Astute readers (okay, casual, drive-by readers, too) might have noticed that as often as we Wenches speak of writing, we’re just as likely to mention the other things we do while we’re working on books, too.
Writing is rarely a single-minded pastime. Inspiration can be willful and headstrong, and tends to strike when a writer least expects it, and seldom when it’s most desired. Often the very worst way to figure out a thorny plot or tame a character is to remain staring at the computer screen. On this blog we’ve admitted to weeding, canning, soup-making, driving, petting cats and walking dogs as ways to get the Muse going. Jenny Crusie crochets, Merline Lovelace plays golf, and another writer-friend (I’ll withhold her name to spare her *g*) cleans out her kitchen cupboards every time she gets stuck. Even Agatha Christie claimed that she always worked out the details of her mysteries while washing dishes.
I hasten to say that this is NOT procrastination. That’s a whole other animal. I’m talking about how busy hands can often kick a stalled-out brain into gear. Whoever first pronounced that old warning about “The Devil finds work of idle hands” is right on the money. Idle hands on the keyboard produce nothing, but set those hands to working elsewhere, and very often it’s the Muse, not the Devil, that will come a-visiting.
So what handwork produces brain-work for me? Ah, my confession’s no confession to anyone who knows me:
Yes, I know, knitting’s gone trendy in the last few years. Hollywood stars claim to lounge about their trailers, needles in hand, and boutique-style knitting shops offer luxury fibers at outrageous prices.
I’m an old-style knitter, from the prehistoric days when Red Heart knitting worsted came from Woolworth’s. I began as a child knitting scarves for stuffed animals, graduating to bright Mod vests in high school and shaggy Scandinavian sweaters for boyfriends in college, cashmere caps and cable sweaters and fancy socks, to sweet baby things and sturdy kiddie sweaters, and, inevitably, finally full circle again to knitted scarves for stuffed animals.
But it’s not just the product that makes me knit. It’s the process. Nothing clears my head and sorts my thoughts like the rhythm of yarn passing around and over the needles. I knit mostly by touch and by feel, without looking at my hands, so for me it really is more instinctive than intellectual. Which is why, I guess, knitting is just as necessary to my writing as good research books.
So what do you do to settle your thoughts or tame the Muse? Do you turn to weaving or weed-pulling, sorting laundry or lifting weights?