How is Writing Like Knitting and Performing Abdominal Surgery?

Lately I’ve been knitting, and it got me thinking about my writing. If you are not a knitter, you may not have noticed that people knit from round balls of yarn but yarn is not sold in round balls. It’s sold in skeins. The reason people have round balls of yarn is they take the skein of yarn and unwind it and wind it back up into a ball.

Knitters do this in order run the yarn through their hands. You have to examine all of the yarn because if there is a knot somewhere in the middle of the skein, you need to know about it. If you find a knot, you can cut it out. You’ll be left with two smaller balls of yarn, neither of which will have a knot in it.

A knot in the middle of a row of knitting looks terrible and can ruin a project if it happens to fall in the wrong place. Thinking about this process in knitting led me to thinking about abdominal surgery.

In trauma surgery, the surgeon will “run the bowels” if a patient has trauma to the abdomen (such as a stab wound.) That means the surgeon holds the small intestines in his or her hands, examining every inch of it for any perforations, as even a tiny hole can lead to infection and death.

As writers, we have to do the same thing, metaphorically speaking, with our pieces. I’m currently working on a short story that I started last year. There’s a part of me that is entirely sick of it. I’m so familiar with the story by now that it’s easy to skim through it and miss obvious mistakes, never mind the subtle nuances of style and effect.

One way that I “run” my story is by reading it out loud, which I do periodically. Another way is by retyping it into the computer from a printed out version. I find this to be unreliable as I can skim as I type, but it’s better than nothing.

The best way I know to “run” my story, once I feel it is nearly complete, is to have someone read it to me (or to listen to it after I’ve recorded it) and retype it as they speak (or as I listen to the recording).

While this process can be tedious, for me it’s a necessary step, to make sure my piece doesn’t have any knots or holes in it.

What’s your process for polishing your writing piece?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, family physician, mother, and stepmother. I’m currently goggling at the fact that two months of 2015 have almost gone by already! I can’t believe it’s almost March. I need to keep plugging away at my writing goals before the end of March–the end of the first quarter of 2015!


28 thoughts on “How is Writing Like Knitting and Performing Abdominal Surgery?

  1. I am sure that your new novel will be exiting as well as your articles in WordPress. I start with my writing about my opened consciousness. This is my interest in my present time. Both of us – we are consider, that it is necessary, re-examine the new text, like knots while we are knitting. It is told beautifully and concisely! Thank you for your nice and wise words. I love them All of them.

  2. I try to never write in consecutive sessions. I will write in one session and then devote the next one to reviewing what I had written previously. It is not foolproof…but it works for the most part. I am always looking for suggestions on how to maximize my time and perfect my work as well. Thanks for sharing!

  3. nice connection of three very dissimilar thoughts, or so they appear. I am a new writer and really appreciate all the advice I have received in these blogs, so kind of other writers to share, thank you.

    • Hi Frances,
      Yeah, that’s what happened to me, too. Now I never skip the step of unraveling a skein of yarn! Attention to detail makes a big difference, in so many things. And even as I say that, I hear, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly,” which I also think is true.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Happy writing (and knitting!)


  4. In the olden days, I would xerox the pages and read them. Because they looked different, I could catch my mistakes. Nowadays, I change fonts or make them larger. The tried and true method is to let time lapse if you have that luxury.

    • Hi Larry,
      Changing the fonts and making them larger are both good ideas. And letting some time go by is, I agree, one of the very best ways to be able to take a fresh look at your writing.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


    • Hi mamalisa4,
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. It’s so easy to record on our phones these days, or on our computers, it’s become one of my favorite ways to re-look at a piece.

      Happy writing!


  5. Great metaphors. However, I prefer the knitting one. Having had surgery in that part of my body – I’d rather not know what my surgeon was doing in there. It’s enough for me to know that she fixed it and I feel much better now. Thank you. 😉

    As to the writing part – you right on with that one. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of poetry and find that reading it aloud is the best way to polish. There is something about the words flowing through your ears that gives you a different perspective on them – likely because they are flowing through slightly different parts of the brain.

    • Hi Andrew,
      Sorry to bring back bad memories! You’re right, it’s enough to know your surgeon fixed the problem. I purposely left out a lot of detail, but maybe I left in a little too much. 🙂

      I think you’re right about reading aloud being different because it affects a different part of the brain.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


    • Hi Bararee,
      I bet the kids don’t laugh politely if they don’t really think it’s funny, right? When I lived in Switzerland many years ago, I lived with a family with two small girls. They would laugh at me when I misspoke in French, while their parents never corrected me unless I specifically asked, “Did I say that correctly?” I learned more from those girls than I did from their parents or any of my other friends who spoke French.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


  6. Well, the title of the blog drew me in. As I am reading this blog, the analogies are interesting. In fact, I like the analogies. To me, I describe writing in the terms of “laying pipe.” Thoughts come into your brain. You put these thoughts together and somehow they fit. There is a spirituality to writing that just simply is not explainable. Knowing that you are a physician, the analytic part does come through. But it is nice stuff.

    • Hi Jan,
      Yes, it can be tedious reading a piece out loud or recording it, but then you get into it and it’s not so tedious. At least, that’s how it is for me.

      Good luck developing your patience! And happy writing!


    • Hi Susie,
      Thanks for your comments and thanks for reading. I’m glad you found the post helpful.

      Happy writing (and editing, and proofreading!)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s