Words and Wool

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Nothing prepares me for the task of writing a book like knitting a blanket.

Both books and blankets begin with patterns, frameworks for the words and stitches to shape themselves around. There are a handful of know-it-alls who claim they can start making a blanket or writing a book without any idea how it’s going to turn out.

These people are either off the scale geniuses or incredibly stupid. Nobody’s going to want a blanket with wobbly edges or a book with fascinating characters who vanish after page 10.

Books and blankets are solitary projects. The knitter is equally annoyed by the well meaning craftswoman who offers to “do” a few rows for her, as the author by the self appointed literary critic who begs to read a few chapters then claims the plot is heading in the wrong direction entirely.

Knitters and writers are constantly asked when their project will be complete. It’s almost impossible to say – six weeks, six years?  The only honest answer is “in a long time from now”.

Lifting the needles and tying the wool for the first stitch, I try not to imagine how many hours will be spent churning out this thing. It’s the same feeling I get sitting at the computer and typing Chapter One.

 Not every word will be perfect. I’m bound to drop at least one stitch. If I thought too much about that I’d never start. Better to plough on no matter how unsatisfactory the results might be.

Once I’ve released fears about bad reviews, or the twisted mouth of the person who didn’t really want a blanket anyway,  a sense calm settles around me. This could possibly be how the tightrope waker feels before he edges out onto the wire. Among his many tasks is to make it look easy. “Oh this blanket/book? It’s nothing. You could run one up yourself in an afternoon.”

Every stitch represents a word, each row of stitches a sentence. Every square of the blanket is like a chapter lined up neatly as possible against another of approximately equal size. Quite often I wake in the morning and examine the previous day’s work. Rows need undoing, sentences cutting. Sometimes I delete the whole chapter, unravelling the square in a mess of wool all over the floor, and begin again.

When writing a book or knitting a blanket I become submerged in a world of words and wool. Untidy snakes of yarn drape themselves all over the house. I abandon the dinner table to finish a sentence on the computer. Sometimes, real life can seem less real than the one inside the book/blanket – though I try not to let it show.

At last the day arrives. The project is finally complete. My eyes prick with exhaustion. My neck aches from so long bent over the computer screen/ knitting needles. As I trim the tassels on the blanket, or press Send on the computer relief washes over me.

But will they like it? Anxiety gnaws.

The blanket isn’t perfect, neither is the book. But they are entirely mine, created with something akin to love.


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