How Writing Is Not Like Knitting

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Writing is not like knitting. Not at all.
With knitting you use yarn to tie knots and these thread onto a long needle that is then paired with another needle. You use this second needle to tie knots from the knots you originally made.
So, you can see already there are no parallels with writing.
With writing you thread lines of letters along between margins. Sometimes the letters are made of ink; sometimes digital-ink, quite often they are the shadow, the spaces where light is not. When enough of them are gathered in one place they are referred to as ‘a piece of work’.
Not like knitting. When knitting accumulates along the needles it’s called stocking stitch (for beginners). As the work grows its called ‘My project – don’t touch it!’
More often than not when you are knitting you are forming something to wear, or to keep you or a loved one warm. At the end of all the knot-tying you have a cardigan or vest or baby’s blanket. You run your hands over the twisty knots, you admire the tension, the even stitches, the thread that runs on and on; the colour and pattern, the remarkable nature of something ‘hand made’ that shows small faults and foibles that endear it to you.
More often that not when you are writing something you are writing it for someone (sometimes if that’s a secret even from yourself) but of course it will not keep them warm on those chilly days.
Knitting can be meditative. Hands find a rhythm that sustains itself – the raveled sleeve of care stitched up again. Knitting can allow periods of ‘flow’ when the mind travels about through its own recesses and time is held with the gentle click of needle against needle and the ebb and flow of the yarn.
Can writing ever be meditative? Perhaps that ‘flow’ cannot occur because you will be there struggling with sentence structure and syntax and adverbs…and that might be true, but once your hands have found the rhythm and perhaps after you’ve mastered moss stitch you’ll be able to focus less on each individual stitch while keeping your eye on a wider idea for your work.
There are times when writing can be quite soothing – say for instance when writing a letter to someone or making a poem and arranging the words in exact order to create the pattern. Writing to explain something in that exact way that writing allows, working and reworking the idea to perfection. Writing it allows a clear way to look at these ideas from a distance, they sit there on paper, separate from the writer. As if the ideas could drape over you, as if you would wear them out in public.
With knitting you find a dropped stitch, one that is out of alignment and throws out the entire pattern and you have to undo vast tracts of your nearly finished vest. With writing you find a dropped word and track back to find the space for a new one…
With knitting you are expressing patience and dexterity. The pattern you have chosen to follow makes way for the form of your work and you adapt this to your needs, to what you envisage the final piece to be like.
It’s different with writing. There, you use words to express yourself, the quicker you type the more words appear at thought-pace, but there is rarely a pattern until the piece of work comes together and can be examined from several angles and stitched together. You go back over and over writing, checking for irregularities, changes in the tension. Looking over the colour and weave, making sure it makes sense and flows like yarn does over needles.
When the final stitch has been taken and the last loose thread tied in, the knitting is complete, it is recommended to wash it, dry it, and when it is not being worn or used, it should be folded and kept in a drawer.
When the final word is written, the sentences ironed, the content masterfully tied up and tethered your piece of writing, when it’s not being read, should be folded neatly up into cyberspace, or printed and clipped together and put into a drawer.
When you knit, in general, it’s a quirky craft activity that is personal in nature and shared with friends and family. Knitting carries little prestige. You don’t knit a page-turner. You don’t knit a celebrity author (well, you could, but it would be quite tricky). You knit because you love it, it’s a release and you make something at the end.
With writing, in the back of your mind – admit it – you’re hoping one day some talent scout will hunt you out for those poems you wrote half a decade ago, for the blog you co-authored, for the novel that’s been sitting in the drawer (how do they know about it?) you hope that the writing will take you somewhere you are not already… Do you hope that with your stocking stitch? Do you?
Those black stitches between the margins come loaded with all the world’s expectations.

Writing and Organisation – making time to dream….

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I cannot lie to you. I am not an organised creature. I am really happiest in flux, distracted by that weed that bends in the wind, whistling along to birdsong, scratching the back of my neck and remembering a smell from long ago – one recently took me back to afternoons in my father’s darkroom watching as black lines and patches appeared on the paper as it floated in the fixer…. see?
But, when it comes to the writing life the key is being organised.
Like with many things, say for instance getting fit or learning another language, you need persistence. But, you also need to file that persistence into an organised spearhead. Or at least, that is what has worked for me.
I have become a creature of lists, sticky notes and reminders. I have become strict about my time. And this is actually key because I have to factor in some time to dream, remember and doodle on my notepads.
Which is the difficult thing because with all this organisation its easy to get into a frame of mind where that part of the job is overwhelming, where the organiser in me re arranges the markers and files notes in alphabetical order somewhat strangling the dreamer.

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Writing

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As a writer of fiction and poetry I have many preoccupations and themes that fascinate me and that I find I return to again and again.  Here are five.

Firstly I am always writing about character’s presence in their environment, and the relationship they have with that environment.  This can simply be a physical landscape or can be internal emotional ‘placement’ or even their life online or within fictional space.

The nature of this fictional space is also something I explore in my fiction – things can get involuted quite quickly – I find it helpful to let the characters voice their own thoughts either through direct internal monologue or through allowing them to own the writing.

Much of my fiction revolves around characters writing their own experience in letters, emails and also confessions.  Allowing the reader to hear from the characters directly, and also allowing me, as the author, to disguise myself further.

Communication and the power of writing and of reading is a theme that emerges again and again in my work – both poetry and fiction.

Within the spectrum of my work women characters and the female narrative are central.  Recently, my poetry has revolved strongly around finding a voice for celebrating the domestic, child bearing, child rearing female experience.

Finally, making use of manifold perspective to create story is one of my preoccupations.  I have found it extremely challenging to write in many voices, but doing so enriches the story I’m telling.