Today’s blog is based on a very simple idea. So simple that most of you will have thought of it already, but it might prove helpful to some. The photo on the right is the key. In fact, were I to leave it at that, you may find food for thought in the image alone. Nor do I want to disengage my male readers, so I will throw into the pot the fact that both my brothers were taught to knit at an early age, and I remember my older brother’s tank-top and hot water bottle cover. In fact, such is the blurriness of this distant recollection, I can’t be sure I’m not thinking of the same item…
I do a lot of knitting. Most of it is a variation on a theme: the same old stitches reproduced in different colours for different sized people for different occasions. However, my current project had a different instruction. The out-of-place turquoise stripe is not me having a bad-colour day. No! It is a piece of waste yarn which began the garment and will be discarded at the end when I come to graft the final piece.
What a metaphor for the writing process!
So often, we fail to get started because we don’t know how. Our ideas are incomplete. We haven’t left ourselves to marinate for long enough. We procrastinate. We question ourselves. We tell ourselves we’re not quite ready. Anyone will tell you that the hardest point in a project is the start. The middle part is usually the most straightforward since there is a certain momentum that takes us forward, before we face the other tricky part: the end.
I have sat through so many conference seminars and read so many books that tell me how the opening sentence should grip the (sometimes unfortunate) reader and lure them in within those few pithy words. Brilliant examples are quoted and misquoted. The sense of expectation on my writerly shoulders practically bends me double. Of course, it’s enough to stop me getting started and I suspect I’m far from alone.
With my knitting, my first instinct was to use a beautifully co-ordinating yarn colour for the waste row. I’m glad that I re-considered. Every time I look at it, I’m reminded that the start doesn’t really matter. In fact, even if I make a colossal mistake in the pattern, I know I can go back and unpick a section. If you’re about to start writing, or you’re looking at what you wrote yesterday, and you’re sitting in judgment on yourself, stop. Imagine that poor beginning being a support for all that’s to come, doing its imperfect job beautifully, ready to be removed at the crucial moment for the great reveal.
Jane Clamp is a writer, broadcaster and speaker and is Groups' Coordinator for ACW. Her first book Too Soon will be published in August by SPCK.