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Sunday, May 30, 2021

COMBINATIONS by Nancy L. Eady

 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.)  

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. 

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. 

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? 


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