Thursday, March 20, 2014

Unraveling

Since taking up knitting, I've done a fair amount of unraveling. For one thing, I'm new enough that sometimes the instructions confuse me, and I only realize I'm wrong after repeating the error over and over. For another, if I get the least distracted during a critical section and lose count, I might cable left when I should cable right, or knit two together in the wrong place.

Three hats
Once I even had the experience of not liking the way a particular yarn worked in a particular pattern, so I unraveled the entire ten inches I'd done and started over, doubling the yarn with another.

Happily, most yarn is forgiving, and can be unraveled and reknitted. And I have a local yarn shop where the patient and knowledgeable staff will sit with me and work me through a tricky spot. I'm there at least once a week.

Knitting is so analogous to writing it's perhaps one reason why so many authors I know are knitters.

I've unraveled more than one book in revision. I've repeated errors over and over (pet phrase, anyone? character tics, everybody?), and gotten distracted by a subplot or character and lost the thread of the main plot. I've had to start over countless times. And I've counted on the genius of my critique partners, beta readers, and agent to work me through a tricky spot.
Partial selfie with cowl

Like yarn, words - and diction and syntax - are forgiving. It's the underlying pattern that counts, coupled with what I bring to it - with every project, there's a bit of difference. Those three hats were knit from the same pattern, but the yarns and how I was feeling during the project made them come out with a unique finish, one knit tight, one knit loose, one stretchier than the others.

It's no wonder that we describe both writing and knitting as crafts. We craft a novel, and when we get it wrong, we can unravel and start again. It won't come out the same way each time but with each effort we draw closer to something we think fully expresses the pattern we want to show to the world.


4 comments:

heathermuir said...

I should have known I wasn't the only one to make that connection. Writing and knitting are very similar for me. I have been knitting for almost 14 years and have knitted nearly everything under the sun. Having seen improvement in my knitting craft over the years, it gives me hope that my writing will get better the longer I write :) Thanks!

Janet Fox said...

Heather- I really think knitting strengthens writing. I do a lot of meditating on my stories while I knit. Thanks so much for your insight and for coming by!!

LinWash said...

This post is so apt for my life. Only I'm crocheting, rather than knitting. But it's so true. I also think about my story as I crochet. I can solve thorny problems by working with my hands on some other project.

Janet Fox said...

Exactly, Linda. And the vest I'm working on now? Really complicated? Unraveled the whole thing yesterday. But it's better now. I lost a stitch somewhere and it was never going to be right. Kind of like when you feel something is wrong with the story. Take it back a few steps until you get back to the good.