This cold, dank and inimitably dark season is also the yarn season. Unlike living, any knitting project can be unraveled and reknit. Late last night, knitting while reading my bell hooks library book propped open with my bare toes, I realized the needles and yarn I had mated didn’t fit. Still reading, I unwound the hat and rolled up the yarn. This evening, I chose a smaller needle size, and this hat I’m knitting for a friend’s Christmas present is aptly on its way.
Not so, our lives.
I’m sometimes asked, But is your fiction real? Of course it’s real, but it’s also fiction. Isn’t the craft of writing rewriting ad infinitum? Take out a character, emphasize a plot point, weave through an image of a great blue heron? Our lives are bulkier and baggier things.
I was reminded of this, stopping along a roadside today, admiring how the trees knit into the sky. One of my childhood’s keenest memories is standing at the edge of a giant cornfield in Illinois, where our family was camping on one of our numerous cross country treks. I was likely ten, the age of my younger daughter now, and I stood with my father, excited as I have ever been about anything in my life. Good lord, all that corn and the sky! The world was limitless.
The true artist is never so lost in his imaginary world that he forgets the real world, where teenagers have a chemical propensity toward anguish, people between their thirties and forties have a tendency to get divorced, and people in their seventies have a tendency toward loneliness, poverty, self-pity, and sometimes anger. The true artist choses never to be a bad physician. He gets his sense of worth and honor from the conviction that art is powerful – even bad art.
John Gardner, The Art of Fiction