The last post comes from Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, author of EIGHTH GRADE SUPERZERO–debuting January 2010 from Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic. To find out more about Olugbemisola and her books, visit her at http://www.olugbemisola.com.
All of a Peace
I’ve loved to ‘make things’ for as long as I can remember. At the start of every holiday season my mind turns (a little too late) to all of the gifts that I want to make for people, for myself, for no particular reason; and then my longing to work on those often competes with a craving for more time to write, to work…and then I remember once again that it’s all of a piece for me, this writing and crafting thing.
Knitting and stitchery help me to revise, to think through stories or writing issues. Like many writers, I spend a lot of time ‘thinkwriting’, and often a day comes when I sit down with my notebook and a fine point felt-tipped pen, and…a blank page stares back at me. And stares. And stares. I usually keep a few unfinished needlework projects around for just those moments, and when I pick up the needles and start to knit and purl, or loop the needle and floss around in a simple blanket stitch, the story welcomes me; I work my way in. There is something about working the texture of the yarn, fabric, embroidery floss, or sometimes clay, that prompts me to simultaneously focus and let my mind wander into a story or moment with a character in a way that is both productive and supremely enjoyable.
I’ll admit that part of my inclination to making a writing/crafting connection stems from a nagging sense of guilt about looking busy, about ‘doing more’…letting those people who tell me about their ‘real jobs’ that keep them from ‘sitting around writing books’ get to me. In a way, that has prompted me to think about my crafts as intricately entwined with my work as a writer. But that’s also been a blessing in disguise, because I truly believe that the work with my hands stimulates the creative work of my brain. Collage, another wonderful brainstorming and revision tool, has literally helped me enrich characters and add depth in ways that simple listmaking or character sketches have not. Choosing a certain shade of blue, a scrap of text from a vintage book, a photograph of an overturned vase can immediately evoke a story or character ‘memory’ — “Ruthie would have done this, and then this…” — that leads me down an exciting writerly path. Sometimes it’s a literal “Aha!” moment, when a scene or bit of dialogue pops out, clear and gleaming as crystal, in the process of making; other times it’s a dim sensibility, a mood, an idea about theme that becomes lucid as I roll tiny french knots, maneuver a cable needle, or just wind a ball of alpaca round my hands.
And sometimes I make a stuffed toy or a cat hat because I’m just procrastinating and don’t want to pick up a pen (I still write longhand first drafts, notes, etc.) just yet.
“What does your character want?” is one of those questions that is often asked of an author in the process of writing and revising. I think they all want to be treated with care and respect, and taking some time to work with my hands in this way reminds me to do just that. And sometimes, when I lay down the pages and turn on the sewing machine for just five minutes, I am reminded that it’s not that I don’t have enough time — I do. I don’t always respect the time that I have, I let the tyranny of the urgent overpower the important. Then I let myself enjoy this work that means so much to me, go into the story and tend to my characters with patience and a renewed sense of purpose. I can even tell myself that the almost unforgivable amount of unfinished objects and WIPs laying about are helpful, really, plentiful reminders to respect and enjoy the process, not just the finished product. I’m not a particularly skilled crafter, and definitely a dilletante (you should see my craft book collection, it’s embarrassingly large and all over the place); but I love to make things. It awakens my mind, and quiets my soul. It helps my work; it helps me love my work. The ‘craft’ of writing works for me.
My craft blog:
A Few Creative/Craftish Books that Inspire My Work:
52 Projects by Jeffrey Yamaguchi
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Knitters Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmermann,
Making Puppets Come Alive, Larry Engler & Carol Fijian
Creative Knitting, by Mary Walker Phillips,
Handmade Toys and Games, Dollmaking: A Creative Approach, and Creative Body Coverings, by Jean Ray Laury
The Joy of Knitting by Lisa R.Myers
Knitting for Anarchists, by Anna Zilboorg
Making Things, Books 1 & 2, by Ann Wiseman
Kurikuri/Tezukuri Series (Japanese)
A few crafting projects: