Second sock syndrome for non-knitters

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Every Friday morning, my office is shared by a group of knitters. By “office,” I mean my local Bruegger’s, where I occupy a booth for hours and write, occasionally interrupted by people interested in the progress of “The Book.” And by “shared”, I mean that the knitting ladies buy coffee and chat over a dizzying array of needles and bundles of yarn and other knittable things. We’re usually a few feet away from each other.

(Once, a lady was crocheting with plastic bags. Yes, like the grocery store type. Once cut into loops and linked together, they can be crocheted. She was making a thick, waterproof mat, roughly the size of a grown man. It would be given to a homeless person so they didn’t have to sleep on the damp ground. Creative and practical. She told me that one man said the mat gave him the best night of sleep he’d had in years.)

Anyway, these ladies are opinionated and chatty and loud, which is fabulous for an eavesdropping writer. One day, I heard the phrase “second sock syndrome.” Here’s my definition:

Second Sock Syndrome: The knitter finishes one sock and somehow (boredom, fatigue, other concerns) never finishes the second of the pair. Usually accompanied by feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and failure.

Hmm.

Often, we start huge projects with enthusiasm, get halfway through, and quit.

It might be writing a novel. In working for Ruminate, I’ll run across pieces that hold potential but don’t feel finished; the author got halfway there, but from lack of knowledge or desire, never quite polished it to a publishable level. Sometimes I’ve read published books like this, though it’s rare in traditionally published work.

(True story. Recently, I read a traditionally published novel with so many spelling errors and missing words that I was appalled. I groaned to read the author’s thanks to their editor for “correcting my horrible spelling.” How bad had it been before?)

Or in my own novels, it’s easy to write the first draft (well, relatively easy) and then relax. Call it the second draft syndrome.

It might be those New Year’s Resolutions, undertaken with gusto. This is the year to: lose 50 pounds! Work out every day! Run a marathon! Drink more water, less alcohol, eat more veggies, less cake! Get organized! Yes, yes, yes! It’s mid-to-late January. How’s it coming?

That’s what I thought.

It might be life in general, spiritual growth in particular. A blogger wrote about Brennan Manning’s influence in his personal life; one thing Manning told him was that most men stopped growing spiritually after age 40 or 50. At 80, they were basically the same man as they had been at midlife. I’m pushing 40, and that made me pause. Do I really want to be at this maturity level forty years from now?

Second socks, second drafts, second halves of life.

No matter how well or poorly we did on the firsts, we all face the seconds.

Enthusiasm isn’t enough. Willpower isn’t enough. Coasting on the strength of the first half isn’t enough.

Here’s the good news: even if that first part was awful, now is a chance to change.

  • The first sock had dropped stitches? Now you know that’s a weakness and can watch for it.
  • The first draft had plot holes and flat characters? Now is the time to dig deeper into your fictional people and work out the plot issues.
  • The first weeks of January found you breaking your resolutions? Now is the time to re-evaluate whether that resolution was realistic and whether it might be better to make smaller, more doable changes.
  • The first half of your life was a screwed up mess? Now is the time to reach for God and let him give you the grace you need, the strength to change what needs changing, and the wisdom to guide you into old age.

And here’s the marvelous part: with God, every day is the now.

Unlike an almost finished pair of socks or a lousy published novel or an expired and unused gym membership, it’s never too late for his grace.

 

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16 thoughts on “Second sock syndrome for non-knitters

  1. wow, a new condition to add to my repertoire…I have “S.S.S.” LOL. But seriously, I love how God is able to redeem us and how encouraging you are in this post. I’m so glad that now is the time & it isn’t too late!

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  2. I remind myself often that it’s not a matter of finishing everything I start. After all, there are a lot of things I start that not only shouldn’t be finished but I might have been better off not starting in the first place.

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    1. True! I guess part of wisdom comes in knowing what needs to be finished (things that God has called us to do, both in general as Christians and in the individual specifics for our lives) and what doesn’t (and shouldn’t have been started). It’s very freeing to drop those half-finished projects, and often, I think we have to be willing to drop those before we can grow in maturity.

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  3. Okay, please take a breath with me.
    This is a fabulous post.
    Profound.
    Concise.
    Unique.
    Memorable.
    It deserves to be in a magazine or newspaper. I’m dead-serious. Where can you submit it?

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  4. As an avid crocheter I can very much relate. I sometimes have more than one project on the go at one time and currently have a half-finished rug made from strips of cloth cut from an old pair of curtains. It’s looking serviceable but not as good as I had hoped so it’s been sat there for a good six months. I’m also crocheting a cushion cover for the living room and I have no doubt which will be finished first. I never thought to apply the same principle to my writing, I think I will try. Thank you, Laura.

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    1. I love that idea for the rug, Sandy. I’ve heard/seen rugs knitted or crocheted from strips of old t-shirts, but I hadn’t thought about old curtains. Do you ever post photos of your crochet projects on Pinterest? (I’ve found that Pinterest is to be approached with caution; it’s like a vampire sucking the blood out of a clock . . . a time drain, if I’m not careful!)

      Good luck applying the same principle to your writing. In my real life, I know a writer who always has multiple projects working at the same time (an anthology to edit, a novel to finish, a short story or two or three to be submitted), but I’ve never been able to work that way. Wish I could!

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  5. This is a great and challenging post in so many ways. One brief comment that is a side issue – the spelling errors and such in the traditionally published novel. Yes, I have read of the declining editing standards. Even in Christian academic works I was recently surprised to find basic spelling/grammar errors. What is going on? Sloppy carelessness? Overworked editors who are given an unreasonable work load? The universities aren’t training these graduates right in english? Or what?

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    1. I think it might be the overworked editors reason. It’s fairly easy for a writer to make careless mistakes and simply not see them in her own writing. But the publishers seem to expect that the author-to-be will hire outside editor(s) at some point for proofreading, because the actual editors at the publishing house, although they’re trying hard, are rushed and overloaded. It shouldn’t be this way, of course. But traditional publishers are still trying to find their place in the wild, wild west of the publishing landscape, where they’re competing with self-publishing, etc.; most of these works won’t pull in a profit, much less earn out the author advance or sell a million copies. (Only about 4-5 novels did that last year, I’ve read.) So it’s easier to justify spending more time/money on the minority money-makers than the rest of the works. The impetus is on the individual author to have multiple people read the work and catch most of the errors.

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  6. Never know what to expect with your posts Laura. What starts out as knitting socks end up with the wisdom of Solomon!!! Yes, the first half of my life hasn’t been the best, but I am getting some closure on it now. With God there is always a surprise and happy ending to the worst of starts and the most unpromising of stories. Ask God to give you some ideas for your novel. You may be surprised at the answer that He gives you…

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  7. This is really encouraging, Laura — especially the point that it’s never too late to start a new tradition or make changes in our lives. That point about people not changing after age 50 is quite sobering; it’s certainly good to examine ourselves and ask if that’s really what we want to happen to us.

    I know what you mean about the spelling errors too. I read 2 fairly new nonfiction books by well-known Christian writers recently. One was rife with homophone errors: reign/rein, heel/heal. The other referred to the “easy yolk” of Jesus – yikes! I think you’re right about overworked editors — and probably also over-reliance on Spell Check, which can detect a misspelled word but can’t tell that “heel” should be “heal” in the context of the sentence. Incidentally, I have also read several student papers recently that had odd spacing, e.g. 2 spaces between words, or a space between the letters & the apostrophe in a word. It seriously made me wonder if students are writing essays on their phones!!

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    1. They may be writing essays on their phones! It would be interesting to find out. My daughter has also found that her ipad is a terrible place to write anything of length; the autocorrect constantly changes the words as she writes, and as she already dislikes the writing process, this makes her dread writing assignments that must be done on the school-issued ipad. The few times I’ve had to use that device have made me want to bang my head against the wall!

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