Why Am I Still Writing?

Knitting
What do knitting and writing have in common?

This article is by Craig Robertson.

If I write something and not many people read it, am I wasting my time?  This is an important question and I think most creators ask it, be they authors, musicians, dancers, or painters.

I write speculative fiction – time travel, mythic figures, spoofs on genres – that type of thing.  Moreover, I write fiction which is not mainstream.  I pound away for hours at my stories and my podcasts and my blogs.  I think they are all perfectly wonderful.  But, come on now, we all know people who think their FLK’s (medical for ‘funny looking kid’ – honest to goodness) are soooo beautiful.  In point of fact, the child is so peculiar looking, and acting, that you are glad you are not the parent.  Many might advise, for example, that if my writing efforts are not very successful maybe I could better spend my time doing something else – you know, something productive, useful, not a complete waste of my time.

Ask a thorny question and I will give you a thornless answer.  Some people, I would remind the gentle reader, go fishing.  The fellow buys a boat and amasses a bunch of ‘stuff’, then haul all their crap to Lake Whoknowswhere every weekend.  There he will sit in the rain, being eaten by bugs, for what?  He catches a fish, perchance some fish.  But wait, I can drive 10 minutes to the market and buy a (reasonably) fresh trout – whole, filleted, or smoked.  So, is the fisherman wasting his time?

Another example.  I love my San Francisco Giants.  I have been a devoted fan since 1960.  If I sit for 3 hours watching the full game on TV or at the park, what have I tangibly gained the next morning?  Be I thrilled or distraught, pleased or heart-broken, am I a better, richer, or more complete person for my investment of time?

My hobby, let us call it for now – until I make the NY Times List – is writing speculative fiction.  I am a physician by trade, specifically an Adult Medicine specialist.  On my lunch hour, I will often open my laptop and work on my latest opus.  A passersby will see me typing and ask why I’m charting instead of relaxing.  No, I will tell them as my shoulders wince, knowing what’s to come, that I’m working on my science fiction novel.  Then I receive the bemusement and a remark like, “So, you have an agent and a publisher and I can buy your books at Barnes & Noble?”  After dying a little inside, I inform them that no, that is not exactly the case.  I reveal, as my head drops to half-mast, that I am instead self-published and can be found on my website or on Amazon.  Sometimes tactfully, most times not, the individual will issue a remark that I am some form of silly, that my efforts are misdirected, or worse yet, they simply change their look from stunned-bemusement to smug-bemusement and walk-on.

Well, necessity being as she is the mother of invention, I have come-up with a come-back, a justification, what in distant times was called an “apologia” for my writing.  Now, before the acquaintance can exit my office to begin spreading the word that Robertson thinks he’s Ernest Hemingway, I tell them what I am doing is nothing more than “my knitting.”

Here’s what I mean.  Millions of people knit.  Now, at least here in the US, no one needs knitted products.  Come-on, let’s be honest here.  What percentage of home crafters of any ilk fabricate quality products sought after by others?  Do you personally wake each day hoping to acquire additional knitted clothing from some elderly friend?  I rather doubt it.  Most knitters gift their knitting upon completing the item gratis.  They do so because:

  • They must get rid of it.  That stuff can really accumulate if one is not very proactive.
  • No one in their right mind, the knitter knows from bitter experience, will purchase the objects.
  • The fabricator is driven by a deep-seeded longing to help others.  They wish to make the lot of souls they may casually encounter better.  This is a good instinct, though in the present context, delusional.

But always remember that what the knitter gains is nothing short of miraculous.  They are able to be counted among those who are creative – an artisan more than an artist, yes, but they’re in that lofty category for certain.  The knitter is fulfilled, both by the act of creating and the act of giving.  They have, in a tangible manner, been able to reach out and touch someone else, ostensibly changing the recipient’s life towards the positive.  What a wonderful thing it is, I submit to you, to be a knitter!  We should all be so lucky.

Studies have shown that the rhythmic repetitive act of manipulating the yarn is therapeutic.  Who does not wish to be healthy?  The benefits of knitting include improved joint function, a sharper mind, decreased stress, and dopamine levels which should be controlled by the FDA.  The farsighted governments around the globe should require all humans over the age of 5 to knit daily.

So, my friends, back to my point – and yes, I do have one.  Some healthy, striving, gifted individuals knit.  I write speculative fiction.  I write it the best I can, and hence can claim truthfully to be an author.  I mostly give my work away for free, so I am further a giver.  Writing is my knitting.  Rhythmic repetitive movements, an active brain, decreased idle time – why it’s meditation in its most concentrated form.  I change my assertion.  People everywhere should be mandated to either knit or to write speculative fiction.  Yes, that’s the ticket.  A healthier, happier world in which peace and harmony will abound.  It’s Bill and Ted all over again!

So this is why I keep writing.  What about you?  If you are not published, why do you still write?

About the Author:

Craig Robertson is a physician in Northern California.  He has three speculative fiction novels available on Amazon, and is working on his fourth book in the same genre.  In addition to writing, Craig also podcasts his stories and contributes to an astronomy podcast.  More information and pertinent links can be found on his blog, myfavoriteauthor-craig.blogspot.com, or on his webpage, www.myfavoriteauthor.net.

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Alexandra Butcher
3 years ago

Great post. I get asked similar questions – why do I write? When do I expect to be famous? Wearily I try and explain again. Writing keeps me (fairly) sane, it’s relaxing and because I can’t not write. The stories are there, clamouring to be heard and whether I get them onto paper or the screen that isn’t going to change. I write because I can and I do. It makes me happy, it lets me escape. It lets me create something – and that, as you say, is wonderful. I sell books (not many but I do sell), but I don’t write for the money or I’d have starved long ago.
I’ve always made up stories, worlds and situations. It’s a part of who and what I am. If other people decide to mock it then that’s their problem. I’m not going to stop doing something I love because someone is too foolish or unthinking to think it worthwhile.
I’ve been asked what constitutes ‘success’. I think that’s relative. 6 or so years ago I wrote for myself and a small group of friends, someone convinced me to self-publish and see what happened. I sold a few books, then a few more. It wasn’t the ‘give up the day job’ level but then I never imagined it would be. More importantly whilst I was writing book I my mother was suffering with the cancer she’d bravely fought for 18 years. It was a long and awful struggle, but she was stoic, courageous and I only heard her complain once. I published book I in June 2012 and she died in September of that year. I took a printed copy home to show her, and my disabled father – a man whose world was about to be shattered – and she smiled. Really, really smiled. Mum was pretty much bedbound by then but she got up, and went downstairs. She called her mother, my sisters, told the carers, and the neighbours who visited. Despite it all, despite all the pain, and the indignity of her awful illness my book made her happy and proud. That is success.

Ramona
Ramona
8 years ago

It’s not a bad comparison. Writers write, when they write for themselves it’s very relaxing. I know from experience that I really like writing until I get a contract. Then suddenly, it’s work, not fun. I’m a knitter, too. I like knitting, it’s soothing and creative and allows me time to think. But if I have an obligation to knit, well suddenly it’s work and it’s not so much fun.

Agend04419
Agend04419
8 years ago

I have people asking me to knit things for them all the time. Where I come from, people really appreciate warm knitted items. Guess it depends on where you live. Maine is cold, and wool is wonderfully warm.

Antonio del Drago
8 years ago

Dear Knitters:

While the author of this article, Dr. Robertson, may have some misconceptions about knitting, his intention was not to disparage or insult you. 

Ultimately, he’s highly praising knitting from the perspective that he knows best – which is that of a health care professional.

Please exercise some kindness here.  No harm was meant.

My wife is a very serious – and talented – knitter, and I know how amazing it can be when a person approaches it as an art form.  I benefit from it every day.

Thank you for understanding.

cee
cee
8 years ago

Not everything has to be useful to provide enjoyment. There are some misconceptions about acquiring hand knitted items in the article but I’m not offended. I’m not the sterotypical elderly grandma that knits in a rocker – I don’t knit for profit – I knit for enjoyment. Writers write for enjoyment – we need creative outlets whether we knit, write, cook, etc.

Mecmkk
Mecmkk
8 years ago

My husband, childdren, grandchildren and several other family members  beg me to knit and crochet things for them. I have co-workers look at me knitting socks at lunch and ask how much I would charge them to make them a pair of socks. My standard “$100 if you buy the yarn, $150 if I do” stops them dead. KNITTING may be my hobby, but it is also my art. Good materials (yarn) and skill produce a fine hand crafted work of art that is also functional. You need to rethink your analogy. 

Anontimenovel
Anontimenovel
9 years ago

Thanks to you all for knitting-together a pleasant series of comments – much appreciated… craig

Lexus Luke
Lexus Luke
9 years ago

Hey now! A knitter and a write her. The repetitive motion of knitting also leads to great thinking time. I’ve come up with some awesome plot twists in the middle of a sock.

And, I’ve actually seen friends and family wearing my hand knitted gifts in public. So, they can’t be that bad 😉

Antonio del Drago
Reply to  Lexus Luke
9 years ago

@google-df0ab79469741fc9cbb8a9ee4930769b:disqus
My wife is also a hardcore knitter.  For her, it helps her to focus and think more clearly.  It’s very therapeutic. 

My daughter I wear her stuff all throughout the winter.  🙂

Benjamin Clayborne
Benjamin Clayborne
9 years ago

Yeah. It’s all about a misunderstanding of the benefits. If I love writing, then making money from it is just a *bonus.* Writing makes me feel good, and that’s why I do it.

betsdavies
betsdavies
9 years ago

Great piece!  Knitting.  God.  I hope I am at least a little more wanted than knitting.  I’m published by a small indie.  Am I ever going to make my living as an author?  Nah.  I write my writing because it is an addictive, compelling urge and I get cranky if deprived of it.  For me, it isn’t the physcial act that is theraputic.  It is creation.  It is the examination of what someone like this would do in a situation like that.  

Jenna St. Hilaire
9 years ago

“Writing is my knitting”… Brilliant! This piece just thrilled me. Thanks for giving us all a solid argument against the days when it all feels like a waste of time. Well said, sir. 🙂

Pfloyd
Pfloyd
9 years ago

I’ve written plenty and none of it will ever see the light of day or be read by anyone other than me.  There is definitely a health and utility benefit to doing it though, and that’s why I do it. 

Having a creative outlet, even one that you ultimately will never share, is just good brain medicine. 

entrebat
entrebat
7 years ago

Great correlation Craig. It’s an interesting stigma that we carry. Few look down on those who create tactile material. They do not criticize them for wasting their time. I hope that someday society will recognize our work.
Thanks for pushing the envelope and sharing.

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