Monday, July 23, 2018


 from, Copyright Protected, All Rights Reserved

          Did you know that knitting and writing have a lot in common?  I like to knit, partly because it took me years to figure out how to do it, but mostly because there are two stitches in knitting—the knit stitch and the purl stitch. From those two stitches arise an infinite number of knitting patterns. In many ways, the two stitches that make up knitting patterns are similar to the 26 letters that make up the words in the English language. 

          How many words are there in the English language?  According to the Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, now consisting of 20 volumes, there are 171,476 words in active use, 47,156 obsolete words and 9500 derivative words included as subentries. (If you are a word geek like me, for grins and giggles subscribe to the Oxford English Dictionary’s ‘word of the day’ email.) 

A Word Geek Like Me
from, Copyright  Protected, All Rights Reserved

          What can that roughly quarter of a million words accomplish?  The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with over 38.6 million catalogued books. Even though more than half of those books are not written in English, that still leaves over 15 million books made from those quarter-million words made from those 26 letters. Similarly, two stitches can make millions of different sweaters, afghans, scarves, mittens, gloves, rugs, bags and who knows what else.

          Another way knitting reminds me of writing is “the muddle in the middle.”  I am always excited to start a knitting project. Picking out the project, then the pattern, then the yarn and colors is fun and exciting. Ending a knitting project is extraordinarily satisfying. I hold in my hands a tangible product rewarding me for the hours of work I spent on the project. The middle is not always as much fun. There are days when my needles string the yarn onto and off of them with effortless ease, but there are also days when I have to pull out every other stitch because I am making mistakes. The worst part is when I discover I made a mistake five or six or ten rows ago that I can’t live with, because then I must tear out the rows until I reach the mistake.

When the words flow...
from, Copyright Protected, All Rights Reserved
          Writing a novel is similar. Coming up with settings, characters and plot is new and exciting, as is the moment when the revisions have been completed and the book is ready to send off into the cold, cruel world to find a new home. The journey between those two points can be rough. As with knitting, there are days when my fingers fly over the keyboards, words pouring out of me, and days when I have to drag every word out of quicksand before it arrives on my screen. There are days when I realize that a plot needs revision to the point where characters must be added or deleted, scenes changed, plot twists reexamined. And following the threads of the story through those changes to make a consistent whole is challenging.

And how I feel when they don't.
from, Copyright Protected, All Rights Reserved
          So why bother with either knitting or writing?  I have no choice. They’re part of who I am. Even when I’ve tried to stop, I can’t. Sooner or later, my fingers twitch for a set of needles to hold or a keyboard to pound. And I’ve learned that once I start, if I just keep pushing forward I will make it to the end.

          What kind of hobbies or avocations do you pursue that you can’t leave alone? 


Annette said...

I used to quilt but don't have time (or the eyesight) for it anymore. I admit I miss it. Never tried knitting but love your comparisons between it and writing. Fun!

Jim Jackson said...

I have many hobbies, but none that I can’t (and haven’t) dropped. Some have been consistent over decades (birdwatching) and others last only a few years (writing music).

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I do close-up flower photography which I find meditative. Love your knitting analogy!

Liz Milliron said...

I did counted cross-stitch. Very similar in the "oh bother, I made a mistake twenty stitches ago and I need to pick it all out" vein.

Grace Topping said...

Good analogy, Mary. I had always wanted to learn to knit and was really pleased when a relative through marriage gave me some lessons when she visited from England. I was quite proud of how well I did. I bought beautiful wool yarn and started a V-neck sweater for my husband. Then I got pregnant and then baby and a full-time job filled my life. The sweater that is three-quarters done has been sitting in a box for 32 years. I guess I wasn't that committed to knitting. And my husband would no longer fit in that sweater.

Warren Bull said...

I find singing is a creative activity that gives me a break from writing.

KM Rockwood said...

In theory, I have a garden. In actuality, I have a weed patch that doubles as a salad bar for deer.

On days with reasonable weather when I fell well enough, I go out and weed. These days that often is in half hour stints, before I have to stop.

I often question why I don't get someone to putt all in grass, or ground cover, or just let the woods creep in and retake it. Then I see some flowers, like the one stunning white daylily that somehow missed debudding by the deer and now has 10 beautiful flowers at once. I forget about totally abandoning my efforts and hurry out to weed and mulch around it.

Kait said...

My mother was a wonderful knitter. As children, we had sweaters with our names, animals, holiday themes, intricate cables, etc. I think I can cast on and cast off. I never learned to purl. In a burst of creativity, I bought a learn to crochet book that had a multi-stitch afghan - mastered it and never looked back. Crocheting was my needle art.

Your analogy to writing, Nancy is wonderful and oh so apt!

Gloria Alden said...

Interesting. I used to crochet, but never learned to knit.I used to do some sewing, too. When I quit that I went to painting and did that for years, and then started writing books which I will continue with. As for a word geek, I love to not only write but read. My two little great grandchildren have popped in several times in the last few days because they were staying with my son, their grandpa who lives next door. The second time Ellie, the 9 year old couldn't get over how many books I had when she walked into my library. I laughed and said have you ever gone upstairs? She and her younger brother shook their heads and I told them to go upstairs and look at all the bookcases up there. They were impressed. I actually have a bookcase in my living room, in the laundry room and two in the sun room, too. Like KM, I also have flower gardens, too, but I have tended to let nature take over much of them and it looks just as beautiful now.

Shari Randall said...

Nancy, what a great analogy! I'm a word nerd and love things like the OED email.
I have a Christmas stocking that I made when I was about 8 years old - complete with snowman, my name, and bells sewn on. I made ir - literally - at my grandma's knee. Haven't been able to knit like that since. I guess I need a teacher right at my side.
My hobbies are walking, movies, especially Hollywood classics, dancing, and pretending to garden. I don't list reading because that's like breathing for this crew, isn't it?

E. B. Davis said...

What a comparison! I used to knit, but I couldn't sit still enough to do it. Of course, I was in middle school at the time when ice skating was my passion. Since then, I've crossed stitched and done a bit of needlepoint. But I felt a lack of satisfaction doing them. I cook, go to the gym, and collect sea shells. (I also collected words for a while, but unless I use them--that's all they are--a collection.)