I’ve raided my old website, for previous blog posts that I think are worth re-telling. I don’t want to lose the work I put in and I would like to share some of the things with you. So, words are they like spaghetti or wool? Apologies to anyone who has already read these.
I was walking to the shop, and narrating to myself a conversation (as you do). What is writing like? My mind caught up, as ever, in slightly more abstract imagery decided instantly that it was like trying to make spaghetti out of soup, an impossible goal – but if you work out how to achieve it, would take considerable patience. Although it’s a fun idea, and probably reminiscent of Manny’s tower of soup in Black Book’s it wasn’t a workable image and I don’t like to consider that writing is impossible, because it is not.
The second image drifted into my mind, was that writing is like making a ball of yarn. But then I corrected myself and remembered that I am not American and therefore, writing is like making a ball of wool. You start off with all the wool, the words (substitute wool for words at any point and hopefully this will work…) As much or as little as you like. You may have even researched fancy colours and dyed your wool, making it more unique to you. But once you have this length, you’re fascinated by it and want to complete your end product. You start by throwing it down or trying to twist it into shape. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work. Suddenly you have a tangled mess of wool at your feet, although some of it has created some difficult and interesting knots, and some has even curled itself into your end goal (I’ll assume that more experienced wool does this more often than the beginning wool). But you have to start untangling those knots. You tease out the threads until you see clearly, at least for a while, but those threads get lost amongst the overall tangle fairly fast and so you’re faced with an ever so slightly less knotty piece of fleece. Patience is required, as is dedication. Sometimes you get so close to the knots to figure them out that you forget to see the rest of the string and some of it is nearer to being a ball than you think.
Every so often you have to leave it for a while and come back refreshed, able to see the overall pattern and swirl so that you can begin unpicking it again. Then you start to wind it up, you think you’ve got it all untangled and you get to mould it into its final form. It will tangle along the way because its cantankerous and fibres love to cling together. Sometimes you have to be ruthless and firmly separate the threads, despite your secret desire to leave them as they are and set the whole thing in a drawer or at the back of the cupboard.
But you’ll never forget it’s there. It’ll be at the back of your mind, that half-finished ball of wool. You’ll find yourself digging through the cupboard you long since shut with the intention of never opening again (a threat of a mop ready to fall on the unsuspecting door opener… there’s a cupboard like that in every house I’m sure, and they always have a mop or long forgotten broom.)
Finally, though it may take hours or years, depending on the length of the wool, you’ll have your ball. Your completed thing. But hand it to the wrong person and you’ll find that they start to unravel it. They’ll pull the wrong string and it will drop to the floor and race away from you. You’ll chase it, hands outstretched and rescue it before the cat gets it. Then you’ll roll it up again.
That is what I think writing is like.
Previously published at writingwolf.co.uk.