Among other things I do outside of writing is knitting. I'm not particularly good at it, nor am I very prolific. But I can be stubborn. The project shown above has tested that stubbornness many, many times. It's a kit I purchased from a local yarn store, swayed by the beautiful photo of the finished project.
However, once I began, it quickly became apparent that this would be one of the most tedious things I've ever knit--and I made my son a Dr. Who scarf. The pattern is a linen stitch, which is remarkably dull to knit, and worst of all, it's knit horizontally. Many scarves are knit vertically, where you might have, say, 30 stitches on the needle, and maybe you do 10 rows at a sitting and you can see progress. Not so when knitting horizontally. Here I have 300 stitches on the needle. It takes me half an hour to get through just one row, and one row sure doesn't seem like much progress. To make it worse, every single row changes color, so every single row (nearly 40 when all is said and done) will have a bunch of yarn to be woven in once the knitting's done--another tedious task, also time-consuming in this case.
So for a while I was not very excited about this scarf. I had to keep looking at the pretty photo that came with the kit to remind me why I was bothering. But as I finally got several rows completed, I began to see the real-life version of the photo, and that's a major motivator. I'm pretty much knocking off a row or two a day right now, and at that rate, I'll finish the knitting and commence with the weaving-in-ends next week.
The metaphor is obvious, isn't it?
Last week, after several weeks of strain and frustration and painful daily effort, I completed the first draft of the title story for my book, The Miracle Worker. Or rather, the novella--it's currently 82 double-spaced pages. I'm one of those writers who hates first drafts and heaves a huge sigh of relief when it's time to revise something. In fact, this piece started as a short story, and as I went drafting along, I began to realize that there was more to it than could be done in 20-25 pages. Which was horrifying to me.
But I kept going, day after tedious day, with the occasional "Aha!" moment and the occasional "say, this isn't so terrible" moment, but also a lot of "where am I going with this" and "what if this is a colossal waste of my time" and "sure hope I'm not pouring all this time into this only to have to discard it as unusable later" moments.
Last week, I hit the ending. I knew the ending as I wrote it then wasn't right, but it was an ending. I shelved it for a few days. My writer's group members had agreed to read the whole thing from beginning to end (we usually only hand out about 20-25 pages each for a meeting, so this was a big deal) if I gave it to them at least two weeks before meeting. A couple of days before that deadline, I revisited the story, did some minor revisions, tightened some things up, felt a despairing kind of "can't see the forest for the trees" about it overall along with a "this may not be so bad once I rework it," but--I did change the ending, and I think much for the better. Just having let it sit for a couple of days gave me just enough distance to see why the original ending didn't work.
Now I have a couple of weeks while my writer friends read it. I'm deliberately not going to look at it during that time. I have other pieces to work on, and I think some more distance from it will help me be more able to see the faults in it and work to correct them.
Lesson learned, though--just keep doing, day after day, little bit by little bit, even when it's hard to see any kind of progress.
Excuse me, now. I must go knit another row.