Bess warned me.
“Don’t learn to knit,” she said. “It’s addicting. You won’t do anything else.”
Did I listen? No. Au contraire.
I learned to knit in March. Since then, I’ve finished many scarves, countless dish cloths, and collected enough yarn to fill two file boxes, a large tote, an entire drawer in my filing cabinet, and a couple baskets. To be fair, my mother is a knitter, and unloaded some of her stash on me. But I am not innocent. I took it gladly, and collected more myself.
Here’s just some of my stash. And yeah, I’m deep in the midst of Christmas knitting, so I have lots. But still. You get the idea. Beaucoup de yarn.
At first I wondered what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I stop knitting? Then I realized that knitting is a lot like writing. In some ways, the two activities are similar. I have a pile of story ideas too, just as colorful and full of potential as all that yarn. But for me, the best thing about knitting is that it offers a perfect complement to writing.
For both activities, the fun part is the beginning. For knitting, it’s choosing the yarn and the pattern, imagining what I’m going to make. I visit the yarn store, where I am tempted by any number of colors, textures, sparkly stuff, and materials—everything from bulky wool mega-yarn to the most sleek and sensual of silk yarns. If you’ve read The Artist’s Way, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say this is my favorite artist’s date. At the yarn store, my brain explodes with ideas for what to do with different yarns.
It is, in fact, just like that delightful first stage of novel-planning when you consider different ideas, do research, invent characters, change things willy-nilly—simply playing with ideas until you decide which one is worth pursuing. Which one you want to dedicate hours, days, weeks, or even years to bring to life.
Then—oh, then!—once you’ve bought the yarn or figured out the bare bones of your next book, you have to do the work. You have to sit down to knit or write, and do your damnedest to avoid the temptation of some suddenly attractive yarn or a brilliant idea that threatens to pull you away from the work. With knitting, as with writing, it’s always the middle that’s the toughest.
But it’s in finishing where the great difference between knitting and writing lies. Knitting offers quicker gratification, depending on the project. With knitting, when you’re done, you’re done. You wear the item, give it as a gift, jot down your notes, and start another. The only person you have to please is yourself, and the sense of accomplishment is immediate.
For writing, finishing your first draft merely marks the beginning of the next stage—revision, then critique, and more revision. If you want your work to be published, you have to submit your manuscript to editors and agents, and wait (and wait and wait) to hear back.
So I juggle. I finish knitting projects and move on while simultaneously working on the long haul of a novel. Agatha Christie once said that the best time to plan a novel is while doing the dishes, but I find that time spent knitting works too.
And when I’m waiting to hear back on a submission, instead of worrying about it, I knit. And embark on another daydreaming session for the next writing project.