NaNoWriMo Writing

In Which I Compare Writing To Knitting

I’ve been doing a lot of knitting lately. I’ve also been doing a lot of writing. With NaNoWriMo almost over I’ve been working hard to sit down and write every day. I haven’t always managed that but I’m much better than I was last year. Now what does knitting have to do with that? At first glance, not a thing. But, recently, it hit me that writing and knitting are quite a lot alike.

First, knitting and writing require patience and practice. You aren’t going to learn to knit the moment you pick up a ball of yarn and a pair of knitting needles. Neither are you going to automatically write a bestseller by picking up a pen and putting it to paper. Both require skills you have to learn, over and over again. Knowing how to hold a string and a needle in one hand and a second needle in the other while simultaneously wrapping that string around the second needle without dropping the first needle is not a natural or easy skill to learn. It takes time and a lot of patience. So, too, knowing how to put words and phrases together so that they make sense is not a natural skill, but a learned one. We are not born knowing how to speak. We have to learn through daily lessons (listening to those around us and mimicking those sounds) how a word means something and how a certain way of saying it makes it mean something else.

The more challenging the knitting or writing, the more experience you gain. As in knitting, writing requires you to challenge yourself. Once you learn the basics of knitting then you are able to challenge yourself by attempting a project, for instance, knitting a hat. This will teach you new skills that you do not know yet. Writing is the same. I participate in writing challenges throughout the year because they force me to think outside the box and push the parameters of my current knowledge. Sometimes I am forced outside of my comfort zone. Sometimes my insight and/or perspective changes. My writing reflects these experiences. Challenges push you and if you aren’t being pushed then you, and your writing, can stagnate. What good are your writing skills if you aren’t using them to learn new ones or explore new ideas and perspectives?

Knitting and writing create black holes. Think I’m kidding? I’ve been knitting for over fifteen years. When I’m working on a big project such as a sweater or a blanket (or a freaking Harry Potter scarf in which I begin singing “this is the scarf that never ends…yes, it goes on and on my friends. One day I started knitting never knowing what it was, and I’ll continue knitting it forever just because-you get the idea), I will reach a point where it all stays the same no matter how much or how long I knit. The project never gets bigger, never gets longer, it just STAYS.THE.SAME. This is the black hole of knitting. No matter how many stitches I knit, the project eats them for breakfast. Then chaotically spits them out at some random point in the future without any notice. This means that I am often over my intended length or width and my measurements are way off. Then I have to carefully, stitch by stitch, go back to a place as close to my measurements as possible. It’s a pain the butt. During NaNo I have discovered this same effect. I have gotten behind more than a few times and I have caught back up but it felt as if it took forever. I would type and type and type and not get anywhere close to the word count I was trying to reach. Then, after hours of writing and typing and losing sleep, I went to look and realized (after lots of tears and caffeine) I had written over my goal. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go back and re-type since I’m not editing as I go, but still…it was a pain in the butt. Knitting and writing black holes are evil. Watch out for them.

Knitting and writing are cathartic processes. I’ve heard knitting called a Zen hobby. The idea being that its meditative and relaxing. Have you ever watched someone knitting? Let’s say they are knitting a lace shawl. Guys, this means they are making fabric with a lot of holes in it using dental floss. Having knit a shawl I can tell you, there is nothing relaxing about it. One mistake means you might have to rip THE WHOLE THING OUT! Seriously. In fact, knitting is one of the least relaxing things I do. I’m having to constantly read the instructions and watch what I am doing so I don’t make a lot of mistakes. One oops! and hours of work has to be unraveled and remade. How is this cathartic? Well, actually, its not only cathartic but enjoyable. You see, while I’m knitting (and focusing on something other than the problem that drove me to pick up my knitting in the first place) I have to concentrate on what I’m doing which drives everything else out of my mind. My breathing calms and I am able to think more clearly, less emotionally. While I’m knitting, I begin thinking about other ways to handle/deal with whatever the problem is/was. Basically, I’m using a more productive solution to deal with my stress. Writing does the same, but in a different manner. When I take my emotions out in my writing, I create a more emotional piece. I write out my problems from a different viewpoint (or at least I try), or I write in a new character who I immediately destroy or harangue or plague with problems. Its much more constructive, less destructive, though Freud and Jung might question my sanity. It’s definitely more productive than letting the feelings sit and simmer and eat away at you.

In the end, with both knitting and writing, once all the edits are done, you realize YOU have made something incredible out of nothing. In knitting, the magic takes place after all the knitting is done and your project is put together and washed and dried. In writing, the magic is in the final edits. With knitting, you’ve taken some string and two sticks and created a wearable (usually) item that someone will love. With writing, you take something (words) out of nothing (air) and created something that can be held in two hands (or listened to if its in an audible version) that someone will love. Its an amazing, almost miraculous, thing, and while you may think anyone can do it, the truth is not everyone can. You can’t just pick up a pen and begin writing without basic skills, and some people just never develop those skills beyond simply filling out forms and their signatures. And, oh, horrors! Some people do not have the inclination or desire to write a story! Good thing there are enough of us out there who do, and who want to learn and give voice to the stories that live inside our heads. And, fortunately for me and my family, my knitting knowledge might just save us during the next Ice Age because, you know, skills.

Happy (late) Monday!

Jesi

Jesi Kay
Jesi Kay, poet and aspiring novelist, was born in the Texas panhandle where wide skies, lazy summer days, and rolling thunderstorms sparked her imagination and left lasting memories in her blood. An early reader, poetry and mythology were her passions. So much so that when she was ten years old her step-father gave her his college mythology textbooks to read, which were full of classic poetry and more than enough tales to fill her romantic and inquisitive nature. Jesi loves reading, art, going to the theater, the romanticism of the Victorian era (but not the missing conveniences of indoor plumbing and central air conditioning), running when the heat and humidity cooperate, and cold weather so she can wear her favorite boots and knitwear. Also, she still has those college mythology textbooks, a little worse for wear over time but still intact and telling their stories to her. Jesi is a contributor at The Well Tempered Bards blog and at www.octpowrimo.com.

13 Replies to “In Which I Compare Writing To Knitting

  1. Ha! You almost make me want to pick up knitting again! I haven’t done it in such a long time. I think I gave up after the kids were born, or rather, when the projects had to become bigger and bigger as the kids grew.
    But I totally understand the black hole thing. Been there, done that. I don’t understand how it works with writing, as I have never written a whole made up story. One day maybe.
    For now, I’m just trying to find my voice in writing up my own. It’s plenty for me 🙂
    I remember how cathartic knitting could be, sitting there, the pattern so well ingrained in your mind that you go at it without thinking, so your mind can sort through other things that bug you. I remember unraveling inches of precious knitting, knowing it represented unraveling hours of my precious time. But I loved it.
    Quilting does that to me too. I guess I like needle work. But I’m one who does things in bouts, so… right now, I’m writing. In a few months, years, I’ll pick up knitting again 🙂
    In the mean time, well done on both of your endeavours!
    XO

    1. Thank you, sweetie! Knitting is such an old-fashioned hobby but I love doing it. And I’ve done some quilting in my past. In fact, one of my ongoing projects is a complete hand-embroidered quilt top to be made into a wedding quilt for my niece whenever that time comes. I love textiles and am a very tactile person. I can’t resist touching textures. Especially sensuous fabrics. That’s probably one of the attractions of writing for me…the texture of pen on paper, etc.
      And finding your voice through writing its plenty for now. I, too, go in bouts of interest.

      1. Ha! I do understand the sensory side of this!
        I write with my computer, gave up pen to paper a while ago. It’s easier to hide from the kids, or I don’t have time to do both, first writing on paper then type it all in. I don’t know.
        But right now, I want to explore less practical arts, I want to feel my hands deep in wet clay. Hasn’t happened yet, but… the idea of it is still there 🙂
        XO

    1. Darling, don’t fret, it wasn’t meant to be,
      I was the one fated for the insanity.
      So you don’t knit, there are worse things you could do,
      And besides, I’ve already knitted a hat, ‘specially for you. 😉

        1. A hat, a hat, to warm your cockled little heart,
          Or rather your head, since that’s the part
          it goes on,
          so I thought I’d send a little Texas sunshine your way,
          to have in time for Christmas Day.

          Though shameless hussy that I am,
          it might arrive with the new year’s posts. 😉

  2. I’ve never knitted, tried that whole crochet thing once though . . . upon untangling myself from the mess I’d managed to hook myself in, I vowed never to touch yarn again, but I totally get the analogy and I LOVE it. I can only handle one black hole at a time so I’ll simply stick to weaving words! By the way, I will have that tune stuck in my head for, at the very least, a year now 🙂

    1. LOL. Know what knitters call crocheters? Hookers. 😉
      I’ve been doing some holiday knitting-lots of hats-and decided I needed a sweater for myself because I NEVER make anything for myself and I found this gorgeous blue marbled yarn that looks like sapphire water. And I’ve been using the knitting to clear my brain and think of new scenes and dialogue, then write them down. I’m getting rather a lot done actually. LOL
      And that tune has been stuck in my head since my 19 yr old was a kid and watched Lamb Chop all the time.

        1. You are welcome! 🙂
          I love that joke, except that it’s what we call crocheters. They are experts at hooking. And every time I say it I picture shocked old women in petticoats and Victorian dress having an apoplexy. LOL

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