How Writing Is Not Like Crocheting (Or What Random Analogies Teach Me About Process)

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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?

Leave a comment!

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64 responses »

  1. The first WIFYR workshop I attended was taught by Brandon Sanderson. He said that he wrote down what each character needed to learn/do, put them in order and, voila!, he has his outline. Excited by this “formula” to writing, I tried it. And tried it. And failed miserably every time. Apparently, I am not an outliner, no matter how hard I try, and I have TRIED!

    My writing actually reminds me a lot of the way my husband engineers, which is funny because I always thought science and engineering would be so methodical and less chaotic than writing–like Brandon Sanderson’s writing–but it’s not. He plans out the machine or part that he’s working on, builds it, and half the time comes home filthy saying the machine blew up, or a certain part didn’t work, or something else went wrong. (At least when writing goes badly, my clothes usually stay clean.) He then has to redesign something and integrate it back into the machine. While he’s redesigning, he has the tendency to stare off into space, start randomly talking about something I don’t understand, or start doodling on the nearest available paper (like my shopping lists). So, there you are, my writing is like engineering.

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    • I love that! Thanks so much for sharing. I can completely relate to all that as well — especially staring off into space. And it is nice that when a storyline blows up it can disappear without a mess thanks to the Delete key. 🙂

      And yeah, I’m not an outliner either. 😉

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  2. I’m not a writer, but I admire your methods and the chutzpah to just dig in with the crocheting by yourself. Your work looks lovely and the floral pattern is certainly one of the more difficult ones to master. I like your sense of color also. It’s interesting to read the different methods of approaching writing. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Susan

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  3. what beautiful afghans!! it’s so hard to believe that you finished both of these while you were actually a beginner!! no way! your sticktuitiveness is remarkable. good for you. your color sense is also fantastic.
    thanks for sharing!
    jd in st louis

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    • Thanks for stopping by! It’s mostly my perfectionism that’s to blame, because I unravelled both afghans many times before finishing them, so it’s almost like these are my fourth and fifth rather than first and second. 😉

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  4. WOW, to quote what I posted on our crochet group: “Good Grief! Not only has she for a FIRST TRY made about the only granny that I’ve ever seen that did NOT make me go “very nice, BUT…” she proceeds to “invent” a chevron afghan and with NO COMMENT about having trouble keeping the sides even (While watching TV no less). Boy oh boy, am I impressed.”

    Don’t ever give it up. You definitely have the potential to be a crochet designer. Thanks for the writing comments, every enjoyable and informative.

    Pattianne
    MyRavelry = http://tinyurl.com/dk5onq

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    • LOL! I really didn’t intend this to be a showing off kind of post. I just figure pictures make my blog look more colorful. 😉 And yes, I had a lot of trouble with keeping the sides even at first! That was part of what I mentioned about unraveling it many times. Thanks for your comments! 🙂

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  5. *THUD*!
    — That was my jaw hitting the floor upon seeing your first afghan!
    Can you tell me the name of the pattern, and/or who originally published it? We might be able to track down copies of the pattern that way, so people know where to look.
    KEEP UP THE LOVELY WORK! 🙂

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    • I bought it from e-PatternsCentral.com, it’s pattern #EAC0279, and the file is called “Floral Afghan” but on the pattern itself the name is “Kiwi Afghan” by Katherine Eng. I know they aren’t selling it anymore, but it would be great if you can track it down still, because it’s a gorgeous pattern. My hubby thinks it’s a ridiculous excuse for a blanket because it’s so holey, but I use it all the time! 🙂

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  6. Yay, learning to crochet from the internet works fine!! I’m so glad. Your afghans are gorgeous proof that the art and craft of crochet can survive the downward trend of younger people learning crochet from family members. As one of the directors of the Crochet Guild of the America, this weighs on me constantly. Since all crochet is handmade (there still is no machine to do it), if enough people don’t have a good way to learn how, it could die out.
    You’ve made my day 🙂

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    • It was my husband’s fault. I was complaining that I didn’t know of anybody to teach me, and he rolled his eyes and said, “Hello, get on YouTube. I’m sure they’ve got something.” So I have all the crocheters out there who were generous and patient enough to demonstrate on film to thank. 🙂

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  7. Just heard from the copyright people. Not a very helpful answer, but here it is:

    Good afternoon Nikki,

    Thank you for your inquiry. I contacted our web manager for e-patterns about the pattern. We remove patterns from time to time that show a slow revenue pace and offer new patterns to keep customers returning and interest in the site. Right now EAC0279 Kiwi Afghan by Katherine Eng is inactivated, but we may place it back again later.

    The pattern is copyrighted, but not presently available for purchase. We wish to retain our right and this means you cannot copy the pattern as it is protected by copyright. You may continue to get requests if your blog posting contains a picture of your finished project.

    We appreciate your interest in our patterns and publications.

    Sincerely,
    Marj Morgan
    DRG Pattern Services

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  8. Love your afghan. I have been crocheting for years and have just learned how to make afghans so they are big enough. I like seeing what other people make with their crocheting.

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  9. I am trying to find different afghan patterns so that one day I will make an afghan for all my kids and grandkids. I have a couple of afghans that I need to redo as they were too small. And now that I learned how to make them bigger I need to get busy and make them.

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  10. I wish that I still had some of the afghans that my grandmother made. As I think it would be neat to show my kids something that their great-grandmother made. But if I get the kids something made and something made for the grandkids it will be around after I am gone. And as you said it would be a great heirloom to pass on to future generations.

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  11. Pingback: Six Months, Six Thank Yous, and Six Favorite Posts « All About the Words

  12. Hello!

    So beautiful, your flower afghan! And I finally got hold of the pattern! Do you mind telling me which yarn you used to make it? It works so very well with the pattern.

    I hope you are still enjoying your afghan!

    Thank you!

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    • Glad you found the pattern. I’m out of town right now and don’t have the yarn in front of me, but I remember it was the Vanna White yarn. I’m a beginner and don’t know much about yarn, so I don’t know if that’s a good one or not! I just liked the colors. I used a sage green, a cream, a golden yellow, a darkish red, and then (is this bad to admit?) Vanna didn’t have the pinkish red color I wanted, so I used a different brand for that.

      And yep, I still use it for naps on the couch all the time. 🙂

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  13. Thanks so much for your reply! I live in England and those huge skeins of acrylic are not available here, crocheting large blankies seems to be a quintessentially American pastime! My knowledge of US Yarns is therefore very limited, I have only used Caron Simply Soft before. I have heard of Vanna though, so I reckon you used Vanna’s “Choice” Yarn? I will try to hunt it down on Ebay 🙂 If it’s not too much to ask, I’d be thrilled if you found the colour codes, when you are back home – only if you stumble across your stash! Your colour scheme is just so pretty, it reminds me of briar roses and sleeping beauty, just the perfect blanket for my baby daughter.

    Have a great holiday and thanks again!

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    • Sorry to be slow about replying. I always have trouble remembering everything that needs to be done when I get home from vacation.

      I only had a couple of the original yarns, so I’m guessing on some of these, but I looked online and I’m pretty sure these are the right colors of the Vanna’s Choice: 133 Brick, 123 Beige, 158 Mustard, 171 Fern. I also used Wool-ease 188 Paprika, but I think Vanna’s Choice 134 Terra Cotta is the same color, I just wasn’t able to find it at my craft store so I used a different brand.

      I hope that helps! Have fun making the afghan for your daughter. 🙂

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  14. YAY! Thank you so much for the colours! Very kind of you! I’ll send you a picture once I am finished 🙂
    But since I am also a youtube-trained crocheter and not very fast, it’ll be a while, haha. I showed my daughter the picture of your afghan and she was delighted with the “fowers”. I have the little fingerprints on my screen to prove it 🙂

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    • The nice thing is that for a little kid you won’t need to make as many granny squares! It calls for 104, but that makes a very long blanket, so you can probably get away with 2/3 of that.

      Oh! And I looked at the colors again and realized I’m not sure on the green. It might have been 173 Dusty Green. I’d say just choose whichever you like best. 🙂

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      • I cannot wait to get started! 🙂 I looked online at your colours and agree, yours looks more like dusty green. I think I’ll make my “fowers” in brick and cranberry, Vanna’s terracotta is a little too much on the pumpkin side, although it’s difficult to tell on a laptop screen. Did you get the same gauge from Woolease and Vanna? Probably safer for me to stick to one brand 🙂 Have you kept up with the crocheting at all? You sure seem amazingly talented for it!

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        • Sounds pretty! I wanted the pinkish-orange of the terra cotta because it matches my walls and furniture, but I think brick and cranberry will be fabulous, too. And yep, I still love to crochet. My next project is a baby blanket for the new arrival we’re expecting in September. 🙂

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  15. Congratulations! I hope all goes well for you, with your baby as well as with the crocheting! 🙂 I will have a peek on your blog in a while for the finished articles 🙂

    Thanks again for your inspiration!

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  16. Those bootees are supersweet! 🙂 I would really like to see the blanket, no harm having a some stitching among the writing 🙂

    Take care!

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  18. Hi – I absolutely LOVE the rug you’re making in the top picture on this page. You’ve joined the pieces using a technique that would be perfect for the project I’m currently working on – but I can’t seem to find any how-to instructions for anyt6hing like it. Is it a pattern you can share, or is there a link you could direct me to? I would be so appreciative of the help!

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  19. If anyone seeas this question, I’d like to ask: could you give a link to the pattern for flower (the first one) afgan? It look great but I am not sure how to make it. I’d love so much to have (crochet) one!
    Thanks!!!

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