december thirteenth

I wasn’t the only one worn out by our IKEA adventures.

Poor Nicholas fell asleep on the sofa today in the midst of grading papers. After I took that picture, I covered him with a warm thing and tucked him in, and the dog came up and sniffed him to make sure he was OK, and then all the cats had to check out the situation, because a sleeping human makes a very good cat mattress.

And the poor tired dude just kept right on sleeping…

I knitted on his Super Secret Yule Gift for a while, then went on to do whatever it is that I, uh…do.

What is it, exactly, that I do?

Yesterday, as I hit the Publish button on my post, I felt like I hadn’t really done a proper blog entry. As I knit away on the Super Secret Yule Gift, I had myself a good think: What is a proper blog entry? Why do sometimes I feel satisfied, as though a thirst has been quenched, and sometimes I feel as though something is lacking, despite the day’s few hundred words to the contrary?

Jack Frost's writing on my window

I know a lot of writers set themselves a word-count goal each day; yesterday, I certainly did not meet anyone’s word-count goal. I was so tired it was all I could do to post the photos. But it doesn’t seem that sheer volume is what quenches the inner thirst: Some days, I write very little, and yet I still feel that sense of satisfaction, that sense of I Did It.

Whatever “It” is…

When I tell folks I am a writer, inevitably, they ask what sort of writer I am. I’m testing out different answers.

“I’m a knitting writer. I write knitting patterns, and instructions, and essays.”

“I write about crafts and craftspeople and what it means to make art part of your daily life.”

“I write funny articles about knitting.”

“I’m a blogger. I write about my life as a professional knitter.”

Good heavens. All of that sounds so pretentious, and none of it sounds like ME. It doesn’t begin to touch how I feel about my own writing, or the place where writing lives within my heart.

The phrase that pops into my mouth most often is the first one above: “I’m a knitting writer.” The way I hear it in my head, though, it’s said so that it means “I’m a writer who knits” rather than “I write about knitting.” I do write about knitting, of course; and spinning, and weaving, and beading, and my cats and my dog and IKEA and just about anything else that comes into my head. It’s the writing itself that I have to do, that I must do in order to make my way through this world intact and whole; the knitting and spinning and fibre stuff…yeah, all right. I have to do that, too, to be whole.

Warm socks for Nicholas (not the secret gift!)

No matter what the words are that I use to describe myself, I can’t figure out what it is that I do. By which I mean: What is it about my writing that I need to accomplish in order to feel satisfied? And, I suppose, I’m fascinated by the corollary: What is it about my writing that keeps all of you reading? Even on the days when I think I suck, you’re there, reading along, commenting, encouraging me…why? I don’t even know what I’m getting out of my writing–what the heck are YOU getting out of it?

Some writers tell us stories, and we read their stories to be led into another time, another world, another story other than our own. We read the work of storytellers to ride the magic carpet, to ride a motorcycle, to ride the waves of Oahu, all without leaving our comfy chairs.

Some writers make us laugh at everyday things. This is why I love Allie, the writer of Hyperbole and a Half, so much: She writes about Regular Stuff, and few comedy writers can make me howl with laughter the way she does with her stick-figure cartoons and her wacky wisdom on things dogs and cake and the Internet. (Stephanie is in this category, as well, of course: The woman was telling me a story about her furnace being inspected, and I swear I thought I was going to pee my pants, right then and there.)

Well, I’m kind of a storyteller. And I’m kind of funny…but I don’t think that is what It is, the thing which makes my writing worth writing or reading.

I think…I think what I do is I make connections. Connections between people, connections between experiences and people, connections between thoughts and heart. I’m not sure, and perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Except that if I understood what it is, this thing that I do, then maybe I could learn to do it better, the way a gifted singer learns to use her voice more consistently, more powerfully, more skillfully. Carrie Underwood, for example, knows her singing gift is quite different than that of, say, Dolly Parton.

Dolly and Carrie

Carrie’s got a big, smooth, full, rich voice, and no doubt she works with a coach to learn how to make each song big and smooth and rich. Dolly’s a country storyteller, where twang and attitude are just as important as note and tone. Dolly’s learned how to tell stories in her songs, how to use her face and her hands to move the story along, when to twang and when to put her hand on her hip and let loose.

I need to figure out what it is that I do, so I can hone my skills, practice my craft, and not just flail around in a blog composition window half the time.

Today’s Random Good

Melody, a baby alpaca, in her new pink coat

Baby, it’s cold outside…

About sandi

Knitter. Spinner. Quilter. UFO Wrangler. Sometime bead artist and weaver. Two toddler-age kittens, 1 permakitten, 2 grownup cats, 1 beloved dog angel, 1 spouse, 1 crazy life. I suppose that the 5 cats make me 1 crazy cat lady; OTOH, apparently, yes, I do need that much feline supervision.
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20 Responses to december thirteenth

  1. Ginger says:

    you definitely make a connection with me…i feel like one of your friends and vice versa that you will just let down your hair and say just whatever is on your mind…you must not be a new englander! 🙂 you make the normal seem great and love that you don’t JUST talk about knitting or crafting but that you also do in the context of your life! have you read gurnsey potato peel literary society or whatever the title of that book is…also makes you feel as if you have a new bunch of friends!

  2. Ann Williams says:

    Sandi, don’t be so hard on yourself. Sometimes you are the only laugh I have all day. We all LOVE YOU!!! We really don’t care what you write, as long as you write!!!

  3. I’ not sure a label is that important. You connect with people through your writing in a way that most other people can’t! I love it. ‘Nuff said!

  4. molly says:

    oh my dear – the winter meagrims surely have you in their grey grip! a knitting writer? a writing knitter? why do you need to write? and why do people read what you write?
    i can’t answer your questions – mostly. i can tell you why i read what you write, though. you’re my friend. i’m interested in what you do and i love the way you tell a story about your day. i like knowing what your house is like (almost as much woolly stuff as mine!) and i like your cats. i love that you can write and knit and spin and share that with me. i do regret that we can’t share a pot of tea whilst you’re telling me about your day – but i’d probably spill it laughing about the ikea-assembly incident….i like your pictures, i like your gargoyle. i like how you relate to fibres. i like how sometimes things don’t work out for you – and you try them again…sometimes things really need to visit the frog pond!
    anyhow, that’s why i read what you write. to me it doesn’t matter if you’re a writing knitter or a knitting writer. you’re sandi and you’re my friend.
    (and i also love your random goods – we all need to be reminded of them, don’t we?
    cheers my dear.

  5. Rachel says:

    the kind of writer you are is one who creates an environment and a story that others can relate to, sympathize with and sometimes admire.

    It’s not what you write about but the part of yourself that you put into it that is what draws us. I love the glimpses into your life, into your thoughts. Sometimes because they map so closely to my own, sometimes because they diverge so much and give me a different perspective.

  6. Unrulycurls says:

    I like to think of you as a journal-ist. You invite us into your life in such an intimate way. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  7. april says:

    i always look forward to reading whatever you write.
    and i like dolly parton.

  8. Purlista says:

    I agree with the other commenters. You’re our invisible friend. You do make a connection with me every time you say anything. really, anything. I don’t even share necessarily the same taste in things. i don’t spin, just knit. but you are a friend – someone who I look forward to hearing from; can’t wait to hear from even.
    You’re human and make me feel more human.

    I don’t know what to call that, but it’s an exceedingly rare gift. And one that you have in spades!

  9. janet says:

    I love the updates into your thoughts and your life. Your IKEA assembly post was fun, but your introspection always strikes a chord with me.

  10. Wendy says:

    Sandi, you make me smile.

  11. Sharon Miles says:

    I’ve been looking forward to your Advent posts every day. I think you sell yourself short a lot of the time! You are an entertaining writer and you make me laugh sometimes. You also show the crafts that you are doing, like weaving. Lots of us have never seen looms set up or heard how frustrating weaving can be. 😉

    I also love seeing your cats and dog. I asked about your one-eyed cat when he was a kitten because I thought something was wrong about his eye. Poor baby!

  12. Heather says:

    You are the kind of writer that makes me feel I’ve just had tea with my bestie. That the world is as it should be, even when things aren’t perfect. You validate my own need to knit and create and you echo my own frustrations that even that is a struggle at times. And you make me laugh and nod and cry and feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Oh, and Daisy loves when you post pictures of the kitties. 🙂

  13. Janise says:

    I think you’re on to something with this connection thought. I first read your writings at Knitting Daily and I must confess when you left/stopped writing the daily blogs there I was sorely disappointed. Nothing Kathleen wrote satisfied me – she wasn’t Sandi. I feel a connection with you every time I read your blog – whether it’s at your website or on ravelry or elsewhere. I think that must be a special gift or talent that few people have – that ability to connect with people. I look forward to every post and am so enjoying this Christmas/December special of a post every day!!

  14. You show your personal self through your writings. Its an interesting window we have in this century to reach out to others even yet unknown. I like to show people what I see through my pictures. In some ways that feels like a complete cheat next to writing.

    I’m grateful that you are inspiring! Whether you mean to be or not. I finally made my first handspun. It took months. The fibre sat there while I waffled about being insane to even attempt such a thought as making the yarn myself.

    But you see, this woman came to town to talk about sweater making, and I finally got to see the connection for me between sewing and knitting in someone else.

    I’ve been to plenty of knitting talks getting back into the swing of things these last two years. My EUREKA moment came when I was listening to what you had to say.

    Inspiration came when I read what you had written in the past.

    Who would have figured the path? But thank goodness. Because I CAN do this! And its a tremendous amount of fun.

  15. Vicki says:

    When asked what kind of writer you are, say “I write about life, knitting and being creative. The good, the bad, the ugly.” That sums it up and it doesn’t pigeon hole you anywhere. Because that IS what you do. You don’t write JUST about knitting, nor just about creating.

    Why do I read you? Because you show how to take a blind leap of faith and see how your knitting adventure will go sometimes. You show how to admit defeat and go back to square one. That defeat happens but then again, sometimes those blind leaps work out so marvelously. Live with it and move on. To think outside the box if what you are trying to do isn’t working. And you inspire me to try and be a little more adventurous in my knitting endeavors.

    Plus you remind us that if you aren’t taking time to be creative, we are gyping ourselves out of something very essential to our well beings.

    As to why sometimes you feel you did so well but used fewer words…sometimes you just have “it”. Whatever “it” is. The writing didn’t fight you that day, it wrote itself. What you wanted to say came out perfectly. I know that when I’ve written articles some just worked soooo much better than others and made me feel YES! And others that fought me and I used more words made me feel, bleah. Oh well, it is done.

    Sometimes it has more to do with the “truth” or the story or the point you are conveying than anything else. Or at least that is what happens for me.

    And as to why you write, its just another part of being creative. You want to share what you’ve created or done (knitting, beading, Ikea adventures, etc) and you have that written word bug. That written word bug is a compulsion. Not writing makes you feel stifled and incomplete.

    Talking is all fine and dandy and lots of fun, but writing…well….that really hits the spot.

    And now I’ll slap my bug into submission and quit writing!

  16. Laura says:

    As someone who is also coming to terms with the fact that part of her (academic) job involves writing, I understand the existential questions of “how do I describe what I do” — to myself, and to others.

    I agree with the other comments: I think you’re onto something when you describe yourself as making connections. For me, that’s part of what writing does. In telling my thoughts to someone, or in having to put them on (metaphorical) paper, I end up making connections between things, ideas, or people I would not have done otherwise. On this blog, you also make connections with us, and spark our own connectivity AND creativity. I love reading what you write because I can think alongside you. You have a very compassionate and inviting way of describing your world that seems to create a space for the rest of us to inhabit it as well.

    I can’t give you words to describe your job for you. But I can say that one of its effects is to make me, as your reader, a better thinker, writer, and crafter/creator. Perhaps, instead of lurking on your blog, I should thank you for these things more often. So, thank you.

  17. stitchesandwords says:

    I hear you, sister. I don’t know what sort of a writer I am either, except an inconsistent one who doesn’t seem to be trying very hard. I don’t know if it’s a title I can honestly claim.

    But you, now. You are a writer and a teacher and a storyteller. You write things that are real and true and come up out of your own self, ideas and scenes from a real life, considered and transformed into jewels, into crystals that scatter light. You listen; you have open eyes and an open heart, you listen and ponder and then speak words that mean something, but that also open space for conversation to begin, for more thinking and writing and speaking, by many more people. You have said it yourself; that this blog is more interesting because it is a conversation than it would be if it were just one voice, declaiming. You have a gift for that, opening space for communication to happen, and I can’t deconstruct it, just like I can’t deconstruct why beautiful music moves me, why glorious art inspires me, why skillful language enthralls me. It just is.

    As for learning how to do it better, I was pondering this morning my own tendency to draw back when I don’t understand how to do something, to try and find a solution by thinking, rather than by getting in there and *doing*, doing the thing until it makes sense, until I get more skill, until the doing teaches me how to understand. Maybe flailing inside a blogging window is the only way to get to the understanding that you’d like to have, much as that may be a daunting or annoying thought (it is to me, a lot of the time). Maybe it’s something that can’t easily be deconstructed and analyzed, but that one can gain a better feel for, a more sensitive touch. I’m still pondering that one too.

  18. RichelleCK says:

    I’m a catcher upper…the sort that goes long times between reading blogs, then reads for hours catching up, then doesn’t come back for a month or two. Admittedly, I do this with my “in-person” friends, too. And, as everyone above has said, you seem like a friend. It began with the way you explained things in Knitting Daily and the way you always seemed to hit upon just THE thing I was wondering how to do. You describe everything with humor, ease, knowledge, and you research. It’s just like sitting and chatting with a knitting friend. And, I found at Sock Summit that you make a really fun dinner date! (I wonder if Meg still reads Knitting Daily and enjoys it as much without your voice behind it! I kind of bet she misses you there as much as we do!) 🙂

  19. Tamara says:

    Connections! Bingo! BooYah!

    And all of the above. 🙂

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