“You don’t even knit?”
I watched with humor as a person across the table reacted to the fact that I am not a knitter. She wasn’t wearing pearls, but if she had been, I imagined she would be clutching them. Her polite tone belied her opinion: she thought I was some kind of fraud.
Hello. My name is Jenn, and although I have been working in the field of yarn craft for over four years, I do not knit. That’s right. I’ve been writing about yarn and knitting (and crochet, sometimes) for at least three and a half years, and I have literally knitted one row of stitches on circular needles.
That’s it, and that’s okay. It really is. Pearl Clutcher did not make me feel bad for not knowing how to knit. Quite the contrary. I find it fascinating that she thinks an observant writer who is embedded with a group of people saddled with a singular focus could not pick up the finer points of knitting. That, because I don’t actually cast-on, I shouldn’t be putting my words out there to support the activity.
Huh? Does a war correspondent fire a gun? Okay, I’ll slow down a little. I’m not about to compare myself to Christiane Amanpour. Let me start over. Should words on wine only be written by a sommelier? Does a food writer always know how to cook? Does a sports writer shoot hoops with aplomb? Does someone who writes about art make art?
I have five print articles coming up for Artists Magazine. Two of the articles are on acrylic painters. One article is on an artist who uses sumi ink. Another piece covers an artist who executes with found objects and is fond of forest installations. I don’t do any of this stuff. I don’t use acrylic, I have never touched sumi ink, and I am not going to create a piece of art by burying an object, digging it up, and then putting it in a composition.
I should probably quit, right? If I’m just writing about it and not doing it, what is the point? If I don’t “know” the breadth and depth of my subject to the degree that I am executing on that activity, why even put pen to paper?
I want to say this to Cameron Crowe, “As some kind of teenaged savant, you were covering the Allman Brothers for Rolling Stone. Yet, you didn’t write songs or play an instrument. What a stupid use of your time.”
The man who went on to write Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and wrote and directed Say Anything…, Singles, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, and Pearl Jam 20, at one time, was simply a kid who loved music, and who had a talent for words. That was all it took to get him to bail on his schoolwork and run off to cover touring bands for Rolling Stone at the age of 16. Yet, he was not a musician.
Do I feel like I shouldn’t be writing on activities that I don’t participate in? No. If I’m not picking up knitting needles and making cozy accessories like my co-workers, does that make me some kind of failure? Um. No.
I’m not sure where Pearl Clutcher is coming from. Maybe she thinks knowledge is power and you should wield it over people to ensure they understand that you are an authority on the matter. Right now, I’m going through my brain and wondering what I am an authority on. If I did a TED Talk, what would it be about?
(thinks for 10 seconds)
Well, now that I’ve had time to consider it, I would do a TED Talk on impactful storytelling. I would discuss how a single human’s life experience has a way of touching others. How the choices they make in their lifetime have the potential to leave behind positive, long lasting ripple effects. This does have a little something to do with a knitted scarf, for instance. Or a meal. Or music.
I have cast my words into the world on all of the above. I was even assigned to the sports beat on my college paper. After I reported on a basketball game, I was assigned to art and music. You can’t win ‘em all. But laying down my pen just because I haven’t tried every single thing I have been tasked to write about isn’t the answer, either.
Maybe my TED Talk should be about reporting on the things that keep you curious, and the stories behind the people who raise that curiosity and make you want to know more. Or about leading with understanding in order to thwart cynicism, so as to engage in polite conversation with doubters like Pearl Clutcher.
In that moment, all I did was laugh at her reaction and say, “Yeah, it’s kind of funny.” But what I really wanted to tell her is that it is my pleasure to ask questions of the yarn editorial staff when I have an assignment, because who wouldn’t want to talk to them? They’re smart, talented, and they want others to craft. They are happy to impart their words to me because they trust me to deliver the information competently.
I work with experts, and in these four years, not one of them has thrown down the gauntlet and said, “You know, Jenn really needs to stop writing and strategizing content about knitting until she can crank out a cabled sweater.” I think I will lean on that as the true testament to the value of my work, which is to listen well and to ensure others understand what I have learned.
I’ll take that over a set of knitting skills, any day.