During my long commutes to and from work, I've been reading Steven Johnson's Everything Bad is Good For You. The basic premise is that as our culture is getting more complicated -- the complexity of tv shows, video games, movies, technical operating systems, etc, have all skyrocketed in the past 20-odd years -- our intelligence is increasing. All of these cultural outlets demand much more than they used to in terms of logic, picking up on subtle cues, problem solving, and thinking in new and creative ways. Johnson talks about the "edge of ability" -the point at which people can just figure out what's going on, or what needs to be done, as being the sweet spot for maintaining attention span, and generating both direct and collateral learning. If something is too easy, too obvious, you'll loose interest. If something is too hard, you'll give up. But if something is just at the edge of what you already know how to do, you'll keep at it until you figure it out, because there's an emotional reward -- the feeling of satisfaction at your own success -- that comes with it.
This is exactly why I love patternmaking. Of course some days it feels like what I am trying to figure out is beyond the edge of what I already know, but then, I am relatively new at it. Most of the time though, I can feel that if I just focus enough, look at the problem from enough angles, run through the mental catalog of Important Points to Remember, and maintain some patience, I'll eventually figure out what I need to do. And when I do, damn, it feels good. The fact that the end result is a piece of generally gorgeous clothing is fairly secondary, and very seperate from my enjoyment of the process.