Waiting For Wool...

By Lucy Harbron - 11:02

I don’t think I was quite prepared for how often someone would ask me what my hobbies are. I thought it was a primary school thing, scribbling down our favourite activities and assigning them to ourselves as identities or future careers. If you liked to play with your pets, you were the class vet. Those who liked being part of the choir were destined to be stars. And I picked writing stories, still wearing my badge at 23. I didn’t think people asked, as I floated through years of friendships and life situations defined by my one big academic interest, and now I feel like I should have a better answer prepared. ‘So what kind of things do you like doing?’ – dates, interviewers, prospective housemates, I don’t really know what to tell you.

This was the first year in a long run that I haven’t written about new year’s eve. Never really knowing what else to do with my reflections, I pour them out into a blog and click publish to tick off an imaginary quota that I’ve engaged with it. I started one and stopped at just under 300 words, a pattern I’ve been seeing a lot. 1000 words used to mean about two hours and now is more like two days, I didn’t used to take breaks and now I’ll procrastinate between every paragraph. I reckon I’m just out of practice now my job doesn’t see me stretching my writers hand all day, but I’m shocked how quickly my lifelong identity as a writer feels threatened after 6 months of reduced output. The voice that used to yell at my lack of ideas or accepted pitches has nothing else to focus on but me, scratching away corner of my perceived self every night I don’t write a word.

For 6 months I’ve clocked off around 6:30 or 7, ate, and seen sinking into a bath for 45 minutes or so as the height of daily luxury. I felt like I read constantly and made no real progress to my to-read pile, I ate the same meals on repeat, melted my brain over hours of Gilmore girls, and didn’t write a single poem.

In December, I remedied it with cross-stitching, a skill I picked up years ago to busy myself after a big heartbreak. I spent a month dedicating every night to a variety of floral patterns and my sisters initials, and had them finished just in time for Christmas day. On the 29th, my mum taught me the basics of knitting and I found something new to be hooked on that managed to silence the voice that keeps slicing me up. I knitted in the car from Middlesbrough to Sheffield. I knitted on new years eve only half aware of the calendar changing. I knitted all the way back down to London and every night since, until the 16th. I ran out of wool before my last step, I’m still not over it. I cried when I realised, desperately face-timing my mum to see if she knew some magic fix that would require a week long wait for new wool. I held my breath and waited for the voice inside me to find the mistake to fixate on, woke up the next morning tensed ready. Put on my old scarf in the absence of a new one and waited all the way to work. But nothing came, I just ordered more wool.

When people ask me what my hobbies are, I always lead with writing, hyperaware that I sound like a person that can’t rest. I am that person. I tag going to galleries and gigs onto the list, but for years my weekends have felt wasted if I wasn’t finishing a piece. I struggle to go a week without needing to tick some work off my list, and will sacrifice all other activities to settle that need. I hear my housemates go out running or do drum lessons, my sister jets off for weekend breaks, my mum finishing making a cardigan, and I see all their hobbies as the most beautiful little decoration to their life. On them, it’s a thing of awe, I love the facets of their being, multiplying year on year with some new interest nurtured. And I want it for myself, feeling the blossoming begin each night I let a film soundtrack a stress free creation with no deadline or consequence. The soft wool seemed able to soothe anything, silencing that voice and letting me live in 20 stitch rows, smiling each night at new progress that cost me nothing in terms of strife. I loved how my hands moved without me thinking, feeling like writing on a good day, giving me a dose of that identity-affirming automatic action without any pressure. The needles clicking together was a calming hypnosis, the rows bobbing up and down like waves. I wish my new wool would hurry up and arrive.

After a week without it, the voice is getting louder. Even now, this piece has taken me two hours and I’m at 846 words and I hate myself for it. I have plans to go out and wander and I can’t help feeling like for some reason I don’t deserve to, like there’s a more pressing task I’ve forgotten about, stupid girl.

But knitting into a new year, feeling freshly in love with a task that was never a chore or a stress, my only resolution was to do more no-pressure things. I want to decorate my identity with little badges that have no need to become anything more, no quota to meet, no punishment for a week off. At 23, I want to pick up some hobbies, remedying my younger self that stuck too close to one thing and could never last at anything else if it didn’t mean something bigger. Knitting means nothing bigger, just calm and sweet and soft.

And my new wool has just arrived.

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