Wednesday 10 February 2010

Why Spinning Is Like Writing

Some of you may know that I'm a keen knitter. Many a story problem has been resolved after I've mulled it over during a knitting session, letting my unconscious tackle the issue while my conscious mind focuses on lace or cables. I've been knitting for over a year now, and I thoroughly recommend it as a useful pasttime. It's relaxing (until you realise you've misread the pattern and purled where you should have knitted), it's portable, and it produces an end-product. Much like writing, really. Both require minimal materials (two sticks and string allows you to knit, and you just need something to write both with and on to write) and both require a combination of your left and right brain.

Anyway. I had a go at spinning last night. No, not the exercise, but the rather ancient craft of turning raw wool into something approaching yarn. A friend of mine is a member of the Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Hand Dyers and she kindly agreed to do a spinning class for the knitting group I go to. We had a go with hand spindles, as well as a spinning wheel, and the only conclusions I can really draw are that; a) spinning is a lot harder than it looks, and b) it requires the sort of hand-eye co-ordination you'd normally expect from a ninja.

Still, it was fun to try something new, and while I was trying to remember to let the twist in AFTER I'd stretched the roving, I thought about how spinning is actually very akin to writing. (See? This is the blog of a writer. I knew I'd get writing in here somehow) Your initial process of spinning is like writing a first draft. You take raw words/roving, and spin them out into a continual story/yarn. You tease and twist, stretch and spin, trying to craft something you can use. Though even when your roving has run out and your spindle is full, you're not done. Just as spun wool must be plied, washed and snapped before it can be knitted, a story needs to be honed and polished before it's ready for the light of day.

It's this last part that I struggle so much with. Once I've written something, I want people to read it. I want it to be acknowledged, digested and understood. I still can't grasp the notion that a story needs to be put away and allowed to 'mature' before I can re-read it and spot the glaring errors. I think I'm too impatient for my own good...but there's always that little voice in the back of my head going "Well it has to go public sometime!"

How about you? Are there any crafts you do to help with writing? And how long do you leave stories to mature?

(NB: The image I used for this post is actually one of my own - it's a spinning wheel I found on a staircase at Chillingham Castle, Northumberland)


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