Weaving a tale
I know quite a few people who are using this period of enforced isolation to be creative in whatever way they can, writing or sharing poetry, composing music, cooking… In my case I unearthed a miniature weaving frame (my daughter’s as a child) and have begun a colourful piece which will end up as a small mat (hopefully). I’m not as clever as might first appear, since the wool itself is a variegated dye!
The task got me thinking of metaphor and exploring the parallels between weaving and writing novels.
At the simplest level, you’re creating something new and unique, although there will inevitably be similarities with something that’s been done before.
Before I could begin, I had to learn the language of weaving, the frame, the heddle, the shuttle, the warp and the waft and the function of each part. Then I had to set up the warp threads correctly. At last I began to slide the shuttle back and forth, alternately raising and then pressing down the heddle, ensuring I didn’t pull the yarn too tight or leave it too loose, a repetitive task which felt quite boring until the piece began to grow and the patterns emerged.
Not to labour the point, writing a novel has similar creative elements in the terminology and ‘rules’ of writing, in planning plot and characters, the hard grind of keeping on writing, and satisfaction as it takes shape. We also know how important it is to edit, edit and edit again. In the case of weaving that is rather a drastic task as it means undoing the whole thing and starting again, like the Winchester Cathedral Broiderers in Tracy Chevalier’s ‘A Single Thread’, or Penelope as she waited for Odysseus/Ulysses’ return. That legend inspired one of my novels, in which the heroine’s shawl features in various ways, including at one point being unravelled and reworked. It’s called ‘In for a Penny’ (yes, the heroine is of course Penelope), a somewhat racy and down-to-earth Victorian comedy about the development of the flushing toilet (in those early days when you went in for a 1d)!
Keep safe, keep smiling.
In the past month or so, I’ve been travelling all over the country for various family gatherings. Now, suddenly, being in that age group, my husband and I are being advised to stay at home in isolation. Our usual local activities have mostly ceased. More time for research and writing, yes, but also for thought.
How strangely apt that my research lately has been on population growth and attitudes to birth control in early nineteenth century Britain. No doubt you may have heard of Reverend Thomas Malthus, who published ‘An Essay on the Principle of Population’ in 1798. He argued that population expands in times of plenty until it becomes too big for the resources available for feeding it. He defined checks on population as ‘positive’ ones which raise death rate, such as hunger, disease and war, and ‘preventive’ ones which lower birth rate, such as abortion, birth control, prostitution, postponement of marriage and celibacy. Interestingly, however, he did not advocate birth control by artificial means (though others of the time did).
How apt is the following quote from this work for today:
‘Population must always be kept down to the level of the means of subsistence. Evil exists in the world not to create despair but activity. We are not patiently to submit to it, but to exert ourselves to avoid it. It is the duty of every individual to use his utmost efforts to remove evil from himself and from as large a circle as he can influence.
This research is background for my next Regency romance, ‘His Philanthropic Lady’, due to be published in the summer. In the present circumstances, it might well be sooner! Watch this space.
Good wishes to all readers and that you keep well and safe.