Tag Archives: creativity

Why Writing is Like Crocheting (or Knitting) II

Today’s blog is dedicated to all the needleworkers out there, keeping the world warm and held together.

yarnStarting is the hardest part, isn’t it? The blank page {shudder} – nothing is scarier. And part of it is knowing that the foundation row has to be right. How often have we made an afghan that’s gorgeous, except down at the bottom it’s too tight and curls and won’t lie flat. Or worse, worked our way up and found on row 20 that the reason for this ever-increasing mistake is a tiny error back on row 2–and you have to go back and fix it, or nothing will turn out right.

Which is debilitating, as you stare at that massive tangle of ideas that might or might not be one single and whole thread, the piece of yarn that’s all gnarled up together so you can’t even see the beginning and ending of it. Your heart sinks as you take up the mass of loops and knots all stuck together, and yet, there’s this tiny piece of you that wants to get in there and tackle the thing, rise to the challenge, subdue it, turn order into chaos… and that’s pretty much the opening process, isn’t it? Every story has a beginning, the entry point A, and an ending, the exit point Z, so you try to find yours in all those crazy ideas tied together in your head, and they wind so tightly together that they seem like one thing.

But then you find either point–the beginning or the end–and start moving, forward or backward, patiently, one hand on the thread and one pushing through the tangle, moving, sifting, unwinding, over and under and back up again with gentle movements–although every once in awhile you just give the whole thing a good hard yank accompanied by a correctly-conjugated F word, and go get yourself a glass of something. Then you come back and sit down and think some more, slow, patient, finding the thread that runs through the middle of all those knotted bits.

And before you know it, you have a plan: a ball of thread to work with, a pattern to follow, and some time to get going. And time makes time, which people who do yarn work understand: it doesn’t take away your time, it gives it back. You write and write, and then you hit a mistake, a bit where the pattern doesn’t seem to read right, a character who dances sideways with a big raspberry, and you get frustrated and put it down and go away.

It’s amazing how a night off provides clarity, because when you make yourself take it up again yarn bombthe next day, well of course, here it is, a mistake in the pattern, or a doubled stitch, a word out of season, an idea in the wrong place, easily fixed, what were all the hysterics for? And on you go.

And on, and on, and then suddenly you look down and the thing that was a tangled mess that became a pattern and a plan has become under your steadily moving fingers a cohesive whole, a recognizable garment, a story to be reckoned with. You didn’t think you were getting anywhere and then BAM you’re putting on the edging, binding the whole ending back to the beginning. It’s colorful, and vibrant, and right.

rainbow-crochet-coatAnd satisfying. So very, very satisfying.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, crafting, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, publishing, writing

The Monday Book: DUMA KEY by Stephen King

Yes, I know; some of you are even now saying, “Whaaaa? She’s recommending a bestseller?! I want something more obscure!”

But here’s the thing. King has reached the point in his career where, as one NY editor put it, “He could publish a phone book and it’d make bestseller.” And since all his books are bestsellers, there are people who ignore him. What’s for the masses must not be good.

That dismissal would be a disservice to good, honest writing. Like fellow “pop lit” writer Terry Pratchett, King–even in the midst of his boyish fascination with making horror from human scatology and secretions–sometimes hits literature. Consider these quotes, all from Duma:

“When I look back on that time, it’s with the strangest stew of emotions: love, longing, terror, horror, regret, and the deep sweetness only those who’ve been near death can know. I think it’s how Adam and Eve must have felt. Surely they looked back at Eden, don’t you think, as they started barefoot down the path to where we are now, in our glum political world of bullets and bombs and satellite TV? Looked past the angel guarding the shut gate with his fiery sword? Sure. I think they must have wanted one more look at the green world they had lost, with its sweet water and kind-hearted animals. And its snake, of course.”

“Stay hungry. It worked for Michelangelo, it worked for Picasso, and it works for a hundred thousand artists who do it not for love (although that might play a part) but in order to put food on the table. If you want to translate the world, you need to use your appetites. Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t. There’s no creation without talent, I give you that, but talent is cheap. Talent goes begging. Hunger is the piston of art.”

When King is on, he’s on. When he’s off, welcome to Under the Dome. A friend and I were talking about King’s massive body of hit-and-miss novels, and we postulated that when he’s writing about something that has personal interest for him–his relationship with his wife and family, for instance (Bag of Bones, Lisey’s Story) or people getting hurt in accidents (like in Duma)–he’s spot on.  When he’s not that interested, well, can I just offer my opinion that Doctor Sleep sucked hose water?

In Duma Key, King explored something that definitely fascinates him: creativity. Hence, the book has that great mix his regular readers have come to expect of human nature captured so well in tiny sound bites, amidst tight storytelling about strange phenomena.

So, for all the aspiring writers, painters, chefs, and dancers among us, here’s one more quote from a guy who knows: “Talent is a wonderful thing, but it won’t carry a quitter. ”

Stay hungry, and enjoy.

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Filed under bad writing, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, Life reflections, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, what's on your bedside table