Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Differences between 'crafting' and 'craft'

I write this blog post with a nod to my good friend, Jen Baum, who gave me the idea with her recent blog post: Similarities between crocheting and writing.

In Jen’s post she compared her occasional frustration with her craft [writing] to frustration with her crafting [crocheting]. I found it interesting because though I do both activities and I do find my approach to the creative process in each to be similar, I don’t experience the same level of frustration when a crafting project doesn’t turn out perfectly as I do when I write.

I find I’m much more fluid and forgiving of the ‘crafting’ process. I have no problem diving in to fix a misplaced block in quilting or ripping out rows of crocheting. I can, with little remorse, throw away a half finished project that has taken a turn for the worst, reasoning that it’s only an opportunity to go back to the craft store and buy more ‘stuff’ to work with. For some reason, though, deleting writing [which may exist as no more than some binary code in the guts of my computer] is far more painful and upsetting for me. A page of writing represents so much cerebral work for me that parting with it, or even making a major overhaul, hurts. Yet I can spend all day on a quilt project and happily relegate the finished project to a drawer or bin in the basement where it will stay for years until I either decide what to do with it or throw it away. I don’t regret the projects I’ve made and tossed, but I do regret the stories I’ve never finished.

I wonder why that is. Why am I not intimidated by a blank canvas or a virgin skein of yarn or an uncut fat quarter, but a blank page, a poorly executed chapter or a dull paragraph frustrates the utter crap out of me? Why don’t I beat myself up when I accidentally short a stitch on a row of crocheting, or when I have to rip out a seam or repaint a piece of pottery, but I’ll feel like a complete poser when I write a clunky line of dialogue?

Maybe it’s because for me the stakes are higher with the writing? This is my ‘career’ whereas the crafting is merely a hobby – something I do ONLY for my own enjoyment and specifically to unwind when I’m tired of using my brain. Maybe it’s because I still see the charm in a lopsided pillow or an uneven scarf, but, probably thanks to my editing experiences, I can’t see the charm in an awkward sentence or a boring scene. In a poorly executed piece of knitting or sewing, I can see the opportunity to improve, but in writing that doesn’t dazzle, I can only see future rejections.

Well, there I’m waxing rhapsodic, so before I get too philosophical I’ll stop. I imagine it sums up this way: When my good friend Robin and I were in high school, my favorite subject was Art. Robin used to dread the class because she said, “I’m afraid I’m going to screw something up. I can’t draw, I can’t paint, I can’t make anything out of clay. Don’t you get nervous when you have to make something?” I remember having a hard time understanding Robin’s sentiments because the paper, the paint and the clay didn’t intimidate me. I wasn’t afraid of screwing up because I felt like whatever I made would be art whether it was perfect or not. I couldn’t screw up.

Now, how can I make myself feel that way about writing?

*Speaking of crafting: here's a set of pillows I just finished. I wonder how many words they represent?


Kristen Painter said...

Wow. That's totally how I feel about my writing vs. my jewelry making. How strange that we can't look at them both equally, but you're right about one being a career and one being a hobby.

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

And it's a shame that when I looked at my writing only as a hobby, I was also too scared to submit for publication. Maybe we're not supposed to be comfortable and complacent when we write. Could be it's the nervous energy that gives us our spark?

Jen said...

Great post!

The pillows are gorgeous. For the record I used to hate Art Class too -- not as much as I hated Wood Shop where I NEVER mastered drawing a cube and got my first "C" for my efforts...not that I'm holding on to negative stuff or anything...

L.K. Campbell said...

Your post reminded me of my grandmother. She was a perfectionist with a capital "P". I can remember her crocheting a large afghan (for a double bed), getting almost to the end and then spotting a missed stitch up toward the beginning. She sat there and pulled out three days worth of work just to fix a stitch that no one would've noticed but her. My mother was just like her, and now you know why I'm so crazy.