Writing and Knitting (and Lifting Weights)

Last night I went to a reading/conversation at The Center For Fiction for Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting, edited by Ann Hood, who read her essay, and in conversation with one of my favorite teachers from NYU, Elissa Schappell.

The book, from what I understand, uses knitting or learning to knit, or family members that knit, as a jumping off point to talk about other things, for the most part, rather than being about the intricacies of knitting. No knit snobs allowed.

But how can you be snobby when someone learned to knit to give their hands something to do when they mourned the death of a child, or said goodbye to a dying parent? The book contains a variety of perspectives, stories both funny and poignant. I definitely plan to read it at some point.

ETA: My mother-in-law is getting this book for me for Christmas/Hannukah! Awesome.

Hood and Schappell talked about if writers write like they knit. I’ve often thought that knitting a sweater bears some similarities to writing a novel:

1. They are big projects that take a lot of time and patience

2. They are 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

3. Sweaters/novels stand on the shoulders of those that have come before, and do well to follow certain rules, but can also be formed in many different ways.

And then me as a knitter/writer:

1. I like to do research first, putting together stitch patterns and a sweater pattern, never following any pattern exactly, but always having a moderate plan.

2. I am ambitious. I am not a swatcher, a hat-knitter, or a short story writer. I like to knit beautiful, intricate sweaters on small needles. I write long historical novels. So far, anyway.

3. I knit mostly for myself. At least when I’m knitting sweaters. I write and plan the books I want to read.

4. I am impatient, and begin before fully planning, and do my planning along the way.

5. Successes and failures are big and dramatic. I can work for months or years, slave over something, and it may not be usable, wearable, readable in the end. Or it might be a sweater that every time I put it on, I think: this might be the most beautiful sweater in the entire world.

But as a somewhat serious strength athlete, there are ways I think writing is like getting stronger.

1. You have to trust the process.

2. There is a lot to learn, and you have to do some things that don’t seem that helpful but actually do help in the long run.

3. You have to be patient. You’re lifting things and its only getting slightly easier, but then months go by, and if you keep doing it, at the end, you are stronger, and you have the word count for a novel, if not the structure yet.

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