred to me that I could knit a hat for myself, and that making the hat for the march with my own two hands was meaningful. This is where things got exciting. The idea came to me all at once. As much as I love knitting, I’m still very much a beginner knitter, and I thought, If I can knit this hat, anyone can. And if I shared the pattern, we could all make these hats and either wear them ourselves or send them to someone attending the march. Because the hats were on top of people’s heads, from an aerial view, the gathered crowd would create an ocean of pink. Even on that day in November, imagining it, I felt the impact. I’d started by wanting a symbol to express myself, and it turned into a huge community art project.

This was the moment. The moment I could have given up and given in to the squelchers. This idea was particularly ripe for squelching: by the patriarchy, by my family, by my own inner voice. I am so glad I didn’t give in to the squelchers. When you have your moment and need to decide, “Do I squelch or do I nurture?” I hope you put on your pussyhat and choose “nurture.”

To purchase the book, click here.

Excerpted from DIY RULES FOR A WTF WORLD: How to Speak Up, Get Creative, and Change the World. Copyright © 2018 by Krista Suh. Illustrations by Aurora Lady. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

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