Thursday, October 13, 2011

In Which I Make A Tortured Metaphor (And Show Off My Horrible Knitting)

Bonjour, Mes Anges! Long time, no blog, but I have been EVER so busy! There's that whole "Writing a bunch of books" thing, then I also did a trip to NYC (which was SO FUN, and hopefully more on that in another blog). I also had the Auburn Writer's Conference last week, and that was SUPER AMAZEBALLS. The AWC always makes me feel so proud of my hometown and all the glorious creative people I'm lucky enough to call friends.

This is the trailer for this year's conference. Watch it, and I DARE you not to Feel Feelings at the end. Also, yes, I am in it. And yes, that is my real bedroom/office. My bedroffice.

Anyway, all of this means not much time for blogging! But then, if you've been hanging around here for awhile, you already know how that goes. ;-)

The other day, someone on Twitter mentioned knitting, and how she wished she could do it, and I was like, "Hey! I knit! REALLY, REALLY HORRIBLY, but I do" And for some reason, that got me thinking about creating and writing, and how we should approach such Scary Things. So please, enjoy this tortured metaphor I'm about to make!

Some background: I am freaking terrible at anything remotely resembling crafts. I mean, it's EMBARRASSING how little artistic talent I have, especially since The Mama is CRAZY talented at craftiness and actually used to TEACH ART.

Just looking at this makes me break out in hives. Hives that, oddly enough, resemble that paper flower thingie Martha is holding while she judges me.

So when my friend Chantel was like, "Hey! Have you ever knitted?" I was all, "UM, NO, I CANNOT EVEN SEW BUTTONS BACK ON THINGS." (Which is true. Whenever I lose a button, I have to get The Husband to deal with it. Yes, ladies, my man fixes cars, chases reindeer, digs for rocks, and SEWS. And no, you still can't have him.)


But Chantel was not daunted by the panic in my eyes! Chantel was BRAVE, and said, "Come! Let us go to Michael's, buy supplies, and I shall teach you to knit!" Chantel, it turned out, had learned to knit several years before when she was doing her Fulbright in New Zealand. Which, I mean, can we take a minute an appreciate how that is like The Most Bad-Ass Learning To Knit Story EVER? Most people are like, "Oh, my grandma taught me," but Chantel gets to say, "Oh, I was in Middle Earth because I'm terrifyingly smart, and there's lots of wool there so...knitting."

It is also possible she battled Orcs there. I do not know.

I picked out some yarn I liked, and I got some reasonably priced needles, and Chantel taught me to knit, despite the fact that I did, like, EVERYTHING wrong at first. Y'all should have heard how nice she tried to be saying things like, "Oh, I...yeah, I don't even know how you did that. How are you ADDING more stitches?"

Seriously, you guys.

How bad am I at craftiness? So bad that when I texted The Mama to tell her Chantel was learnin' me some knitting, The Mama text back, "Does she KNOW you?" And when The Mama, who basically follows me around all day playing THIS SONG:

is like, "LOL U SUCK AT TEH KNITTING!!1" you know I really, really suck.

But here's the thing. I really ENJOYED knitting. Even as I was adding stitches, and then dropping stitches, and creating Inexplicable Holes, I was having a good time. And I wasn't trying to make a coat, or a hat, or even a scarf. I was just playing around with the yarn until I felt more comfortable with it.

I went back to Michael's. I had plastic needles, but I wasn't crazy about those, so I bought some metal ones and some pricier bamboo needles (which ended up being my preferred needle, BTW.) I got several different skeins of yarn, picking all of them just because I thought they were pretty. I knitted watching TV, and I knitted while I thought Plotty Thoughts- BOOK Plotty Thoughts, not World Domination Plotty Thoughts-, and I knitted just for the fun of knitting. And I STILL sucked at it, but I started to suck a little bit less. Here are a few examples:

Now, as you can see, I am still not what ANYONE would call "good." But that's to be expected. I've only been knitting for a few months, and before Chantel got that knitty gleam in her eye, I'd never so much as held a pair of knitting needles before. The main thing is, I'm learning, and I'm practicing, and I'm ENJOYING it.

And now, for the Tortured Metaphor portion of the blog, it strikes me that this is what Beginning Writers need to do. So often, when we want to write, we sit down and go, "I wanna write a BOOK! A big one! Maybe even a SERIES of books with, like, SEVEN SEQUELS and ELEVENTY BILLION characters!"

But if you've never written anything before, that's a SERIOUSLY tall order! It would be like me buying all that yarn and a pattern book and going, "IMMA KNIT A COAT AND MATCHING SCARF AND BOOTIES FOR SMALL SON! So we can MATCH, CREEPY-STYLES!"


And would I have ended up with matching coats and hats and scarves and booties? No. I would have ended up with a pattern book shoved in a corner, and several balls of yarn, and maybe like one half of one sleeve or something. And I would've felt frustrated, and vaguely pissed off, and very, "BAH KNITTING I HATE YOU YOU ARE TOO HARD."

Instead, I didn't put any expectations on myself. I bought yarn just because it was pretty. I tried lots of different needles until I found the ones that felt best for me. I didn't sit down with any other goal besides, "Knit." Not knit a SCARF, not knit something to GIVE SOMEONE, just...knit.

And I hope that all of you starting out in writing will give yourself the same freedom. Just WRITE. Don't worry about making it a BOOK, or getting an AGENT. At least not right away. Play with ideas or characters or themes that are "pretty" to you (this is why I'm very Pro Fanfic. I feel like Fanfic can be a great way of writing with training wheels, as it were.)

Write in a notebook, on a laptop, a regular computer,an iPad, whatever until you discover what feels best. Try out different writing software. For example, I know now that I can only write books from beginning to end, and I have to write them in Word on a laptop. I have friends who ADORE Scrivener, but it makes me wanna punch baby kitties.

Yup, even you, Adorable Sad Kitten. That is how much I loathe Scrivener.

Have fun. Play. Don't worry if you drop plots, or add plots, or have Inexplicable Holes in your story. Just keep trying new stuff. And if writing is ONLY ever play for you, that's fine, too. I mean, let's me honest, I will never have my own knitting show on the DIY network.

And even if I did, it wouldn't matter, because the GREATEST NAME EVER for a knitting show has already been taken.

But until you try, until you get in there and give yourself permission to be BAD at something while you're learning, you'll never really know. So go! WRITE!

And don't expect a scarf from me for Christmas. ;-)



Serenity Bohon said...

This is completely bril. I hope tons of maybe-I'll-write-somedays will read it and begin. My mom used a knitting analogy to get me through my first horrible draft of my first book. She told me about when her grandmother learned to knit and every night her mother would secretly remove her mistakes and fix them. By the end of the afghan, my grandmother didn't make mistakes anymore. She could totally knit. But if she had gotten bogged down in the mistakes at the beginning, she would have quit. And so we write and write and finish a whole big ugly thing, knowing we'll be better by the end. Or, hoping anyway.

Valerie said...

Haha! Absolutely love it! I used to knit, but I was terrible.

Hannah said...

Your blog posts never fail to make me laugh:D My mom tried to teach me to knit over the summer, but I did a terrible was fun though, so hopefully I'll get better someday! And awesome writing advice!!! :)

Jessica Naccari said...

I didn't know it was possible but I think I like you MORE after reading this post. Thanks. I think I needed your tortured metaphor to see that it IS ok to totally suck. As long as I keep trying I'll get there...maybe. If not, at least I tried, right? Anyway, I want to learn to knit and sew better than I'm can now, but that's for another day. Maybe I'll save that for after I've gotten a few books under my belt. Glad you enjoyed AWC. I wanted to be there but it just didn't work out. Maybe next year. Alright this comment is turning into me babbling about my life. Happy writing!

Fellow Alabamian,

veela-valoom said...


No really as a knitter I totally appreciate this comparison. I taught myself to knit so for awhile it was pretty sloppy. But last year I made something very complicated and it turned out pretty and now my knitting confidence is through the roof.

I'm going to knit a sweater. But you see I have been knitting for over 4 years now. I've lost count of the scarves. I've also lost count of the hats. Then there was the one complicated ruffle scarf that one of my knitting-gurus told me "If you can do that you're game for anything" and now I'm onto socks and next sweaters.

Learning anything is a process. I still have my first scarf. Part of it's beauty if the fact it's so whacked up and I couldn't figure out how to change yarn colors so its the weirdest hufflepuff scarf in history.

(FOR ALL THOSE WHO THINK YOU CANT LEARN TO KNIT: It took twice for me to learn. First time someone tried to teach me and taught me a really complicated cast-on that just had me horrified. Second time I bought a kit at Walmart & TADA I knit)

PS Knitting is the most relaxing thing ever

Tiffany said...

Dude! I totally decided to teach myself to knit from youtube videos about a year ago or so. I made a few swatches (and also learned that the bamboo needles were my favs- the others are too slippery), but then I don't know what happened... I totally didn't follow through and now all the supplies are shoved in a bag in my closet. (Maybe my problem was I didn't have a safe, convenient place to store all the supplies with a toddler running around).

Anyway, nice analogy. You are totally inspirational and stuff. :)

Eileen said...

I love this! LOL I totally tried knitting a few years ago but the only thing I got was a bundled up knot of yarn..

Riv Re said...

*hugs sad kitty* Punch kitty? Never! *runs away with sad kitty*
Brilliant post. I--dare I say it?--"lol"ed all the way through it. :)

Jennifer said...

I literally LOL-ed whilst reading this post. My bf and his friend who were absorbed in their Batman video game gaped at me in shock for LOL-ing so hard. I love you Rachel!

Moirae(thefates) book reviews said...

That is better then my knitting! I can't do crafty stuff either.

Was that the spooky house in the video?!

LoopyWriter said...

Hi I love your blog and just a heads up, I mentioned your blog on mine and included a link to here.
Anyway, I love the knitting analogy and have to admit you've inspired me to get my mum to teach me to knit again. As well as to join NaNoWriMo.


Sumiyya Abdul-Rasheed said...

It's good that you're starting to enjoy it. My sister and I knit. At first I didn't know how to do it right and I was all like I Hate Knitting! Then I couldn't figure out how they expected me to repeat the knit stitch but I finally got it and I enjoy it now. Although I like crocheting better. BTW, I love your books and I seriously can't wait to read Spell Bound.

Jodi said...

OMG...I just HAVE to comment on this one. Not only are you completely hilarious, but you make a mighty fine point. One that I'm going to completely ignore to tell you my story. Two years ago, I decided I wanted to learn to knit. So I got some yarn and a simple pattern (scarf) and I went at it. I finished the scarf in an hour or two and it didn't look half bad. So I decided to move on to patterned scarves, then hats, baby sweaters, gloves, mittens, etc. All within a ridiculously short period of time. Long story short...turns out I'm like the Rain Man of knitting. I'm amazeballs at it! Go me!! The shitty part? I want to be a WRITER. And thus far, I do not seem to have any savant tendencies whatsoever. So, while I was happy to find something in this sad, complicated world that I could be good at without trying. Why, oh why couldn't it have been literature??? Riddle me that, Yoda. *ragged sigh* Thanks for the opportunity to rant. XOXO!

Marissa Wright said...

I need some of your inspiration at this moment.! Your a busy busy woman.!

Dana Elmendorf said...

I almost peed my pants at "So bad that when I texted The Mama to tell her Chantel was learnin' me some knitting, The Mama text back, "Does she KNOW you?""

Your blog is so funny. I'm glad Anne Riley mentioned it in her "Stuff I'm Digging Right Now" Post.

Now I shall grab me a few more giggles before leaving your blog.

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I think a great name for a knitting show would be Knit Happens

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