Friday, January 31, 2014

The Knitting, er, Writing Life

I'm always impressed by how often writers are creative in other ways. We're musicians, dancers, singers, sculptors, painters, and martial artists as well as story-tellers. (Or maybe these are all other ways of telling stories and it's all the same thing.) Many of us are also knitters or crocheters. That's one of Vonda N. McIntyre's beautiful beaded sea creatures on the right.

I like to knit for a lot of reasons. For one thing, I learned from my mother (and I still have a pair of her double-pointed needles from her own youth). I love the soothing, repetitive movements. I love that I can do it and something else at the same time. I love that when I'm done I have something beautiful and useful to give away. (I do a fair amount of charity knitting, which you can read about here.. I love that friends will scavenge yard sales for supplies for me, thereby creating a living "knitwork" of love throughout the community.

But most of all, I love the enduring lesson of Writing According to Knitting: It doesn't matter how many mistakes you made, you can always unravel the dratted thing and start over. Maybe other people don't need this lesson repeatedly drilled into their brains, but I do. For me, it's the essential underlying principle of revision. If a first draft, like a knitting project, is so well within my skill and comfort zone that I don't make any mistakes, all it takes is a light polish (read: blocking) and I'm done. But I'll never get any better that way. I have to try things I've never done before, often things that call for concentration, consistency, and staying in touch with the tension of my hands or the tension in the story.

It's fine to stretch beyond my abilities. In fact, it's necessary. And delirious and terrifying. But you know what? If I make an awful tangle of it, I can always go back and do it over. And over, until I either set the project aside until I'm more adept or my skills come up to snuff.

So take a flying leap off the edge of reality. Push the envelope harder than you thought possible. Try something you've always believed impossible. Take risks and then grow to meet them.

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