Saturday, February 2, 2008

With a little help from my friends

There’s always that moment—in a quilt, in a book—where nothing is working. You’ve done all the scut work. You’ve thought it through, planned, executed, but it’s just not happening. Your inspired fabric choices are suddenly insipid, your piecing skills that of a dyslexic who doesn’t know a needle from a crochet hook. Your writing is as lifeless as yesterday’s garbage.

You wonder why you ever thought you could make this darn queen-size Double Wedding Ring or were capable of capturing the sunrise over the Capitola wharf or portray life-like characters in tough situations. Someone’s been murdered, you yell at your protagonist, Do something.

You force yourself to sit at the sewing machine or in front of the computer. When that doesn’t work, you check out what’s on television. A quick look at Dr. Phil assures that there are people worse off than you. That makes you feel better for a little while.

Every artistic endeavor has that point. Where it’s all sh*t. Then you have two choices: put the project aside and go back to playing Tetris, or press on.

In my life, there have been many, many times I’ve gotten to that point and put the project down. Away forever. The aforementioned Double Wedding Ring quilt will never be completed. The 300 pages of the hot and steamy romance novel was burned before the move to California. I decided I was not suited for writing or intricate piecing and I walked away.

That’s okay, sometimes. Do it too often however, and your work will never grow. You’ll never make the quilt you’ve got on the design wall, you’ll never restore that 67 Valiant, you’ll never finish the novel.

I don’t do that so much any more. The main reason for that are my friends. And their critiques of my work.

My friends are generous in spirit. Able to see past my mismatched seams and run-on sentences. Somehow they can see what I meant to say, or how I wanted the quilt to look. They’re able to suggest a different colored batik for that boat or insist that Dewey look into the darkened room. They gently push me past my hesitations, my hiccups. Their ideas spur me to new heights.

It’s not easy to allow yourself to write or make crap, but it is necessary. You must sew, you must write. You must make mistakes. You must make trash.

The thing about yesterday’s garbage is that it is great compost.


Anonymous said...

Aha! I thought I'd peak over & see if your blog was up yet. Great post. Dr. Phil...ha!

Can I just mention how wonderful it is watching you go through the process and seeing you pull all the seams/sentences together again and again (and again, this week!)?

Me, I think I'll go for a novel, let you take care of the quilts (plus YOUR novels!), and just let the Valiant rust!

Kathryn Lilley said...

I totally understand what you're saying Terri--in my case, I have a paperweight on my desk that says, "There is no inspiration like a deadline." That's what always keeps me pushing forward!

Camille Minichino said...

the perfect moment for this blog, Terri. I just sent out a manuscript to critiquers and I'm thinking of telling them not to waste their time. Never mind that it's my 12th.
There are many out there who have written twice that many ... so I'm asking ... is there some number at which you stop doubting?
I can tell you it's not 12.

Camille Minichino said...

In case she's too shy to tell you:

Those of us in the SF Bay Area and NorCal Sisters in Crime were treated to an auction item donation by Terri -- a big, beautiful quilted tote bag with adjustable sizing!

Thanks Terri. I hope you'll post some pics for us from time to time.

Monica Ferris said...

Great post, Terri! I keep saying (but not doing it!) that I'm going to stitch a wonderful quote and hang it over my desk. It's from the late, great Fred Allen: "I don't know why anyone would write a novel when, for a few dollars, he could buy one."