Category Archives: equilibrium

Sometimes I just need to sew…

The quilting seems to be evolving into how the writing used to work; one WIP being written, two or three others in varying states of revisions.  My sewing room now resembles those earlier days; a new quilt resides on the wall, Scrappy’s Big Sister, while the Birthday Quilt top rests on a pile of fabrics, while the Roomie Quilt is stacked from the first square to the last, waiting its turn.  I have some tasks next week that will preclude any sewing related to quilts, but I will be making curtains.  I’ve never done that, but several sites are bookmarked, and it doesn’t look too difficult.

The Roomie Quilt, which doesn't look as patchy in real life.

The Roomie Quilt, which doesn’t look as patchy in real life.

Just a matter of measuring the windows correctly; measure several times, cut once.  Then sew straight lines…

But yesterday, as I was waiting for several things to coalesce, I felt the pull to arrange yet another collection of cottons onto the wall.  Part of it was due to lounging on the sofa yesterday morning, reading the novelistic WIP, but the Scrappy Quilt, while perfect for evenings watching baseball while seated on the couch, isn’t quite long enough for horizontal schlepping about.  I had scraps left from the Summer Duvet, and from the Roomie Quilt, so I sorted those pieces, made some straight edges, then plopped all those remnants onto my ironing board, and set about fashioning yet another quilt…

This is so similar to my routine a year ago, three years ago, or from just about the time we came back to America in 2007; I was obsessed with writing, to the point that a day did NOT go by without me either writing something new, editing something recent, or pondering what was coming next.  It was, well, a little crazy, as manuscripts slipped from my wobbly gray matter onto the keyboard one after another, much like these quilts up, then off, the wall.

But unlike first drafts, quilts have a home.  Not that a home makes much difference when one is compelled to write a novel, but at least it’s easier to store those rough drafts in cyber realms than try to shoehorn another quilt into our little house.

Roomie Quilt in a more manageable form; I think it's pretty, stacked from the top row to the bottom...

Roomie Quilt in a more manageable form; I think it’s pretty, stacked from the top row to the bottom…

Scrappy’s Big Sister will take Scrappy’s place on our sofa, while Scrappy will go live with my youngest, keeping the Whale Quilt company.  Meanwhile, I’ve been reading more of The Hawk than just a chapter in the morning and again in the evening.  I have a plan, of sorts, concerning how to breach the distance that has descended, due to all these blasted quilts; I’m going to finish reading, then read it again, making the necessary revisions.  Then…

Then, regardless of which quilt is usurping the wall, I am going to get back to that story.  I need to, well, write, as well as sew.  Sewing is sort of mindless, well, it’s a small chore to keep a huge quilt top on the table, getting pins out before the needle runs over them.  Sewing is therapeutic for how little I need to consider.  Just sew a (relatively) straight line, backstitch here and there, making sure the bobbin doesn’t run out.  But writing…

Oh writing!  Even thinking about that action makes me nearly teary.  I can’t explain it, other than to say some things in our lives are more precious than others.  Breathing and eating and sleeping are important; we can’t function without them, but other needs feed our souls, giving us reasons to inhale, imbibe, and slumber.  When I’m crafting a rough draft, there is little that can tear me away, until that day’s chapter is written.  Then I disengage, aware tomorrow another chapter awaits, and while I’m eager to delve into that world, I take my time, not wanting to intrude upon the magic.

Maybe that’s how it is for hard-core sewing enthusiasts, where fabric is the language, hues and textures calling to their hearts.  I can’t say that’s how I feel about sewing; it provides a creative outlet bringing me great pleasure, and lovely quilts for others.  But it doesn’t hit me the way writing does.

Still, sometimes I just need to sew, like this morning, because I can’t get what I need from the writing at the moment.  Sewing is great for making me feel as if I’m not just schlepping around on the sofa all day; it’s a stop-gap, and I don’t say that with disdain.  I say it with great gladness and outstretched hands, itching for some light green fabric to go between Big Sister’s rather thrown-together rows.  Scrappy’s older sis (but probably not the only member of the Scrappy family) isn’t quite as tidy as Scrappy, in that the scraps are smaller, especially the solids.  But I think, once it’s all said and sewn and done, Big Sis will be just as beautiful, in her own floral way, as Scrappy is.

Scrappy's Big Sis; the two top rows were sewn together last night, and are significantly shorter than the rest, but long enough.

Scrappy’s Big Sis; the two top rows were sewn together last night, and are significantly shorter than the rest, but long enough.

Just like books; not all get revised, but I’ve been editing The Hawk as I go along, which is good, because it’s already a behemoth, and is, ahem, maybe half done.  But it’s not being written as I normally write, or maybe this is my new method.  Write some here, quilt some there, read a little, sew a bit more.  Then take a deep involuntary breath, and let the words slip onto the virtual document, allowing another story its freedom.

Quilts are one manner of relaying my existence.  Novels are just as meaningful, although quieter.  And, to my slight chagrin, I don’t seem able to do without either of them.

Soon to be sitting to sew…

But in the meantime, no matter how eager I am to finish up the Fat Quarters Quilt, other issues take precedence.  The next quilt in the queue was my focus last week, when I found I needed a walking foot, which I borrowed from my eldest daughter yesterday.  I spent Easter in the bosom of my family, no better way in my opinion.  Now it’s Monday, and I’m back home, in my little sewing haven.  Still, before I sit at the machine, I need to note a few things.

The note is to remind me to fill bobbins and change the needle.

The note is to remind me to fill bobbins and change the needle.

One is that it’s fine to imagine a big quilt.  It’s another thing entirely to find room in one’s house to sort it out.  I have the quilt wall, but it’s nowhere big enough to accommodate a 88″ X 96″ queen/king summer quilt.

I’m not sure I was thinking about this when I first considered this project, but this morning, laying out a few squares, I came to realize the limitations of a small house and a huge quilt.  But I will make it work, especially once I get another half-yard of some big print with pink and yellow as the predominate colours.  In the meantime, I have three rows (basically) plotted.

I didn't lay them out to their full 8X8 glory.  Going to be a big quilt...

I didn’t lay them out to their full 8X8 glory. Going to be a big quilt…

In the same way that I can’t just jump into the writing first thing, I’m not an off-the-bat seamstress.  It’s like I need to wake up properly via lesser tasks, allowing the morning to seep into me before I tackle a major undertaking, no matter how badly I want to sit at that machine.

In the process, I gazed at the quilt wall, now housing the beginnings of my youngest daughter’s ocean quilt.  It’s in flux; when I started placing squares on the wall, I found myself getting dizzy.  Too many busy fabrics, not enough low volume/solids.  I need another half-yard of fabric for that one too, orange and light blue solids, I’m thinking.  (I’m also thinking I need to go shopping soon…)

At least the wall isn't bare...

At least the wall isn’t bare…

But now that I have a walking foot, there’s a project to complete!  Writing is a lot like sewing, all parts in their proper time.  And, when I’m caught up in a particular quilt or novel, I ache when unable to finish what is nearly done.  More parallels between those somewhat disparate pastimes in another post.

For now, it’s about time to quilt.  Need to fill some bobbins, change the needle back to one I use when quilting, then plop my butt in the chair.  That is just like writing, which doesn’t escape me at all…

Dusting off after the chaos

Last week was hectic, no joke.  I’ve learned some valuable lessons, which are as follows:

1) Keep track of one’s novels via search engines.  You never know where your stories may land.

2) Don’t be afraid to leave yourself a one-star review.  Or to encourage others to do the same.

3) A bad apple can’t spoil the whole bunch.

People, on the whole, are good.  That was the biggest and most valuable point taken.  I would be remiss if I didn’t note that while I’m still writing, and plotting, and even pondering far-off in the future ideas, I am facing more than a little weariness when I think about publishing.  This has been niggling before a pirate stole my book, but has grown since the Amazon debacle.  I’m not sure how much is due to temporarily feeling like my heart had been ripped out of my chest, or plain overwork.  Even though I’ve cut back, I’m still feeling pulled in too many directions.

When I started publishing independently, my goal was to carve out a niche for my novels.  But it’s funny how ideas evolve; over the last two years, since I began walking this indie path, I’ve learned tremendous truths about writing, editing, publishing, and… me.  I didn’t expect that at all.

I assumed I wouldn’t change in the midst of all the tear-down and build-up.  I would be the same hard-working, or yes, driven, person when it comes to writing.  And within my more plots than sense head, that remains as true in 2013 as it did in 2011, as it was in 2010, 2009, 2008…  In 2008, I dove head-first into the fictional pond, submersing myself completely   I loved it, felt such gratification.  It was about learning to write as much as telling stories.  I didn’t mind the lessons; nothing valuable emerges until a level of expertise has been gained, through hard work.  Not that writing is like building houses or farming.  But skills are acquired by practice.  I wanted to write, so I just did it.

Then I wanted to publish, so I queried, had a few nibbles, then reassessed.  Going indie was the culmination of many considerations, and I have no regrets.

Not until now.

And it’s not even a regret really; I was just telling my daughter that life is too short for regrets.  You make mistakes, you learn from them, you move on.  I don’t regret anything to do with my writing.  But as I said, even before experiencing piracy, I was starting to give pause to what I’m publishing and why.  Maybe it’s the result of all I did last year, maybe it’s aging, maybe it’s not enough roughage in my diet.  Or chocolate, or too much sun, blah blah blah…  All I know is that today I wrote a somewhat crappy chapter, then sat to plot next month’s Camp story, and not two minutes after pulling out the folder, laying it on the kitchen table, I closed it up again, no heart to even picking up a pen.  I poked through a chapter of another project, then was so glad my daughter was awake, ready to get something to eat.  We had arranged a late breakfast-early lunch date, and for the first time in memory, all I wanted was to get away from writing.

I’m discombobulated, as the lovely Melissa likes to say.

Discombobulated is a fantastic word; it’s being out of sorts, but in a long, complicated manner of saying it, much like this post, or many of my posts.  I’m not in need of assistance, which is great!  But I’m just not THERE, you know?

I’m discombobulated.  I think I need some chocolate.  Well, maybe not, but it probably wouldn’t hurt.

Mindy McCready and Reeva Steenkamp

Monday, 18 February 2013; blog post part one.

Waking at three, I knew I wasn’t going back to sleep.  I lie beside my husband, wishing for him to stay in slumber, pondering today’s tasks, glad to be going back to work.  A nice break for last week’s anniversary celebrations was necessary, but as my husband spent much of yesterday afternoon faffing with stereo equipment  I did some editing.  Hard to keep a writer from the words.

By three thirty, I got out of bed, considering today’s post, about returning to the work, or the work slipping into my brain’s cracks that aren’t able to filter that lovely joy.  I’m always married, but on weekdays, once the PBJ is made, the husband kissed, his lanyard adjusted, it’s me, tea, and the computer.  Yet when I wake early, it’s just me and the BBC News, my homepage.  Shia unrest in Pakistan was the lead story, another bombing by militant Sunni Muslims, but Shia dead aren’t being buried after this latest atrocity, which hopefully will prod the authorities into tracking down those responsible for murder.

I don’t read any other news except the BBC, just to stay aware.  Last week it was Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp, which I read with heaviness in my heart for all involved.  This morning it was Shia unrest in Pakistan, and a dead American country music singer.  Mindy McCready shot herself on her Arkansas porch a month after the death of her boyfriend.

No way was I going back to sleep after reading that.  I went to Google News to learn more, simultaneously reminding myself it’s better to stay away.  Still, I rubbernecked; McCready had been suffering from drug addiction for ages, leaving two small sons, one not even a year old.  What truly appalled was the relationship she had with former baseball star Roger Clemens from before she was a singer, meeting him when she was fifteen or sixteen, her age is disputed.  They had a lengthy affair, so devastating to read how human beings can get so lost, even within their own lives.

Just as miserable as how Oscar Pistorius allegedly killed Reeva Steenkamp, details emerging that include a bloody cricket bat and her fractured skull.

This blog is about my writing.  It’s also about me; I didn’t mean to wake so early this morning, I don’t want to be so affected by these things that happen far away.  Lately women all over the world have been in the news for the trauma inflicted upon them, from India to Kansas City to Pretoria to one woman ending her life in Arkansas.  As a writer, my imagination is pretty active, but this overwhelms, and this is just what grabs headlines.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.

By four-something I was lying on the sofa, a crocheted blanket over me, deep in prayer.  There are no viable explanations for these acts, except for me to appreciate my beloved, my sobriety, my sanity.  And to recall 1 Corinthians 13:1 – If I speak speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gone or a clanging cymbal.

Share your thoughts

This morning I was reading about my football team’s win, big news mostly because of the quarterback that Coach Jim Harbaugh chose to start (and finish) the game.  In the two articles I perused, at the bottom was that invitation to share your thoughts.  I smiled, feeling it was indicative of this century.  People have always wanted to give their two cents.  Now it’s as easy as breathing.

Occasionally I read the comments after an article, but often they are filled with vitriol, and I stop reading comments for a week or two.  Years ago folks took a reporter’s word not only as gospel, but not even considering offering their opinion.  Letters to the editor was one way to communicate, but most often articles were digested at face value.  Not anymore.

Writing fiction is not like reporting news, or blogging.  As an author, I craft my novels in solitude.  As an indie novelist, I rely on trusted crit partners, but ultimately I release books by which I stand or fall alone.  But for some reason, this morning’s sports stories struck a nerve, being invited to share my thoughts.  I have plenty of feelings on the 49ers quarterback hoo-haa; Colin Kaepernick  better sparks the offense, so leave him in.  But I am one person, and it’s not going to have one iota of influence on Coach Harbaugh, it’s simply my feeling.  I own that notion, like I do my novels, it’s all mine.  I wonder if by being so tempted to share our personal opinions, do they become diluted?  Are they fodder blowing in the wind alongside millions of other voices, swirling in a cacophony of agitated sound.

Or maybe after a long break (and my husband’s Green Bay Packers getting killed by the NY Giants), I’m just feeling crotchety.

During baseball season, my rather hearing-impaired uncle used to sit right beside his ancient red plastic AM radio, games blaring through the small trailer next to my house.  As a kid, I would sit in the kitchen with my elderly aunt, watching her play Solitaire, the announcer’s voice easily noted between thin walls.  My uncle wasn’t a quiet man, always something to say, often loudly, as if we might not hear him.  But I can’t imagine what he would think of being asked to respond to every single article he read.  Having grown up with that generation just steps away, sometimes a part of me is still there, comfortable in past eras where the drone of instant communication didn’t infiltrate or overwhelm.  This morning I just wanted to read a few articles, then move on with my day.  I didn’t wish to be sucked into a maelstrom of opinion (or write a post about it), but that is the way of things in 2012.

When I’m feeling nostalgic, it’s for those quieter moments when I didn’t need to sift through heaps of voices.  Maybe that’s why noveling means so much.  It’s me and my characters, an isolated hush within vast worlds and tiny moments.  As this final week of NaNoWriMo winds along, Chris Baty’s words mean even more; no one else can tell my story.  Those tales aren’t reliant upon tens of hundreds of thousands of opinions.   They are the sole reflections of this writer.  Keeping a firm grasp of my individuality is imperative to maintaining equilibrium in the never-ending drone of public opinion.