I have been creative for as long as I can remember, so excessively creative that I’ve developed numerous outlets for it which rarely overlap. One of the primary ones for me is knitting. I knit in far greater volume than any other thing I do. I am fast, and I am good at it — I even teach knitting classes locally.
To get really good at something, you probably have to be able to do it often, or in volume. People like Picasso or Dali produced masses of stuff — drawings, etchings, paintings, sculpture. Some of it was good, some of it was great. But there was so much of it that the number of great items is pretty large. This is why every writer has novels in the trunk, and stories in file cabinets.
This is the big flaw with the great creative artist in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Feanor the Elven smith. As you will recall, Feanor forged the Silmarils back at the beginning of time, artificial gems which captured divine light. Then, after making them, he declared that he could never make them again, nor make anything else — and when the Silmarils were stolen he went into a prolonged pout. This is so not right that I cannot believe it for a moment. If Feanor was worth anything, he would have blinked once or twice and then declared, “Well! I can make them again. Better, stronger, faster. In fact I have a couple improvements in mind. Suppose a Silmaril had wi-fi capability? I bet that divine starlight could power MP3s and voicemail…” (But then of course the plots of The Silmarillion and LOTR would collapse, so Tolkien could not allow this.)
I do not claim to be a Picasso or Tolkien on the knit front. But I can assure you that doing something a whole lot gets you to a level of expertise that cannot be achieved in any other way. And because knitting can be quite small, it is possible to do this. After you knit many different mittens — mittens fair-isle or thrummed, mittens with cables up the backs and ribbing to the elbows, mittens that covert to gloves (“glittens”) or that have an extra finger to allow of shooting a rifle, two-cuffed mittens to accomodate handholding, giant mittens in Lopi wool to felt down but with cuffs knitted on in acrylic that won’t shrink — after you have done everything that can be done with the form, you approach a sort of Zen expertise. You begin to comprehend Mitten in its platonic form, the purity of Mitten-ness. And armed with that insight you can go where no knitter has gone before and truly create a new mitten. You get things like lengthways mittens or sideways mittens or purely arty mittens that have no practical use at all.
Oh, and I don’t even like mittens. Knitted gloves are prettier and more challenging.
But this is a good thing for the aspiring writer to keep in mind. Remember, Robert Heinlein told us that we have to write. Do that. Write a lot, write different things, write the same thing different ways. Be prolix. Try on different writing hats, dip into different genres, sign on to write something you’ve never written before. Everyone who wants to be creative: generate a lot of product, and inevitably you do get better. Ditch all the duds — knitters unravel them and rewind the yarn for use in other projects. Viewing only your superb successes, people will become very impressed with your skill and excellence.
Brenda Clough’s Revise the World is available in Book View Cafe’s eBookstore.