Why Writing is Like Crocheting (or Knitting) II

Today’s blog is dedicated to all the needleworkers out there, keeping the world warm and held together.

yarnStarting is the hardest part, isn’t it? The blank page {shudder} – nothing is scarier. And part of it is knowing that the foundation row has to be right. How often have we made an afghan that’s gorgeous, except down at the bottom it’s too tight and curls and won’t lie flat. Or worse, worked our way up and found on row 20 that the reason for this ever-increasing mistake is a tiny error back on row 2–and you have to go back and fix it, or nothing will turn out right.

Which is debilitating, as you stare at that massive tangle of ideas that might or might not be one single and whole thread, the piece of yarn that’s all gnarled up together so you can’t even see the beginning and ending of it. Your heart sinks as you take up the mass of loops and knots all stuck together, and yet, there’s this tiny piece of you that wants to get in there and tackle the thing, rise to the challenge, subdue it, turn order into chaos… and that’s pretty much the opening process, isn’t it? Every story has a beginning, the entry point A, and an ending, the exit point Z, so you try to find yours in all those crazy ideas tied together in your head, and they wind so tightly together that they seem like one thing.

But then you find either point–the beginning or the end–and start moving, forward or backward, patiently, one hand on the thread and one pushing through the tangle, moving, sifting, unwinding, over and under and back up again with gentle movements–although every once in awhile you just give the whole thing a good hard yank accompanied by a correctly-conjugated F word, and go get yourself a glass of something. Then you come back and sit down and think some more, slow, patient, finding the thread that runs through the middle of all those knotted bits.

And before you know it, you have a plan: a ball of thread to work with, a pattern to follow, and some time to get going. And time makes time, which people who do yarn work understand: it doesn’t take away your time, it gives it back. You write and write, and then you hit a mistake, a bit where the pattern doesn’t seem to read right, a character who dances sideways with a big raspberry, and you get frustrated and put it down and go away.

It’s amazing how a night off provides clarity, because when you make yourself take it up again yarn bombthe next day, well of course, here it is, a mistake in the pattern, or a doubled stitch, a word out of season, an idea in the wrong place, easily fixed, what were all the hysterics for? And on you go.

And on, and on, and then suddenly you look down and the thing that was a tangled mess that became a pattern and a plan has become under your steadily moving fingers a cohesive whole, a recognizable garment, a story to be reckoned with. You didn’t think you were getting anywhere and then BAM you’re putting on the edging, binding the whole ending back to the beginning. It’s colorful, and vibrant, and right.

rainbow-crochet-coatAnd satisfying. So very, very satisfying.

The Jabberwock vs. the Narrative Arc

So the last time I finagled a weekend away from the bookshop and holed up to write, the Jabberwock roared and a lot of work got done. But I also discovered something. Three days isn’t as good as two days.

If you have three days, well, it stretches out, luxurious, like a snake in the sun, SO much time to get things done. If you have two days, you arrive the night before and haul your writing utensils onto the desk and slam some food in the fridge and start making notes to yourself so you can get up in the morning and hit it hard.

I come from a long line of procrastinators – which is in itself an oxymoron; think about it–so it doesn’t surprise me that time is the first thing I squander when there’s “plenty” of it. And this past weekend, with just two days to write, I got double the word count of my three-days wonder in late January.

It was less listening for the roar of the Jabberwock (if you’re going “huh” just now check out the blog postings from a few weeks ago) and feeling his claws pull me in, than constructing a framework on which to build: “this goes here, write a section that bridges that,” managing word flow and putting things where they make a cohesive narrative arc.

Oh, that sodding term again. For those unfamiliar with it, the narrative arc is what distinguishes a series of fun, comedic episodes forming individual chapters from a story with a beginning, middle, end, and series of events and consequences that spark other events and merge into a whole. A whole, not a hole. Narrative arcs are what make stories compelling because you want to find out what happens next, as opposed to just a pleasant read one can dip into and come out of at will.

Narrative arcs are flippin’ hard work. But once you get the frame up, they really help move the story along.

Which is a roundabout way of saying, sorry we forgot to put a blog up yesterday and we’re back on schedule now: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, with Jack guesting once a week.