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The Trouble With Experts - a lesson in creative freedom

‘Some of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible.’ Doug Larson

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 million lose threads at the back of the work which you’d either have to thread in afterward or leave hanging loose.’ She scowled at the thought.

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 craft from a 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.

The cover of my well-worn copy of Fasset's first book:

Fasset did exactly what that woman in the yarn shop told me I couldn’t. His patterns use upwards of 90 different colors - for a single garment! In the process of creating them he discovered a way to knit-in all the loose 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 became the source materials for future projects.

Once I saw what Fasset had done I jumped in with all the thwarted enthusiasm I'd harbored for my original idea. I designed and knitted dozens of sweaters using this multi-color approach. But only after Fasset's trailblazing set me free.

So what did I take from this experience to apply to other creative endeavors (including writing)?

Think twice about abandoning a project because an expert tells you it can’t be done. (Unless we’re talking skydiving here 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.

In this blog I'll occasionally share approaches to writing that have worked for me. No matter how excited I sound about an idea, please don’t think I’m suggesting it’s the only way to do it. If it sounds interesting, give it a go and if it doesn't work, do it your way!

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