Monday, January 31, 2022

When Writing is Akin to Knitting

When Writing is Akin to Knitting

Writing for me is like knitting a pair of socks: one-word-at-a-time, one-stitch-at a-time. One-sentence-at-a-time, one-row-at-a-time. Turning points and turning heels. Weaving threads. Overcoming challenges. Running out of yarn/momentum. Shaping. Adding colour. Changing up the intricacies. Keeping it simple. Unravelling the tangles. And yes, pulling all the stitches from the needle, winding the yarn and starting over. Rewriting. And having confidence and commitment to keep going.

Until I write: ‘The End'. Or I cast off.

I’m a knitter. I have been since nursery school where I was taught to knit dishcloth squares before I turned four. That was when I was taught to read and write. These three skills have equipped me through life.

Susan on the lap of her nursery school teacher circa 1947

My approach to writing is so much on a par with knitting I find selecting skeins in luscious colours and textures, winding with the help of another pair of arms, is no different for me to observing human behaviour, being inspired, researching, discussing ideas, and drafting the first elements of a story.

Casting on those first stitches fill me with anticipation of the creation to come. In writing, I build on that, linking ideas, openings, plots, characters, resolutions, settings.

When it comes to knitting socks there are stages—so similar to my approach to writing that I find it hard to separate the two. Once I get started I flow with little to stop me. Like telling a story, I just rattle along. The needles click-clacking to a rhythm. Like the keys of my computer, or pen to paper, just tip-tapping along at speed. In both cases, very often without conscious thought.

Then things come to that, all too often, halt. The story isn’t following the plot, the characters are doing their thing and not mine and it is time to take stock, not unlike like spotting a dropped stitch, knowing it has to be corrected, knowing how to fix it. Recounting stitches. Getting out the tape measure. Asking, what’s the word count again? 

Turning the heel for me is a three-part process. Each stage I tackle in one sitting in order not to lose the thread (pardon the pun). These stages hold up the overall process but are so important.

Like my writing—the stage I always refer to as, ‘the mess in the middle’.

And then it’s bashing onward through the foot to the toe. Bringing the story to a conclusion. Closing the toe. Finishing. Writing: ‘The End’.

There are no other activities I can so closely compare, as I have the two. I am so thankful for my nursery school teaching

Which of your early skills do you still find invaluable? Is there anything you do that you can compare with the writing process?