Sunday, January 12, 2014

Knit One, Purl Four: On Patience

After a hiatus of some years, I've recently taken up knitting again. It was one of those spur-of-the-moment things, looking in a shop window at all the brilliant yarn colors and thinking, well, why not? A small investment.

Plus, I really needed a way to disconnect.

Those who know me well know that I am not a patient person. I'm also something of a workaholic. I love writing and when I spend more than a couple of days away from it, I become very unhappy, anxious, fretful. I guess I’m a little compulsive about my work. I want to get the story out, put it on the page, open it to the world.

But much of writing requires patience. For one thing, the best stories are those with depth and nuance, and those things take time to craft. Like the best stews must simmer, the best writing needs to simmer both on the page and in the brain. Simmering requires time.

When I finish a draft, I’m impatient to get it out there, somewhere, but that’s a poor strategy, isn’t it? Yes, we all know how tempting it is to hit “send” way too soon. (It can be equally destructive to keep rewriting the same story over and over and over, but that’s a discussion for another post.) It takes time and distance – simmering – to recognize the flaws in a work.
One of my fingerless gloves...

Then there’s the whole legendary waiting game within the industry. Waiting to hear from an agent. Waiting to hear from an editor. Waiting for the marketing people to okay the project, waiting for the edits, waiting for the book to come out. Waiting for the artwork. Waiting for the reviews. Waiting for the sales. Waiting for the check. From novel idea to book in hand can take years.

So, knitting. I’ve discovered that knitting is very meditative. Anything I knit that is complicated requires counting, and at least a minimal attention to what’s occupying my hands. I can listen to something but it’s hard to carry on a conversation. Other voices in my head go quiet. Even my nagging little internal editor shuts up.

Now I know why so many authors I’ve met are knitters. As the brain goes quiet the subconscious wakes up, and the subconscious knits the next story thread, the next character, the next scene. While my hands are occupied with creating something tangible, my brain is occupied with the intangible.

Plus, I'm learning to slow down and become patient.

I’d love to hear from some fellow knitters – or, do you have another strategy for developing patience?


Hannah J said...

Ah, knitting. I tried this, but it just didn't click with me. I could never purl, or I'd drop stitches, or I'd somehow increase accidentally and end up with an amorphous mass of a scarf. Strangely, though, I love to crochet. The stitch-counting in that really helps me switch off the thoughts, too. Of other hobbies, polymer clay modelling and jewellery making are good when you want your hands occupied, but they don't shut out the thoughts quite as well. It depends what mood I'm in. :)

Janet Fox said...

Hannah - That's so interesting. I never really tried crochet - maybe I should. And also interesting that these other hand-crafts have different brain effects. Hmm.

LinWash said...

Oh. I love that!! Love the color!
I knit and crochet. Crocheting is probably my preferred activity. Certain patterns relax me. When I'm facing a thorny story issue, I pick up my crocheting. Feeling soft yarn at my fingertips does wonders!

Janet Fox said...

Thanks, Linda. I always admired Rita and others at Vermont who seemed to take such joy in knitting. Now I understand! Lots of people seem to love crochet and some of the things are so pretty......

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