Writing on Stilts

While rifling through some used books for sale the other day, I landed Knitting Through It: Inspiring Stories for Times of Trouble (edited by Lela Nargi). As a knitter of nearly twenty years, I resonate with the title–not just because it involves one of my very favorite pastimes, but also because it acknowledges one of my strongest motivations for knitting: to cope.

Sylvain Dornon knitting on stilts (1893)

Anyway, this book features little stories about people who have knitted through unemployment, poverty, imprisonment, war, illness, and other life events that test our spirits. But what I like most about the book are the photos showing knitters hard at work in a variety of environments–some typical, some strange.

None caught my attention more than a picture of Sylvain Dornon, a French shepherd in the 1800s who knitted… on stilts! Apparently, his tribe–the Thchankats of Landes–did just about everything while elevated a few feet off the ground, mostly to avoid the poisonous snakes familiar to the group’s territory and to better brave uncharted terrain. In addition to knitting, Dornon journeyed to Moscow and back on his stilts–he even climbed the Eiffel Tower on the fool things!

You won’t catch me on stilts anytime soon. Heck, I can’t even hop off a step stool without feeling a bit woozy. But I think there’s a myriad of lessons to learn from Dornon’s escapades–even lessons that apply to the writing life…

1. Avoid becoming paralyzed by the feeling of impossibility. If Dornon can scale the Eiffel Tower on stilts, for Pete’s sake, you can prove yourself as a writer! You can get published! You can write that book!

2. Consider a story from a number of perspectives–on ground level and from a higher viewpoint. Such investment will only improve your writing.

3. Step around the venomous voices–both internal and external–that say you’re too busy to write. Enough excuses already–get to it!

And so on… May your writing reach new heights today!


WRITING PROMPT 1: Have you ever tried walking on stilts? Do you have an altogether different memory that involved someone on stilts–perhaps at a parade, circus, etc.? Describe one of those experiences.

WRITING PROMPT 2: Write about a situation from someone else’s perspective or while considering the bigger picture–from your metaphorical stilts, if you will.