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Saturday, 26 October 2013 00:00

The trouble with experts

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I remember years ago discovering knitting. I’d barely finished my first scarf before deciding I wanted to make a sweater with a sunset on the back. How cool, I thought, to have all those subtle gradations of color rising up the back of my cardigan.

Because I hadn’t a clue how to do it, I went into my local yarn shop and asked an expert. ‘You can’t,’ was her answer. ‘You’d need a different color yarn for every row and what would you do with all those odd-colored balls leftover? Plus you’d end up with a thousand lose threads at the back of the work which you’d either have to thread in or leave hanging loose.’ She scowled at the thought. ‘Very unprofessional looking.’

With my creative bubble well and truly burst, I went home with some boring monotone yarn and a pattern that would show me the ‘proper’ way to knit a sweater.  

Years later a man named Kaffe Fasset discovered knitting. Because he was an artist he approached the process from a totally different angle – he used yarn to create his  garments the way he used paints to create his paintings. He was as ignorant about the ‘right’ way to knit as I had been. The difference was he didn’t ask an expert for help.

Fasset did exactly what that woman in the yarn shop told my I couldn’t. (His patterns use upwards of 90 different colors for a single garment!) In the process he discovered a way to knit in all the lose ends as he worked so he didn’t have to thread them in afterwards. Yes, he ended up with drawers full of odd-colored yarn but they simply added to his source materials for future projects.

What does this story have to do with writing? Here’s what I took away from the experience:

Never let an expert tell you something can’t be done until you’ve tried it yourself. (Unless we’re talking skydiving or mountain climbing.)

Never let another writer tell you there’s only one right way to write.

Never let anyone turn you off an idea for a story until you’ve thoroughly explored it. (And even then, have one more go – that idea came to you for a reason!)

Never let a ‘proper’ education get in the way of true learning.

I make this my first post for a reason: most of what I’ll be discussing in this blog are approaches to writing that have worked for me. They might not necessarily work best for others; I offer them simply as options to consider. So no matter how excited I get about an idea, please don’t think I’m suggesting it’s the only way to do it.

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