What I learned about writing from a crochet pattern.


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.)