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?