Sunday, January 10, 2010

Insights into Writing: Kyoko Mori

In Kyoko Mori’s new memoir, Yarn: Remembering the Way Home, a remarkable meditation on knitting and the themes of love and loss, Mori shares valuable insights into her writing process.

In the passage below, for instance, Mori describes her writing as a process of "holding on and letting go..." that provides her with a way of moving forward into new terrain rather than simply repeating herself.

Here’s what she writes:
Knitting had taught me to plunge into color and swim through it, each row of stitches like a long lap across the pool. Though the motion seemed repetitive, the rows were adding up to a larger design just as the laps were adding to the actual distance I had traveled. My writing, too, had to be a movement and not a repetition. If I could match the perfect knitting tension in my head–holding on and letting go at once–then the words and the sentences sometimes veered away from where they were going and guided me to a new thought that surprised me. I found myself suddenly on the other side of the muddled, tangled phrases, with words for what I didn’t know before. Those were the moments to write for. (p. 146)
Mori notices a tension--"the perfect tension"--in her head when she knits, doesn’t she? Where does that tension come from? She suggests that it comes from holding on and letting go at once. And she discovers that if, while writing, she can match that tension--holding on to the familiar while letting go into the unknown--she can break through to discover a new thought and new words “for what I didn’t know before.”

Here’s another passage:
But in writing, the best passages came to me either as a complete surprise–whole sentences effortlessly appearing in the back of my mind–or else they were the result of so many agonized revisions that, later, I couldn’t bear to recall how I’d arrived at the final version. Either way, the not-knowing was the price I had to pay to write the few sentences among many that gave me the most pleasure. Once I got something right, I couldn’t do it again. (p. 187)
Here Mori points to a slightly different kind of tension, the kind that comes from “not knowing” ... and explains how not knowing can lead to knowing, regardless of whether the words that emerge are the result of numerous revisions or if they come as a complete surprise.

In both passages Mori provides insights into the writing process that might help you as you begin swimming your laps in the year ahead.

For more on Kyoko Mori’s newest book, Yarn, visit:

And for more about Mori, visit:

1 comment:

Birgitte Necessary said...

I love Mori's descriptions on writing! They are so much like what I experience. I have to get this book. Thank you for the great post!