When people ask me if I knit, I usually joke and say, “Yes. I’ve been taught many times.” Both statements are true. I have been taught many times and by now I’m a whiz at knitting flat rectangular things. If you can call knitting half a dozen flat rectangular things being any kind of a whiz.
|my most recent knitted flat rectangular thing|
Once, I did spread my wings and knitted a rectangular thing with ruffled edges that was awfully nice. It was a scarf that reminded me of a psychedelic batwing sea slug.*
But here’s the thing; every time I think about picking up knitting needles, it’s like facing the blank page at the beginning of a writing project. I lack confidence. I’m daunted. For the writing, you’d think after fourteen published books and thirteen published short stories (seven of them in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine), that I wouldn’t look at blank pages and whine to myself that I have no idea how to write. But I do. Every time.
So how do I get past page-paralysis in my writing? First by letting myself wander around and play with story ideas the way I might look at yarns, colors, and textures in a yarn shop. No commitment, just looking, dreaming, and wondering “what if?” I keep careful notes, like dropped breadcrumbs, along my meandering trail—ideas, questions, answers, free-writing, bits of dialog I hear from the characters suddenly living in my head, and rabbit holes of research (you should see my notes and the links I’ve saved about arsenic for the book I’m writing now—yow). Next comes a vague outline. Think of the outline as the kind of knitting pattern I can follow—simplistic. From there a story or book, like a piece of knitting, becomes a math problem. Add a certain number of words or stitches every day, do it for weeks or months or years and, in each case, you end up with something you can be proud of—another flat rectangular thing.
|my most recent written flat rectangular thing|
And think of this; if you work longhand with a pen or pencil, whether you’re writing or knitting, you’re creating something with tools humans have been using pretty much forever—pointed sticks. Kind of awesome.
What sharp tips or tricks do you use to get started on a daunting project?
*If you recently enjoyed Connie Berry’s and Susan Van Kirk’s excellent posts featuring the excitement (and dangers) of falling down rabbit holes of research, you might want to engage in some now. Go online and search for images of psychedelic batwing sea slugs. Some types are rufflier than others, but they’re all cool, and you won’t be sorry you took the time.
Molly MacRae writes the award-winning, national bestselling Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries and the Highland Bookshop Mysteries. Visit Molly on Facebook and Pinterest, connect with her on Twitter or Instagram.