Comparing Writing and Knitting

Writing is the most terrifying of hobbies, for me.  I always find myself with these ideas for stories floating around in my head and I want, so badly, to write them. Then, I sit down to write and think “I have no idea what I’m doing. I shouldn’t be trying.” I end up walking away.

The thing about writing is, its damn near impossible to know if you’re any good at it. You could compare it to knitting. With knitting, it is easy enough to know whether you’re doing it correctly. You can look at other people’s knits and know whether you can reproduce them. You take the pattern and either you understand the stitches or you don’t, you either struggle with following the pattern or you don’t, either the finished the product looks like the examples or it doesn’t. Writing isn’t like that. You can write and write and write, never knowing whether its readable. All words on paper look about the same but, as we al know, some are far more enjoyable to read than others. The only way to know whether what you’re writing is to give it to others, which is a challenge in itself.

Several years ago, I rediscovered my love of writing. In a very short time, I wrote about 35 pages of a story idea. I was pleased as punch about my ideas and what I had gotten on paper, but I really wanted to know whether it was any good. I passed it along to a coworker and my significant other. My coworker was pretty adamant about how much she liked it. My significant other was less enthusiastic (he wasn’t a person that was particularly prone to outbursts of emotion) but said he thought it was worth continuing. The problem is, people who care about you will almost always give you positive praise. So how are you to know the truth? How do you find an unbiased opinion?

In college, I never once took an English class. I did a dual high school/college enrollment when I was a senior and got all of the credits I needed, plus three extra hours from the AP test for English. So I have had all of no writing training or critique. My only basis for thinking I might have some sort of talent comes from childhood. I was frequently praised for being one of the best writers in class and I even won the UIL competition for Persuasive Writing two years in a row. Of course, that isn’t creative writing, but I’m proud of teen-me all the same. I had thought recently that it would be a good idea to take some creative writing classes. I’ve spent hours looking through online MA and MFA Creative Writing Programs, continuing education schedules,, a community college catalogs. I decided to try my had at an online Creative Writing class through my county’s community college. Sadly, I went online tonight to register and the class was already full. None of the continuing education classes seemed like what I really want. I would consider getting a Masters in writing but I would be nervous to start a program with no prior writing experience. The thought of sending out a writing portfolio to be evaluated by a real professor makes me want to break out in hives.

I feel at a loss for understanding how to overcome this anxiety that keeps me from writing. I cannot seem to turn off that inner voice that tells me to not bother, tells me I’ll never write anything that anyone would enjoy. Yet I also cannot find a way to assuage that voice or prove it wrong. With knitting, I took a class and taught myself at home until I could recreate the patterns I saw. Even now, I hit stitches I’m not familiar with and have to seek out videos to learn from. It is so simple to know I’ve done it correctly when I see the stitches unfurl into something recognizable. I cannot seem to find a way to do that with writing. I am a person that is cripplingly afraid of failure, so putting myself out there with something so so unsubstantiated does not seem to be something I can make myself do.

So instead of writing, I find myself knitting for comfort and safety. I also find myself browsing online classes again and again wishing I was brave enough to take that leap. To decide that, even though I already have a Masters and don’t need one, I deserve to give myself the opportunity to try for MA/MFA in writing. Of course, I might be more willing to make the leap Masters programs didn’t cost about $30,000.

Eventually, I will need to reconcile myself to the thought that I’ll never write and these characters will forever fester in my mind, or I will need take a chance.

7 thoughts on “Comparing Writing and Knitting

  1. Hi. Nice to meet you. This post – and the deep feelings you express in it – captured my attention. I usually lurk for a while before diving in, but I’ll make an exception this time.

    Check out an online writing / critique group called Critique Circle. The site is massive and a little confusing at first, but it offers much of what you seem to want and need. I’m not currently active there, but being involved for several months gave me the confidence I needed to start taking my writing seriously.

      • I hope you do continue with the story idea that you started, whether you write just for yourself or with the aim of publication. Oh, and “Ouch!” to the cost of masters degrees over there. I don’t really know about other resources in North America, but here in the UK I used to be a member of, which was always good for honest critique. Given that it’s online, I’m sure you could join if you’re interested. I understand the fear, though. (I’m a closet novel-writer, but never mention it on my blog. Just finishing a masters degree in writing fiction and trying to put the knitting needles down for long enough to submit my damn novel!)

  2. You have really hit the nail on the head – how DO you know if you are any good at writing??? I had thought about self-publishing for kindle readers – you could offer a free book to download and see how it goes? I guess another little way is to send short stories into magazines and see if there is any take up. If neither seems for you, maybe you write more than short stories or you feel you just don’t want to publish and not be paid for it – then you should just try and get honest answers from friends/colleagues when you present stories for them to read – then hopefully get the confidence to send off manuscripts to publishers. You only live once, go for it in some way!

    • I think the idea of submitting short stories. That would be a good gauge of writing quality. My first baby step into writing publicly was to apply to be a book reviewer because I had to submit two sample reviews. I was incredibly nervous but I was accepted into the review staff. Thank you for the encouragement!

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