I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve been so much more compelled this past year by sewing clothes and knitting than I have been by writing.
While I made real progress last year on my memoir manuscript, and sent it out to readers and agents, it’s clear that it just doesn’t work yet. It’s not bad, it’s just not right. And more important, it’s not the book I want to write. There’s a lot of good content there, and while I was pleased finally to get the voice I was after, the book itself just wasn’t working. There are things I don’t love about memoir, and they’re fundamental to the form — self-disclosure for one, and the imposition of a clean narrative on the messiness of experience for another. I kept trying to find ways to subvert those formal constraints, but found myself just fighting the manuscript most of the time. And then I came up on a chunk of content that I just couldn’t bring myself to revisit.
And so, I sewed. I was still being creative. I was really involved in chasing down patterns and shapes I like, figuring out what mix of minimalist silhouette and pattern that I wanted. I finally discovered what Pinterest is good for — chasing down technique tutorials and finding fashion ideas for what I was sewing. The whole process was deeply satisfying. And for the first time in a decade, I have a closet filled with clothing I like, that fits, and that makes me feel good wearing it.
None of that was a waste of time, but I wasn’t writing. I’ve been through long periods of not writing before (since it’s been 15 years between books that seems self evident). I have a fiction project I’ve returned to that I like, and that I’m determined to draft all the way to the end, but I’ve been thinking all week while dog walking about what it would take to be as genuinely interested in my writing again as I have been in sewing.
And then the tiny flame of an idea for a new project came to me. It’s far too soon to talk about, but it gives me that same sense of excitement that the sewing has done this year, that sense of being really interested, of wanting to go out and do a bunch of research and see if, by putting it into the concept buckets I’ve outlined in my head (and in a new Scrivener file), whether I can make something of this. It has that maker thrill that sewing has held all year.
So I started where I always do — by re-organizing. I cleaned out my office bookshelves, and scoured the basement storage library for the threads I’m thinking of pulling together, and ordered a few things online, and grouped my shelves by topic. It’s sort of like an idea board. I can now stand in front of my shelves, and see the terrain.
It feels like setting out on a new voyage, and most thrilling, it’s a voyage that synchs with the fiction project that’s in progress, so I don’t feel like I’m dropping that, I’m adding on a complementary project. Like adding knitting to my sewing. They don’t cancel one another out, they flow from the same desire to make things.
We’ll see. It’s early days yet. But that thrill is back, the one that made me want to write in the first place.