I’m not sure when I realized that other hobbies and art forms had so much meaning and connection to the writing process for me. Whether directly, or indirectly, the activities we writers engage in outside of our craft can impact our work in a variety of ways.
Almost a decade ago, I met a coworker who inspired me to relearn how to knit, and became a good friend in the process. I’d tried it when I was in grade school, but ran into problems with my first hat knit in the round. You knitters out there know what can happen when you try to join the circle without twisting the first row . . . I digress. My friend is a marvelous knitter who had me knitting again in no time, and this time I was addicted.
Knitting often provides me a creative break from the page. The rhythm of whatever pattern I’m working on takes me to a different place. Sometimes the activity creates a space in my mind where new ideas come for stories, characters, or scenes for a piece I’ve already started. Other times that knitting can be a trickster and a devious temptress. When I start a new pattern, I often dive right in and don’t stop for hours; it’s all I’ll do with my free time for days in a row. But even as a distraction, knitting serves to make me appreciate and sometimes pine for the art of writing.
Back in the spring, I took an intuitive painting class. I was excited—the little kid in me remembered finger painting and the like, and I couldn’t wait to get started. I chose my brushes and colors with no problem. And then I just stood in front of the blank paper and stared. Panic set in. I had no idea where to begin, and feared that whatever I put on the page would be substandard. Sound familiar? As writers, we often edit ourselves out of a good story before we even get started.
With a little encouragement from the teacher, I finally laid down my first brush stroke. Gradually, as I allowed myself to create whatever came, my painting took shape. It’s much more difficult to edit art, but the teacher emphasized that we should not think of any brush stroke as a mistake, but to allow it to be part of the whole work that we created. The humility I felt as a new artist, and the freedom I learned helped me to relate to my own Intuitive Writing students, and to continue to express that freedom whenever I sit down to write. Writing should feel free—there will always be more than enough time for critiquing, editing, and revising later.
When I saw that another artist friend of mine was teaching a pen drawing class, I couldn’t resist. From the first session, I experienced the parallels between what I’m trying to learn in the class, and what I’m striving to achieve as a writer. One session began with playing drums from the teacher’s native Senegal. We then each chose a drum that we wanted to draw. Moving freely through the music, and then the artwork, inspired me so much that I sat down and wrote a blog post about it the minute I arrived home that night.
Whether it’s music, painting or drawing, photography, fiber arts like knitting, crochet, or weaving, or even sports, every writer should—and probably does—have some activity in his or her life to balance the art of writing.