I am taking a jewelry/metalworking class this semester. After spending three hours sanding, shaping, soldering, soldering again because the first one didn't stick, and sawing I realized how good it is for me. How healthy it is. It's completely focused time that calms me and I get some really fun final products. It feels good.
Obviously I can't afford to set up a metalworking studio in my tiny apartment, and there are only three weeks left to the semester so I started thinking about something else I could do that would give me the same feeling.
Enter my friend Glo and a set of knitting needles. For the last two weeks I've been knitting.
At first it went really slowly. My stitches were too tight, my rows kept coming out uneven, but I decided to just live with those errors and make a messy first project.
I had about forty rows done when Trisha pointed out that I had dropped a stitch. I had a huge hole in the middle of my piece. I groaned, I complained and then I undid about half of what I had created at that point and redid it.
Then I realized there was another mistake. Two stitches were tangled together.
In the very first row.
I undid the whole thing. I started completely over.
But then something happened that for some dumb reason I didn't expect. It went faster. All those rows I had done, even the ones I had screwed up, had given my hands time to learn the motions. The act of knitting was becoming therapeutic and comfortable.
Now I have about half of a cowl knit and I'm really proud of it.
Now, how does this apply to writing?
I hear a lot about the "pressure of the blank page" and the "stress of being a writer." I hear how hard it is and how unrewarding it can be. But I realized that just like when I'm knitting I have to find the reward in the writing itself. It isn't about "will this get published?" or "am I writing something worthwhile?" It's about simply writing. Being with the words, with the characters in that place in my mind.
Something changed in the way I write when I took a poetry class with poet Jenn Monroe. She asked us to free write everyday. I've always had a free writing journal, but this time it was an assignment. And instead of being one more assignment on my list it became something that set me free. I filled a composition book with pages of the most trivial, dramatic, silly sentences I have ever written. There was no pressure to be good, just the pleasure of words on a page. Without that change to my writing I probably would have gotten fed up with knitting already and moved on to something else.
I have stopped looking at writing as a means to an end and returned to enjoying the process like I did as a child. I have become more patient with myself. I allow myself more time to mess up, to write things that are useless, and from all that seemingly useless writing has come some fun pieces I'm really proud of.
And I'm doing the same through my knitting. It's not about making the piece I'm working on, it's about enjoying the process. Training my hands to do something different, to learn something new. And to be okay with making mistakes. Because if I have to start over it just means I get to spend even more time with my characters and pencils, my yarn and needles.