What Knitting Taught Me About Writing

When I tell people I write about knitting, they tend to giggle or smirk. Yes, I’m a writer, and I’m a knitter. For me, knitting and writing involve similar processes. Both take a long time and can’t be rushed. Both can produce something intricate or something simple. Most importantly, both are crafts. You practice, you continually get better. You learn new skills and develop your own personal style and ways of doing things.

Here’s what I’ve learned about Writing from my Knitting:

  • Projects take a long time to complete. You handle them one stitch at a time. You pick up the needles every day and do some work on your project. Same with writing – you sit down and write a page or two every day. Eventually, you have a book length manuscript.
  • Ripping out is sometimes necessary. Ripping out a piece of knitting is not fun. You can lose stitches and lose your mind. You might have to rip your work out several times before you get it right. Same with writing. If you have a problem in your work and know it, you’re going to have to stop, make some cuts, and revise. None of this is fun, but you know in your heart you’ll feel better about the final product once you do it.
  • It’s the intricate work that makes your work shine. Plain stockinette is fine, but it’s the fancy cables or other intricate stitchery that grab people’s attention and show what you’re made of. Same with writing. My work involves interrelated short stories and lots of characters whose stories weave in and out of each other. Would it be easier to tell one straightforward story? Sure, but it’s this intricate interweaving of stories that add a richness and depth to my writing.
  • Crafting skills count. All of them. To make a sweater or a pair of socks, you need lots of skills – casting on, picking up stitches, mattress stitching a sleeve together, casting off. You need to master ALL of these skills; you don’t sub them out to somebody else. I’ve come to believe that writing should be the same process. After saying “enough” to the soul-crushing rejections of the New York publishing industry, I learned to publish my own work. I do it all – choose the font, design the book covers, character development, revisions – just like I do with a large knitting project. For me, it’s all part of the craft of producing a book. I don’t sub out tying up loose ends, do I? Virginia Woolf typeset her own manuscripts, after all, and self-published. 
  • Sometimes you need to set your work aside. We’ve all gotten sick and tired of knitting projects. You get frustrated by difficult patterns or just plain bored or exasperated. The same thing happens with large writing projects. You think you’re going nowhere, you’re out of ideas, the project looks too big and unwieldy for you to possibly complete. Sometimes you just need to take a break. And then, when you’re ready, you pick up that work-in-progress again, settle into well-honed skills, and you think, “I’m so glad to be back.” You move forward, and you’re so glad you did. You’re doing what you do best.

Happy Knitting (or Writing! Or Both!), Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, interrelated stories about knitters and those for whom they knit and love. The sequel to this book, The Knitting Guild of All Saints, has been released! Available in paperback and on Kindle, included in Kindle Unlimited.