Tag Archives: learning to write

Knitting stories together

I’m a terrible knitter. I struggle through easy patterns, drop stitches with gay abandon, restart projects after unpicking them all the way back, and eventually end up with something approximating what I started out to do. Almost.

One of the first scarves I knit was for my son. I was knitting while I was distracted by the television and the centre part of the scarf ended up widening and widening. I eventually caught myself and started dropping stitches and shrinking it back. My son graciously says that it’s perfect as it is because he can put the wide bit up over his nose if he needs it in the cold.

The point of all this knitting talk is that knitting is a lot like writing. You start out with a pattern, it may or may not work out the first few times, you have to unpick and start over, rerolling the yarn into a ball, trying not to tangle the threads. Then you start bravely again, maybe with new needles or a simpler approach, gradually working toward the ending of the piece, which may or may not look like what you wanted it to be.

My mother-in-law knitted wonderful things for my kids, but she’d send them to me wrapped up with a note that the yarn she’d used was made of “100% unknown fibres” and she didn’t know what would happen when I washed the items. I remember thinking that if I was going to spend time knitting, I’d want to knit with good yarn, so that it would feel nice on the needles, and so that the final product had half a chance of looking pleasant.

Now, when writing, I try to use the right words, struggle to get the metaphors bright and meaningful, use phrases carefully to try to create beauty. As with knitting, I’m not good at following a pattern – I prefer to make things up as I go.

Sometimes, it’s all a mess and I have to give it up and start over. Sometimes I tuck it away and pretend it never happened. But gradually, with practice, I am creating things that are worth showing to other people, giving away, even if imperfect.IMG_3911

Loving your inner editor, or why too much freewriting might screw you up

Everyone seems to love freewriting. Julia Cameron, with her morning pages, even Sarah Selecky in her

Story is a state of mind

online course (which I’ve just started). Everyone in writing classes and conferences and lectures and such tell we learning writers to just write and write and write, and never mind the level of crap that spills from our pens.
The aim is good – get the writer over the hump of feeling ridiculous or frozen into immobility.
I’ve got a million journals filled up with my scrawling, and then there’s this blog thing. I love writing down vignettes of scenes at the coffee shop, doodling writings with the starter of “I remember”, digging in my head to clarify my thinking, sort out my loose threads, play with the colours of the windmills of my mind.
I seek comfy pens that can skim across the page without slowing my thoughts. I choose journals carefully so the paper has just the right give.
Have I published a lot of stories, novels, articles?
Nope. I’m having too much fun freewriting with my writing time. It’s easy. It doesn’t need a plot, well-drawn characters, believability. I can tell myself I am a writer simply because I am writing, right? It’s not about having people read my writings, is it?
I would actually argue that most freewriting is really another source of procrastination. Sure, if you can’t get going, do a bit here and there. Explore a thought while you warm up your creative mind.
But Cameron’s 3 pages daily risks exhausting that creative spark on what really often ends up being pages of dreck.
Sure, sometimes there’s something to mine from the pages. Sometimes an idea will pop up that is worth pursuing. Not often, though.
What needs to happen is the hard work of writing a coherent story, rewriting it, and finding it a home. Clutch your inner editors in an embrace and welcome them then – they are just what you need.
Because writing is meant to be good. It’s meant to mean something. It is meant to be shared.