There are days when nothing works. The words don’t come, the machines rebel, (the camera decides to be fussy, and the shift key won’t respond). These are the days when you either A) yell and throw things, B) shred everything in sight and pretend you can really start your life over just like that, or C) find some small victory to tide you over, then pack it in for a bit.
I screamed a little, but refrained from throwing things, which is sort of a victory right there but not enough to make me feel better. I figured someone would track me down no matter how much of my life I tried to erase, so shredding my writing notes wouldn’t help. That left finding another small victory, which in this case was the dining table. I’ve got some papers on it, but not nearly as many as before. I’ve been keeping up with the mail and putting things away, not down. This is a good sign.
Tomorrow, I will return to writing. Perhaps the machines will work better. Perhaps the words will flow. If not, I’ll repeat the exercise of finding a small victory.
I stood in line patiently on one of my errands last week. There were lots of people with complicated requests, and the workers were doing their level best to help while keeping the line moving. I smiled at the clerk who helped me and acknowledged her difficulties when she apologized for the wait. I hope it helped her get through the rest of her shift, but really it wasn’t so much a noble spirit on my part as promising myself a reward if I would behave until it was my turn at the counter.
I learned about the Bribery School of Parenting from a friend, who learned about it from one of her aunts. For every three errands I had to run with kids in tow, I would do one thing for them. I reminded them of the deal when we set out, and mostly it worked. That’s when I started using the technique on myself, to get through the unpleasant errands we all face.
The reward I chose for being a good girl in line was a half-yard of fabric for which I have no project in mind (and a few bright, shiny objects on the clearance table). I admitted this to the clerk who cut my fabric. She thought it was the best idea since sliced bread, and reminded me that not only was it cheaper than a half-pound of chocolate there were also fewer calories.
There’s nothing better than a day with a good giggle.
It doesn’t matter who “they” are. No one can write your story the way you can. When I look at pictures of my grandparents, I realize that I can never fully know them just from my memories. I treasure all the letters, diaries, and other documents they left. Even with them, however, there are going to be gaps in my understanding.
This isn’t to say that your memoir will be entirely accurate. No one is the villain in her own story. Even if you fess up to the errors you made that you know about, the ones you didn’t recognize as errors will go down in someone else’s story. So present your side now. Regardless of the extent of your legacy, don’t you want your contributions remembered?
After weeks of thinking of beads, looking at beads, and sewing on beads, I’ve finished Rhapsody In Blue. I made it to experiment with a forest of blue-trunked trees. I finished it to submit to a Studio Arts Quilt Associates show called “Haven.” This is all commercial fabric and beads. I made the side edges wavy on purpose to seem more organic, and the fringes at the bottom represent tree roots. While I recognize the value of imagination in getting projects started, there’s nothing like a deadline to get them finished. Here’s hoping we all meet our deadlines this year!
I’m rather fond of putting together jigsaw puzzles. This Christmas my friend Sally and I started on a puzzle while she was visiting. She had to leave before it was finished. I’m still working on it, and enjoying even the frustration of dealing with a piece that MUST go in a specific place but of course doesn’t.
So why does the same experience when I’m writing drive me to chocolate?
I’ve thought about this a lot. I love having written, but the process is often so painful I avoid it for days. As I was trying to fit a piece into the puzzle where it clearly didn’t want to go, it suddenly occurred to me that when I’m assembling a jigsaw there is the promise of getting it right. I have a picture to follow that is accurate, and when I’m finished I will be rewarded. That’s not the case with writing. Oh, I have a picture in my head of where I want the story to go, and sometimes even an outline. That doesn’t mean I’ll get it right. My characters, unlike the jigsaw pieces, morph in mid-sentence without permission. The plot that clicked in place like beads on an abacus suddenly loops around into a tangled coil of unconnected events. Even if I can thrash the story into submission, I don’t always get the reward of knowing I got it right when I type The End. Nevertheless, the puzzle of writing is addictive, because one of these days I just know I’m going to solve it.
I received many lovely gifts this Christmas, and I treasure them all. However, as I was clearing away the wrappings, I found myself entranced by good boxes. I put aside several containers too useful to recycle. Even as I was making a new pile, I told myself that I already had boxes and tins and such like to store projects-in-progress. I told myself that once those projects were in a sealed container they would become time capsules rather than project holders. I told myself to recycle the boxes. I didn’t listen.
We had company for the holidays, so I had to turn the extension of my desk space back into its original use as a dining room table. I went through most of the stuff, and ended up with only three piles under my proper desk. This is an achievement – I’ve had as many as five before.
Seeing the table for what it is gives me incentive to work harder at clearing my writing table. I have stacks of notes to self that could be consolidated, as well as notes for stories that no longer intrigue me and reference books that should have a better place to live. For all I know I’ve got a copy of the Magna Carta in there too.
I spend less time clearing out my writing space than I do my quilting space. I’m not sure why, because crafting in chaos is just as hard whether you are using words or fabric. It’s easy to get discouraged by the clutter that accumulates during a project, but this year I have an image of clean, flat surfaces to work toward. That’s a blessing at any time, but especially useful now.
One of my art quilt groups decided to list the new projects we want to pursue in 2022. Some of my old projects will go on that list, because I still want to explore the ideas. I am considering taking a fling with a younger, prettier quilt project first because I have several bags of fabric collections that are bespoke as fall-backs if the new project takes an unexpected turn. Those fabric collections will be turned into donation quilts, and since I’ve already told people my goal is to turn in one donation quilt a month I know I’ll have to return to the bags on the floor sooner rather than later. My plan is to work on them when I hit a creative block in the art quilts. Yes, I know, having three or four projects going on at once is how my sewing room turns into a swamp of random pieces of fabric, but this will be the year that I turn that around, right? Especially when I follow (fall for?) the lure of the new project, yes?
The week between Christmas and New Year is always one of leftovers. Leftover food, leftover projects, leftover ambitions – it all collects in corners around the room, taunting me. Yes, January 1 is just a day, bracketed by a yesterday and a tomorrow, but I always feel I should justify what I drag with me into the beginning of a new set of to-do lists.
Although my current novel-in-progress isn’t set in January, it does occur to me that I am missing a wonderful tool for character development by not considering what my imaginary friends take with them from one year to the next. Do they save their calendars? Do they update their resolutions lists? Do they clean the house, shop for new socks and underwear, or finish the book on their bedside table before they celebrate? And what do your characters do?
Some of my quilting buddies were relating their cautionary tales of expecting too much of themselves during the holidays, especially when it comes to making gifts for friends and family. I thought it might be fun to give each other a gift of time – say, an hour – to help sort out fabric or cut patterns or whatever. Luckily, I kept my mouth shut. Why put more of a burden on people with already slammed schedules when we can give ourselves that same gift? I realized if I reframed my usual New Year’s Project List (which was a reframing of New Year’s Resolutions), I might be able to accomplish more. Instead of challenging myself to finish a certain number of projects in 2022 (which I may do anyway around Ground Hog’s Day just to keep me on my toes), I’m giving myself the gift of 1 hour a month to do prep work/tidying/planning without worrying about my deadlines. I may not use the hour all at once. I may start out giving myself 15 minutes a week just to clear out some clutter (because there will be extra clutter after the holidays, don’t you know). The point is, this is a gift. I don’t need to feel guilty about using my gift. I can actually look forward to clearing out at least one drawer in the sewing room, because the time is a present I gave myself.