It really is (are? My grammar's failing me here) the simple things in life that make it. Fresh stove-top espresso, a grim-looking day outside, and slipping my feet into my moccasins for the first time since last winter. Bliss!
We've had a fairly sultry, tropical start to Autumn this year, but it's finally starting to crisp up. And while it's nice to have an extended summer, I like my seasons, and I like them to be seasonal.
Anyway, got my copy of the Victorian Writers Centre magazine today, and among many interesting snippets were the results of this survey ('More than bums on seats: Australian participation in the arts'). Apparently 7% of Australians are writing a novel or short stories. That's 1.4 million of us! That's a lot, and while it puts my efforts into perspective, I found it kind of encouraging. I'm not the only one giving it a go!
Also good to see they've announced another Emerging Writers competition, for Vic residents only though, details here.
So many reasons to put my bum on my seat and get on with it!
To say I've been feeling uninspired lately would be a slight understatement. I just can't be bothered, and there's always something else to do. Maybe it's to do with the days drawing in, the beginning of some kind of creative hibernation.
Anyway, sitting at the computer is not doing it for me right now, so this morning I took my notebook and a pen to a local cafe and spent an hour frowning to myself, scribbling stuff down and generally looking very creative I'm sure. And it worked! I wrote a whole scene about two of my characters meeting for the first time.
There are many reasons I will never give up writing in notebooks:
- They are light and the battery never goes flat
- They don't crash and they can't catch viruses, though I admit they are flammable
- My handwriting takes up more space than typed words, so it looks like I've written more
- My handwriting is almost illegible, so I don't waste hours re-reading it and agonising that it's all rubbish - I just get on with it
- I can doodle in the margins while I'm thinking.
I'm interested in how other people find inspiration when it's just not working. A change of scenery? A change in technique? A change of underwear?
These little bundles of potential have been sitting on my shelf for about 4 months, until I finally had enough of admiring them while I write and started on a scarf (there were originally three). It's not often I buy wool with no 'project' in mind, but these were just so pretty.
Which brings me to my metaphor:
My ideas for writing are these balls of wool. I bring them home, very pleased with them and excited about their potential. The colour and texture are lovely, but with the yarn all rolled into a nice even, compact ball, it seems a shame to undo them, so I sit them on my shelf. I admire them from my desk, but don't touch them.
Then, after they've collected some dust, I look over one morning and think, 'They look nice, but I'm really going to have to do something - anything - with them.' It's time they were put to use.
So I take a skein of perfection, find the loose end and unravel it a bit. A nice simple scarf should show this wool off best. I try crochet, because that's my preferred yarn-based activity, but it's not right for this type of wool, so get out my knitting needles. Cast on a few stitches, and then realise how much work I've got ahead of me (I'm a very slow knitter).
After five or six rows, I'm usually thinking 'Oh God, this is so boring' and go looking for something more interesting to do. Have a cup of tea. I sit down again (maybe days later) and do a few more rows.
After a while, I look at my uneven stitches and think 'Nope, this is awful. It isn't going to work. I should have left the wool rolled up and perfect.' But it's too late! The ball of wool is half used up, warped and deflated. I've ruined it -- even if I unravelled my scarf and rolled the wool up, it wouldn't be the same. (There may or may not be a dummy-spit here).
But half a scarf is no use to anyone, so I keep going, and about one-third through I'm thinking, 'Hmm, it's not looking so bad, and I think I got the width right.' I decide it's worth finishing, and by the time I cast off, I'm fairly happy with my scarf.
It may not be as perfect as a ball of wool, but it's more useful, and far more interesting.
Of course this is where my metaphor stops, because with a story, at least once you've finished it you can go back and edit and fix up the dropped stitches. Whereas all you can do with a lumpy scarf to make it look better is tie some tassels on the ends.
The redeeming power of craft! In The Age'sOdd Spot this morning: prisoners in the UK are being taught embroidery - and the work is sold through the charity Fine Cell Work.
I love the fact that the work displayed on the website looks just like the type of needlework you'd expect to see on inmates' skin, if you look here.
I'm not much of an embroiderer (ok, I'm not at all an embroiderer), so I was impressed by all of it - there is some serious skill on display. You couldn't pay me enough to embroider a high-definition picture of a beetroot onto a cushion. Anything I attempt with needles thinner than 2.5mm involves first sulks, then tears, a minor tanty, and finally a mess of cotton and cloth dumped in the lap of my mother to fix.
It might sound like and odd scheme, but big respect to the people involved in Fine Cell Work.