Lies We Tell Ourselves and Character Development

June 21, 2021

I finished a fascinating book called Code Warriors (about the people who cracked military codes during World War II and the creation of the agencies that would continue that work in the Cold War) just after Susanne Lakin spoke to Tri-Valley Writers regarding the protagonist’s journey and how to plot it. Code Warriors made me realize how easy it is to lie, which gave me another insight into the plotting scheme Lakin uses to move the story and characters to the desired end point. Most of my characters, whether in the books I write with Ann Anastasio or my own short stories, are basically well-adjusted. There aren’t going to be too many dark, hidden secrets because I have enough to fret about in my own life without weeping over my characters. Although Lakin showed us how to make subtle changes that will move the plot and let even happy characters evolve, I didn’t quite understand until I read about the Watergate scandal. I lived through that, so there should have been no surprises, right? Wrong. As I came across events I had forgotten, it occurred to me that my characters may “forget” some unpleasantness, which is enough of a lie to give them space to change. Their epiphanies don’t have to be earth-shattering to be satisfying. So, if my characters don’t have to change the world to be able to live a more authentic life, maybe yours don’t either.

Luck and wisdom!

Finding The Right Fabric

June 16, 2021

A long time ago, I pieced the center of this quilt. I wanted to use a simple border treatment so that the focus fabric would get all the attention. The trouble was, I didn’t have the right border fabric. Back in the pile it went. I unearthed it a year or so later. Still didn’t have the right fabric. When it worked its way back to the top this time, I had cleared enough room in the studio to bring out a part of my stash that had been hidden in the garage. Lo and behold, there was exactly what I needed! This is why you need to pledge to work through your stash – the entire collection, not just what you can reach – every so often. Chances are, you really do have the right fabric waiting for you if you give yourself time to find it.

Luck and wisdom!

Corralling The Little Gray Cells

June 14, 2021

With every great change comes the aftermath. Last week I made progress on my novel. I was so inspired that I started writing notes for future scenes as I worked on the outline. My little gray cells were leaping about with ideas, or parts of ideas, or something that could eventually be an idea if I would just calm down enough to evaluate it. I went into my sewing room to finish up a project, hoping to give my brain some space. The rush of creativity followed me there, and I pulled out two handwork projects, set aside fabric for another piecing project, and cleared off part of a shelf.

So now I’m tired, but the little gray cells are still doing their jig. The good news is I’ve got worked lined up to keep me busy through the eventual slogging phase of my projects. This is the way of creative breakthroughs. Understanding that the aftermath will be more ideas than time or energy will help me from despairing of ever finishing anything. I’ll just keep the projects in (for me) tidy piles and tackle them one by one.

Luck and wisdom!

My Mid-Century Modern

June 9, 2021

The working title for this quilt is Pink Martini. The background was made by members of the Progressive Party. I fused the pale pink martini glass to it, then put it in a pile because I had no idea what else it wanted. When I pulled it off the pile a few days ago, it occurred to me that I could stitch some of the lines in the ditch, and finish the quilting by hand with beads. The piece seems to want a mid-century modern treatment, so I’ll use colors of that era for the beads.

Thanks for all the suggestions for my last quilt. Most of them referenced the night and scenes from the window, so I decided on Night View.

Luck and wisdom!

Waiting For Ideas

June 7, 2021

After two years of working on the next novel in the Chenille series, I think I know the plot. Ann Anastasio and I discussed themes and characters in some depth before we started writing. We thought we had a reasonable handle on the plot. We were wrong.

Waiting for ideas is always hard, but the more a project pushes back the more you should pay attention. That’s usually a sign that it just isn’t the right time. Maybe you need to understand your characters better, maybe you need to streamline the plot, maybe the universe is trying to align the stars perfectly – whatever the reason, listen to that inner voice. Oh, keep working as well, but don’t let your frustration that the project isn’t progressing as quickly as you would like overwhelm you.

Luck and wisdom!

The Name of the Quilt

June 2, 2021

I am almost finished with this piece. It is quilted and bound, but I still need to sew on the label. To make the label, I need to name the quilt. To name the quilt, I need . . . well, something that I don’t have. The quilt often tells me what it wants to be called at some point. The piece began as a Challenge project to depict luminosity and luster. I may have had a working name for it then, but I’ve forgotten. I want to do a series of house quilts, but somehow calling this Scary House #1 doesn’t fit. I could call it Untitled With Moon, but that title might evoke unintended expectations. If you’ve got a suggestion, I’d love to hear it.

Luck and wisdom!

Leaving The Comfy Chair

May 31, 2021

Self-help experts love to tell their clients to get out of their comfort zone, because that’s where all the increased productivity happens. I think of getting out of my comfort zone as leaving my comfy chair. To paraphrase The Importance of Being Ernest, leaving my comfy chair only increases my productivity after it’s done a lot of other things first. I feel stiff in places that were once willowy, as if rebar had been substituted for all my bones and tendons; old rebar that had been through too many frozen winters and baking summers; old, stressed rebar that could snap like a chicken bone at any moment; an ancient, dried-out chicken bone . . . okay, I’m getting off-topic here. The point is, breaking your habits is important if you feel the habits have become a rut. Also, you need to stretch every creative muscle, just as you do every physical muscle. Nevertheless, and this is a big one, be prepared to suffer a little more and a little longer than you expect. Getting to the next level is hard work. You’ll be disappointed if you’re looking for a miracle, but rewarded for the effort you make.

Luck and wisdom!

The Artistry of Fabric

May 26, 2021

The collection of Northwest American Native art blocks spoke to me after I threatened to put them back in the pile. I found some floral fabric that reminded me of Russian folk designs, and the reds played nicely together. I decided creating something just because I love the artistry of the fabrics is as good a reason as any to make a quilt.

Luck and wisdom!

The Right Time To Write

May 24, 2021

There are moments when I know I need to be a different artist to finish a project. It happens in my quilting, and it happens in my writing. Sometimes a scene just won’t play nice on the page. If soldiering through doesn’t help, then I need to face the possibility that this isn’t the right time to write. It may be that the scene is too emotional for me to finish, that I need a bit of a rest to process the feelings before I put the words together. It may be that I need more experience, or at least a bit of a run-up, to find the correct phrasing. In either case, once I’ve got something that is sorta kinda maybe what I want I can give it to my critique buddies. They always find a way to show me what I’ve missed, what I’m lacking, what kind of artist I need to be. Until then, if my work is fighting me too hard, that’s a sign that I should back off for a bit. Treating yourself kindly isn’t the same as procrastinating. You’re just giving yourself time to become a better writer.

Luck and wisdom!

Making Something For Me

May 19, 2021

There is a certain note of undeserved happiness in the voice of quilters when they announce, “This project is for me.” I don’t understand why we feel we must justify making something for ourselves. Why else are we buying all that fabric if not to make things, and why shouldn’t we get to keep some of those things? Still, we all do it. Sometimes I get around using pretty fabric for myself by making a tote bag or a pillow, because at least those are useful – which is why I have enough tote bags to carry home groceries for the entire neighborhood, and three times more pillows than seat cushions to put them on. Now I have these totem blocks on the design wall, blocks I bought for a project for me, and I’m wondering what to do with them. Nothing seems right. Is it guilt that I’m making something for myself that’s keeping the perfect design from making itself known? Paralysis from too many choices? Fear that I won’t make the perfect project (and thus will have wasted my time)? All I know is that if I don’t get an idea soon, the blocks are going back on the stack.

Luck and wisdom!