When I first began my daily writing habit in May 2017, I had one thing on my mind — knitting. It may sound strange, but there actually is a correlation between the two.
Anyone who knows me in real life knows that my two creative outlets are writing and knitting. Before I had the baby in November 2016, I would spend hours upon hours knitting, but now, I just try to get time in where I can, which usually amounts to knitting at work on my lunch hour.
In the knitting world, there are two kinds of knitters, people who have several projects going at once, and monogamous knitters. I tend to fall into the latter camp, as I prefer to work on one project at a time, no matter how large or small, until it is complete (although sometimes I make exceptions).
Before I began my daily writing habit, I kept thinking about the knitting project I was working on at the time — a giant blanket I was making for my friend as a housewarming present. When you knit something that large, you have to just trust that if you keep putting one stitch in front of the other, eventually you’ll finish the pattern.
I have been knitting for more than 10 years. Focusing on one project and seeing it through to completion is a skill I had honed over thousands of hours of knitting. So when I had the strong desire to start writing again, I found myself wondering, what if I applied my knitting skills to writing?
What if, instead of writing in big bursts here and there on some random weekend, I wrote a little bit, every day? What if I chipped away at it, little by little, word by word, just like I was doing with the blanket?
But when would I find the time? I was a new mom and I was exhausted. My bedtime, once midnight, was now 8:30 pm (if I could even stay awake that long). All of my free time was absorbed by the tiny human, and when she was sleeping, so was I.
Curiously, I discovered that when I went to bed early, I woke up equally as early, and I found myself up at 5 am several days in a row. And I learned that in my house, 5 am is this magical time where everyone is still sleeping, my coffee is always hot, and I have two hours of quiet time to myself (a rare commodity). I decided that if I was up, I might as well use that time to my advantage, and I began writing.
In the beginning, I only had one rule. I had to write every day. I did not matter how much I wrote, it only mattered that I wrote. Much like when I knit, I just wanted to keep putting one word in front of the other, until a piece, any piece, was complete.
So each morning I awoke to put some words on the page. Some days, it was only a few hundred words. Other days, it was a few thousand. I started to find a rhythm in my writing. And some 45-ish days later, I had written the first draft of my novel, Dangerous Contracts.
45 days to write a novel? That realization floored me. I didn’t know that I could complete a large manuscript like that in such a short amount of time. In my head, a novel took years and years to accomplish, and yet when I put the work in, it didn’t take that long at all.
Although, that said, technically I have been working on this novel for years. I first formed the idea in 2014, and it has been rolling around in my head ever since. While working on this current iteration of the story, I accidentally stumbled upon some old drafts from back then and was surprised to find that while the story had changed drastically, many of the underlying themes and elements were the same.
Upon reading my first draft, I was disappointed. It was ugly and misshapen, falling short in some areas. But instead of being sad about it, I found my thoughts drifting to knitting once again.
The first knitting project I ever completed was a scarf. The stitches are long and loose. It’s lopsided on one edge from where I had accidentally added too many stitches and didn’t realize it for several rows. Once I discovered my mistake, I figured out how to fix it, only to have those pesky extra stitches show up again, rows later.
I still have that scarf. It hangs in my closet proudly, a reminder of how far I’ve come. These days, my stitches are tight and uniform, my tension even as I work the yarn. Sometimes I still accidentally add stitches, only now I know how to fix the problem without it impacting my entire project.
In many ways, my first draft of Dangerous Contracts resembled that first scarf. It was wonky and lopsided, and it had its share of problems. I knew that it wasn’t perfect. But just like with knitting, I knew I could only improve if I kept going, and so, after reading my manuscript and knowing the shape of the story, I wrote a second draft, and then a third.
Similarly, I know that this novel will always be that first scarf. It will always be my worst novel because it was my first. As I continue to practice, my work will get better, the process will become easier. But my first novel will always be my most cherished, simply because it was the one that taught me that writing a novel was possible in the first place.
On the surface, knitting seems simple. You use two sticks and yarn to create fabric. There are only two stitches to learn – knit and purl – and those two stitches combine in a variety of ways to create different looks and textures.
Of course, that explanation is oversimplified. Knitting is far more complicated than two sticks and two stitches. As it stands, even after ten years of knitting, I barely consider myself an intermediate knitter. There is still so much to learn, which is much of what I like about knitting – it’s complex.
Writing also seems simple. It is something that we are taught from a young age how to do. And, it’s something ingrained in our daily lives as we compose emails, send texts, and post social media statuses with ease. But just like with knitting, writing is much more complex than it appears.
I had never written a novel before. The process is intense, and all the cliches are true. To get the writing done, you somehow have to keep putting one word in front of the other, without looking back. Write first, edit second. A bad story is better than no story at all because you can fix the bad, but you can’t fix something that doesn’t exist. Writing is like driving a car at night, you can only see as far as the headlights, but you can get all the way home that way. And, the first draft is definitely just you telling yourself the story.
Despite the intensity, I’m enjoying the process. There is something satisfying about writing a large manuscript over the course of several months and seeing it take shape right before your eyes. There’s a lot to juggle when you’re writing a piece that large, a skill I’m still learning. The editing process is also its own animal, another piece I’m knee deep in the middle of discovering right now.
I know that it sounds crazy, but without knitting, I don’t know if I would have ever written a novel. Even though I spent years longing to write a book, I don’t think I would have accomplished it without the discipline that knitting has taught me. If I had never learned to knit, I don’t know if I would understand what the process of learning a new skill looks like. Too often “we” want things to be easy and instant, that we fail to realize that the best things take time and effort.
Since I started my daily writing habit in May 2017, I have gotten up every morning, weekends included, to write while the house is asleep. And because of my efforts, I have written one novel, I am 24 chapters into my second novel, and have plans to write a series after that.
And I owe it all to knitting.
So what about the blanket? Did I finish it? The short answer is no, I did not.
You see, I live in Florida, and the problem with knitting a blanket is that eventually, you have a blanket on your lap while you’re knitting. It is simply too hot here in the summertime for that, but now that it’s starting to cool off again, I’m thinking about picking it back up again. Maybe I’ll even finish it in time for my friend’s one-year homeowner anniversary at the end of December. We’ll have to see, it’s a large blanket.