I have been in a fallow season of late – a resting season. My novel is done (for now – honestly is it ever done?), and I am resisting the mighty temptation to begin work on a sequel. It’s too early for a sequel; the novel itself needs some time to cool down before edits and more revisions. Things could change, even slightly, and shake the ground on which a sequel is built, so… there are plenty of reasons for resisting. Once in a while, I do give in because I need to be with my characters again, and I need to explore ideas about where they’re headed. There are worse sins, I suppose. In the end, if I’m writing, that is progress enough. A summer of intensive writing and rewriting has left my creative well unusually dry; sometimes I need to test the levels, give the water a taste and leave it alone.
On the days where the nascent sequel doesn’t call me I struggle. For years, I’ve told myself, “Now is the perfect time to write a short story.” It might be, but while I have ideas aplenty, I generally run away from them. I resolve to change that this season week by week y 1.) actually reading more short fiction, and 2.) allowing myself to write some really awful, unreadable stuff. This is not going to be easy. Yet, I want to do it. I know I can. I have to constantly remind myself that I have a short story published. One little story, but it’s mine.
In the midst of indecision and little nagging fears, I took myself on an artist date. I walked around Michael’s for quite sometime, pondering the birthday money in my pocket like a little girl in a toy shop. I looked at the cardstock and the craft paper. I stared at calligraphy inks and imagined myself creating beautiful word art with the proper materials – new nibs and dip pens and a bottle of ink. Pricey, but worth it, right? In the end, however, I was drawn, perhaps inevitably, to the embroidery floss.
Nothing brings me joy like embroidery floss, although it has been years since I stitched on cloth or followed a pattern. When I was a girl, I was turned onto cross-stitch embroidery by an American Girl craft kit (Felicity) which featured a sampler. From there, I tried other patterns and then started making my own, growing tired of the near-sighted way cross-stitch presents a picture. Recently, I’ve taken to using embroidery floss for handmade cards, learning which stitches work on cardstock and which leave big, gaping holes.
But there’s embroidery floss itself. I am drawn in by color – light and dark across the spectrum. The day in Michael’s, I knew that it was the floss I wanted, not the calligraphy supplies. I took up handfuls of blue and terra cotta and coral and deep goldenrod. I had no idea what I’d do with them, but had to have them and imagining the possibilities lifted me out of a creative rut that night. These little twists of thread hold the same potential for me as ink and paper and words.
The plain truth is that I am not writing as I’m used to, as I want to. There is a void that morning pages can’t fill right now, and until I get my head around this short-story thing there are other ways to channel my energy. There are ways to be restfully creative while the levels in the well continue to normalize. This just happens to be my tendency. Words are so natural to me, but I’m also drawn to pictures and scapes, photographs and colors. Lost in these things, I somehow inexplicably find my way back to words again.
Words are beautiful. I love them. I collect them. I savor them like fine, rare wine. But they’re also challenging, and scare me a little. Sometimes they do not behave as I’d like them to. Sometimes there is no translation between what I feel or see in my mind and what ultimately gets written down. I want to write carefully. I want everything I write on this blog, in my novels, in my stories to have meaning, to be thoughtful. It takes me a little longer than other writers, but no one is keeping score.
Except the words, perhaps. Not the quantity, of course, but the quality. Do they have color? Do they have texture? Which stitch forms their structure? I am queen of mixing metaphors, but sometimes… you can’t create something new without breaking a few rules and seeing what comes out of strange and light-hearted ideas.
I am going to stitch something new on cardstock now, my awl and needle and floss at the ready. The words will come later.