Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pretty Little Projects All in a Row

In addition to my interests in creative writing and photography, I got involved in the fabric arts about 14 years ago.  Each time I found a fabric or pattern or thread or tool that I liked, I bought it.  Each cashier, without fail, asked, "What are you making?"

"I don't know yet," I'd say.  "This is just for my stash," until one day when a cashier looked at me with anger in her eyes and said, "I wish I had the luxury of stocking up on supplies before I start a project.  I usually have to wait for some spare change just to buy what I need to finish a project."

I winced at her suggestion that I was being insensitive to the plights of others, but then realized that while some of us are short on money, others are short on time, and my lack of free time was the cause of me being a consumer, but not making much progress in the project completion department.  I could have told this lady that the fact that she even is able to complete projects is something she has that I don't.  I suspect that I probably would have traded the money I was making from my 60 to 80 hour a week job for the free time she was given working in a job part-time.

I have this lovely, colorful fabric stash piled on a plastic shelving unit, and every day I look longingly at it as I pass by it between chores.  I think about designing and piecing together my next project, but then remember that king-sized monstrosity lying on my bedroom floor waiting to be finished.  Years ago I started piecing together a Storm-at-Sea bed quilt for our king-sized bed, only to discover that it was too large to quilt in my industrial quilt rack with my long-arm sewing machine.  The only alternative was to quilt it by hand.  Quickly tying the layers together wouldn't do.  I had to hand-stitch swirly wave-like motions to fit the Storm-at-Sea theme.

I have this huge oval quilting frame to hold the fabric taut, and it takes about two hours to fill one frame.  I love the quilt and consider it one of my best efforts, but the act of hand-stitching bores me to death.  I can only do the same repetitive movement for so long until I have to move on to something else.  As a result, I can't seem to finish the quilt.

I'm very much in the same place with my current novel.  I'm happy with all aspects of the work, but it is a monstrosity.  The book is going to be much longer than the average novel, and when I look ahead to all the character development and plot that still needs to be recorded, I feel overwhelmed.  My mind begins wandering to the possibilities of starting a new novel, but I stop myself and insist that I must stick to my current project, follow it through to the very end, before starting anything new.  I must exercise self-discipline -- rein in that monkey mind.

It's easy to get caught in this trap towards the completion of a major project, because I've already written the book in my head, but to sit down and actually get it on paper feels tedious and repetitive.  I think all authors probably have wished, at one time or another, to be able to hook up a mind reader to their head and just let the book appear in an electronic format on a computer screen, skipping past that whole bothersome part of moving one's fingers across a keyboard.  But writing is hard work, and it requires time.

Until such a luxurious device is invented, I will continue pushing back thoughts of new projects until my monsters are complete and take on a life of their own.  I want my little Frankensteins to leave the nest and serve their purposes of keeping us warm on cold nights and entertaining readers, but the time just isn't quite ripe.  Whether one stitch in front of the other or one word in front of the other, I plod on.  If we keep going in the correct direction, we will eventually cross the finish line, but if we veer off course... well, that's a risk we take.

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