January 26, 2011

Writing and Knitting

I've just discovered that the sweater I've been knitting for Peter--and nearly finished--is too small and the sleeves are too tight. So i've been unraveling a considerable amount of gray wool yarn and working up the energy and will to try again. That may take a while!

It's as if I'd written an entire novel and then discovered that the plot was all wrong or that the characters didn't fit. The feat of unraveling 30,000-50,000 words is daunting. I'm saved from that by belonging to a critique group who will listen to chunks of what I'm writing and give me feedback and support. No need to wait until the whole book is done. I can unravel as I go along, sometimes more than once over the same chunk. I also learn as I hear how others have unraveled something that was giving them trouble the week before.

Writing and knitting--weaving words and stitches in combinations and patterns that work together and end up as a perfect fit. That's the goal. To get things right, it takes a lot of hard work, patience and perseverance--and unraveling.

January 20, 2011

Sources of Inspiration

A few days ago my son posted on his blog about finding inspiration for a new writing project while washing dishes. He and his wife live in Abu Dhabi and have had a variety of experiences--good, bad, humorous, irritating, etc. (including tremors from an earthquake far away in Pakistan)--but it was left to hot, sudsy water to provide a creative spark.

The same is true for me as a writer. Creative ideas come most often when I'm performing daily, mundane tasks that require little mental engagement--raking leaves, taking a walk, cruising grocery aisles, swimming laps, digging up a garden patch. It's as if physical activity allows the creative part of my brain to get in gear and the sparks fly! The same is true when I'm stuck on where to go next with plot or character in an ongoing project. I've found it's best to stop thinking about the problem and go do some mindless activity.

However, I draw the line at any sort of housework. Cleaning, dusting, or vacuuming is so distasteful that it blocks any creative idea that might be trying to get through.

January 10, 2011

The Missing Spatula

How is it that a vital kitchen tool can disappear overnight? Last night, ready to turn the tilapia fillets browning in a non-stick skillet, I searched the utensil drawer for the spatula designed for non-stick surfaces. Not there, nor in any drawer in the kitchen. Not in the dishwasher. Not in the freezer (where occasionally missing objects turn up). Using a metal tool, I carefully turned the fillets, now somewhat browner than I had intended, and went on with dinner preparations.

Since then, Peter and I have done an exhaustive search of the kitchen with no luck. Did our errant tool get boxed up with the Christmas decorations? Or did it just disappear into an alternate universe inhabited by single socks, lost books, missing earrings, and misplaced bank statements? And, if so, will it return before I spend money to replace it?

When more elusive things disappear--a memory of a person, event, or place, for instance--I find that simply relaxing and letting go works. If I let my mind move on, the memory soon pops into my awareness. Seeking, searching, looking for something lost is not always the best approach. Sometimes it's best just to wait.

January 3, 2011

Winter Visitors

The other day I noticed a new bird at the feeders. At least it was new to me.

Peter wasn't sure about the pretty birds, who seemed to like hanging out in the holly tree outside the kitchen window. We studied our bird books, and finally Peter made a trip to his favorite bird food store and learned that our visitors were Cedar Waxwings.

They prefer a diet of berries, which may account for their preference for holly trees. They didn't hang around for long, but they were here long enough for Peter to catch them on film. Note the brilliant yellow on their tails. A true winter treat! We hope they stop by every December.