Every once in a while, I like to pick up a new hobby. It’s fun to learn something new, to be a novice in the creative process, to let my brain work out the kinks of a different medium.
Six months ago, I learned to crochet by doing this granny square afghan:
It was born out of a combination of things, like my memory of a similarly patterned afghan at my grandparents’ cabin growing up (the kind with the flowers sticking out) and my need for an afghan of certain colors for our living room, which certain colors I was not finding in stores. So I googled until I found the pattern, then used YouTube videos to learn the basic crochet stitches, and voila!
Well, not really voila. More like stitching and restitching dozens of times until I could actually make one flower (good thing crochet pulls out just by tugging on the strand), then making dozens of flowers with practice yarn until I could make them the right size, then making 104 in the right colors, since that’s how many the pattern called for. Then realizing — oops! — that the green part wasn’t supposed to be done around each individual flower but added as you join them, so hundreds of yards of green yarn ended up in unraveled piles on our basement floor as I redid that .
And I still haven’t finished off the hundreds of literal loose ends that need to somehow be hidden.
Nevertheless, I decided it would be fun to do it again! This time, as a baby blanket gift. Except, again I was picky. I wanted zigzag stripes, but I couldn’t find a pattern with zigzag stripes, so I made them up. I won’t even bore you with details of how much unraveling happened with that.
But the nice thing about the stripes is that, once I got the first, say, ten rows figured out, the rest has been just a matter of one stitch after another until I get to the end.
Plus, I can do it while watching TV or movies or whatever. It’s sort of brainless while giving my hands something to do.
And it makes me wish writing could be even a little bit like that. Despite all the initial unraveling, I wish that at some point I could start from the first word on the first page and work word after word through until typing “The End,” the way they do in movies! Wouldn’t that be great?
Even though I know it’ll never happen, somehow I keep trying it. I focus really hard, unravelling what I need to in my mind of the way I’ve already written my novel and picturing the way I want it, and then I open a blank document and I start from the first page. And I usually make it about five-to-fifteen pages in doing things that way before I give up again. Because drafting that way is too much pressure for me and my creative process.
So, maybe the point of this post is that, from these crocheting projects, I’m trying to get it into my head that it’s GOOD that writing’s not like this. After all, with the zigzag pattern, there are (tiny) mistakes that I’m never going to fix, because it would require starting completely over. In the floral afghan, there are flowers that have slightly fewer stitches than other flowers, because I miscounted and didn’t realize it until later.
One of our teenage babysitters told me about how her grandmother had noticed a mistake right in the middle of her (the thirteen-year-old’s) afghan and made her take half the project apart to get back to that spot! Ack!
This Thanksgiving weekend, I’m grateful that writing is more piecemeal, that I can go back and fix page 150 or page 1 or page 87 or page 292 as many times as I need to, that I don’t have to solidify the first word, then the second, then the third, and so on.
Now I just need to remind myself not to keep trying it that way.
What does your writing process remind you of? Or what are you glad it’s not like?