What I learned about writing from a crochet pattern.

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Until it was finished, I couldn’t envision how the design was meant to look. It was a crocheted afghan pattern a friend gave me many years ago. I read it through several times but it still didn’t make a lot of sense. Starting with the first line of instruction I chained the specified number of stitches, and carried on, one row at a time, until a pattern began to emerge.

Computer software manuals are a little like that, too. I can read them repeatedly, but until I finally sit down at the computer with instructions in hand to work my way through the various steps one at a time, I’m boggled.

Without a pattern to guide me I could crochet a large rectangular bedcover using the one or two stitches I know and various colours of yarn. The result might provide a cozy cover but it would lack a pleasing design. I couldn’t hope to win any prizes in the Fall Fair or sell it and expect it to become someone’s heirloom. And without a manual I could probably figure out the basics of the software by trial and error, too, although many of its sophisticated features would remain undiscovered. I’d never be able to use it well enough for a business application.

“Anyone can write a book!” True enough, but few books that are written without the knowledge of good plot and structure concepts, character development and effective dialogue have any hope of finding success in today’s highly competitive publishing market.

I’ve often read that we should write our first novel from the heart, allowing creativity free rein. Then take time away from writing to read and research about the craft before undertaking future projects. We can expect to improve as we continue to learn and practice.

When I consider the future of my afghan, I realize the quality of the finished product depends not only on learning how to follow the pattern, but also on first practicing until the stitches are correct and the tension is even. I will undoubtedly be proud of my accomplishment when it’s finished, but any person experienced in crocheting would quickly recognize the piece as being made by a beginner. It takes specialized knowledge, much patience and a lot of practice to become proficient at creating any art form.

How much practising have you done to reach where you are today? As a writer do you consider yourself a novice, intermediate or expert? (Throw humility to the wind and be as honest as you like.)

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14 thoughts on “What I learned about writing from a crochet pattern.

  1. Jasie@ArchEditing says:

    This is a really lovely post. I never thought about the connection between writing and crocheting before. Brilliant.

  2. catchats says:

    What a great comparison between the crocheting and writing a novel. I’ve taken umpteen courses on writing over the years but still don’t consider myself an expert. Actually I find I grow more and more humble over time as I realize just how hard the whole writing process really is. It was easier when I was all starry-eyed and naive about it all.

    It’s still an ongoing process and I’m still learning. I look at stuff I wrote years ago and grimace at how amateurish it looks but at the time I thought it was good.

    As you say, creating art takes patience, practice, and knowledge, but it also takes perseverance to keep going through the setbacks which are all part of the creative process. I still have trouble with that part and go through occasional slumps where I feel like giving up.

  3. Like Catchats, I’ve taken dozens of courses. I’ve also had many of my essays and articles published. But doubt settles in as I consider how much better I want my writing to be (even though, or maybe because, I’m a writing instructor and coach). The more you know . . . You know how it goes.

    Much of the battle (again, as Catchats wrote) is summoning the persistence and commitment to keep going, even while questioning the quality of your creative output.

    This is a wonderful, thought-provoking, and encouraging post. Thank you!

  4. Margie says:

    I learned the basics of writing in High School and that is it. I have no desire to write anything other than my blog, so I have not embarked on any further writing education at this time.
    The biggest challenge I find with blogging is paring my posts down to about 500 words. I know it is not a hard and fast rule to keep posts to that length, but I find the task very valuable.

  5. joylene says:

    Most of what I’ve learned I learned from being critiqued. It was never easy, but always rewarding. Today I wish I could afford to pay one of those brilliant critique partners to make up for all the garbage they had to wade through. Instead all I can say is I’m eternally in their debt.

    Great post, Carol.

  6. Shari Green says:

    This is a great analogy! As for me, I guess I’d consider myself an “intermediate” writer, but I’m expecting the intermediate stage to last for a very, very long time. I’ve tried to be more intentional about improving over the past year or so, spending time studying craft and trying to learn from giving/receiving critiques. I think I need to PRACTISE more, though, too. More words! 😉

  7. mE says:

    Morning! I’m a novice…although I do crochet, a lot! Which has become another excuse … “I’ve got to finish this Afghan (or whatever)” instead of putting my fingers to work on a keyboard…although crocheting can allow one to think/plan/create while doing same. One thing I will say: NEVER EVER AT NO TIME ON NO OCCASION lose belief in your creative self!
    I love your blogs, dear friend, your photography is beautiful, and you need to finish that lovely afghan hiding in your closet) :>
    mE

  8. Piper Bayard says:

    What a great analogy. I crocheted my first blanket without a pattern and without paying much attention to my rows. That’s how I wrote my first book, too. Funny. They were both awful. I’m better at both crocheting and writing these days. Thanks for your post.

  9. Judith Robl says:

    Wonderful analogy! My grandmother tried to teach me to crochet, but I never could see how she did it. She was simply too fast for me. However, I learned to tat from a book — and then knit – and then crochet. I’ve always been addicted to the written word. I’m so out of practice now that I probably couldn’t do any of it without the instructions before me.

    Learning writing is a never ending process. I’ll be an intermediate writer til I graduate to heaven most likely. But the learning is such fun and such a challenge.

  10. I love to crochet. Especially in the winter months when you just want to wrap yourself up in a chair and pass time. It liberates your mind. Any and all problems drain away.
    How does someone really know how advanced a writer they are? Not necessarily if they’re published, because I’ve read some novels I almost nodded off to. Not education, because I’ve had nary a year of college after getting my GED due to my quitting school after eighth grade, and have helped my far-more educated friends write business letters, etc. How do you know? I don’t. I couldn’t tell you if I’m brilliant or an idiot. All I know is that I have to write, because I’ve never figured out how to make myself stop. Maybe the answer is nothing more than the opinion you have of yourself.

  11. My great-grandma taught me to crochet. There are days I want to pick it up again. I could do doilies, but don’t ever ask me to make a sweater or anything someone would actually have to wear. What a creative analogy.

    I sometimes had to unravel a lot of stitches and start over. In my writing, too.

  12. I would always hesitate to call myself an expert, but I’ve been writing for a long time. I think I will always be learning, though. I’m never going to say I’m “done.”

  13. Recently, I began to crochet some scarves my daughter asked to to send her. I also wanted to make a throw for the back of my friend’s new sofa. That being said, I love your analogy. I am left handed and it was difficult to find the books or people who could help me reverse what I saw and learn … since everyone else seemed to be going in the opposite direction.

    I call my blog … ramblingsfromtheleft because I am a Lefty Louie … and as such I am still at the half-way point on my life learning arch. I am close to the top where we can remain and enjoy the view before its time to return to earth.

    Not an expert in my greatest love, writing, I am still watching people going in the opposite direction. I don’t mind. Being lefty gives me a different perspective and it will bring a new vision to my work.

  14. Thanks for sharing your comments, everyone. I’m enjoying the various opinions. Most of us seem to be in agreement that following guidelines is helpful, and learning is an ongoing experience.

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