As I was scrolling through social media this weekend, a sponsored link popped up from Masterclass. Most ads annoy me, but there is something very compelling about these online classes. Maybe it's the rockstar artist types they have doing them - I mean, legit famous people ‑ world renowned experts in their field ‑teaching subjects not in the catalog of the most prestigious universities. Annie Lebovitz, Itzhak Perlman and Wolfgang Puck speak with such candor. It's‑as if they are a close friend, right in the room with you sharing their authentic experience, helping you to explore and learn. It is honestly mesmerizing. One particular promo featured the novelist Joyce Carol Oates. A legend in the writing world, and a household name in the reading world, she appeared on my screen talking about writing, and I was hooked.
"We'll begin with shorter forms‑ short stories, short monologues, and poetry‑ something we can finish. Something we can show other people. That's very satisfying and necessary to a writer," she explained, "What we all need is the satisfaction of this little uplift that we get psychologically from finishing something."
Her words struck me on several levels. First, it was incredibly validating. I have never really considered myself a writer because real writers write books. But here she is, Joyce Carol Oates, telling me that short forms are also legitimate writings. She gave me the courage to take pride in my little word craft and dare to call myself a writer. That was huge. For many of us, it's much the same with our knitting, deciding what kind of project defines someone as a knitter. The fact is this: we don't have to knit sweaters to be a real knitter. Many very talented knitters don't do sweaters at all. The scarf, the sock, and the hat are totally legitimate forms and can exemplify the highest expression of the art. Consider Tanis Gray's stunning colorwork cowls or Hunter Hammersen's elegant socks and hats. The limitations of size and scope can make the small form of both writing and knitting, even more challenging than large scale projects.
It's also interesting to me that Ms. Oates talks about the enormous psychological value inherent in the completion of small projects. Whether in writing or in knitting, that little boost of pride and satisfaction is very real. Studies have shown that in areas where our self-esteem is directly involved, we tend to remember our successes very strongly and be motivated by them. In the shop we talk about those instant gratification projects that we can work up quickly for that quick hit of dopamine our brain releases on finishing. That release can be just what we need to jumpstart a larger project or pull us out of a slump.
And finally, in her promo, Ms. Oates says, "If anyone who is listening to me feels like he or she is a writer, they probably are." Likewise, in the shop. If you enjoy what you are doing and feel like you're a knitter, then you are, and we welcome you.
I look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table. You are always welcome here. ~Ellen