Tag Archive | books

Thoughts on Creativity

It’s only within the last few years that I’ve been able to think of myself as a creative person. I always thought creative people were the artists, the clothing designers, published authors, the people who can bring things to life just from their mind. Me? I wrote stories that didn’t go anywhere. I made jewelry for a few years, then I scrapbooked for a few years. I knit and crochet, but I use other people’s yarns and other people’s patterns and just replicate them.

But guys, you know what? I AM creative. I write stories that haven’t been written before, about characters I make up. I have three complete manuscripts. Three full-length book-type things. Sure, they haven’t been published. Doesn’t mean they’re not creative. And it doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile. Maybe those were just the ones I needed to get out before writing The One.

I’m always struggling with self-worth as far as writing goes, swinging from “Yes! I’m a great writer!” to “Who do I think I am, thinking someone else will want to read this?” Because I’ve never published a book, I think I’m not a writer. Well. That’s dumb. And I just have to keep telling myself that. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I’ve written short stories and novel-length stories and filled a dozen journals and I’ve kept this blog for three years now. I don’t write every day, but I keep coming back to writing. I am a writer.

Wow. It wasn’t until I wrote that, that I realized how true it is. I keep coming back to writing.

With my yarn, I put colors and textures and patterns together. I’m the one who chooses what will go with what. I don’t think I’ve ever used the recommended yarn for any pattern, and I don’t think I’ve ever even made a pattern in the same color(s) as the designer. I take their ideas and put my own spin on them. That IS creative.

And for a while now, I’ve been trying to figure out how to combine the yarn and the writing. I want to write a book where yarn/knitting is a focal point. I’ve tried, and it hasn’t worked yet. But I’m going to keep trying.

I don’t know why, but I am flush with creative energy right now, and it feels awesome. The focus has turned away from knitting and back toward writing, but that’s kind of typical for me. I tend to focus obsessively on one thing for a while, then move on. I’m not done with knitting, not at all! I spent three hours at a football game last night and was delighted to have the time to knit on the baby blanket. But in the evenings, or weekends like this, my brain is gravitating toward writing.

Not just writing, either. I’ve always wished I could draw well, and I always told myself I just couldn’t do it. Then a few days ago I was admiring a selection of drawing books and the husband said, “Why don’t you try it? You never know.” And for some reason, this time I agreed. Why not, indeed. I didn’t have to show anyone if I didn’t want to. I might not be great. But what if I could make pictures that pleased me? That would be pretty cool. So I might be heading to the library to check out some how-tos for beginners (if you have recommendations, please share!) and I’ve got a little sketch pad and a drawing pencil itching to be used. And because it’s uncomfortable and scary for me, I’m going to share my first attempt, a cube copied from a book.

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It’s not great. It’s a first attempt. I don’t think it’s going to come naturally to me the way it does for my kids, or the way writing does to me. I’m not going to be the next big artist, and that’s all right. For me, it’s okay that it’s recognizable, and it was fun.

I guess what I take from all of this is that I’m redefining what success means to me. Success is about the leap, the journey, the effort. And I don’t want to be afraid of success anymore.

Not much knitting

What do I write about when I have nothing concrete to share? I have finished no socks this week, though I have one that is close and will be done either today or tomorrow. I have a beautiful finished shawl, but it’s currently blocking and is not ready for its close-up. I can show you progress photos; they do hint at what a stunner this one will be.

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The pattern is the Chevrione Shawl and I enjoyed the knit, once I got used to the lace pattern. It was still a pattern I had to focus on, so if the TV was on, I could only pay half-attention to it. I used as much of my Done Roving Frolicking Feet Mini Gradients as I could and got through the pattern as written. I think it will be gorgeous!

Oh, I know why I’m lacking in FOs: we had to rebuild part of our fence! Remember we had that huge limb come down? Well, it took two sections of fence with it, and with that large gap we had to go back to putting the dogs on chains. If you’ve done that before, you know what a hassle it is. They get tangled in each other and around things, they forget they have it and run too far and get yanked back, and I don’t trust them out there by themselves for very long, lest they somehow pull the anchors out of the dirt. So the husband and I worked quickly and had the fence repaired with two nights’ work. We felt very tired clever afterward. And the dogs (Grace especially) were delighted.

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Strangely enough, I’ve been reading a lot this week, which also might account for the lack of FOs. I finished The Secret Place by Tana French, which is a gripping, tense thriller that I couldn’t put down, and I’m in the middle of The Mermaid’s Daughter by Ann Claycomb which I don’t want to put down, but is so good I don’t want to finish it, so I’m trying to ration myself. It’s got folklore, intrigue, mermaids (of course), opera, and Ireland, and so far it’s both dark and beautiful.

One more fun little thing: my knitter friend at work is a new pen addict, so I took her to The Pen Place over lunch break last week. I can’t go to the pen store without buying something of course. Look at my new pretty purple Parker pen!

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Here’s hoping I have more fun knitting to show you next time!

A wee bit of purple

Where did my knitting time go?? I think my body is still adjusting to this new schedule, because by the time I’m home from work and done with dinner, I’m exhausted. I knit a few rows and my eyes are drooping, and I’m usually in bed with lights out by 10. I got so spoiled the last few years that my body is struggling with this new “wake up at 5:30 in the morning” thing. As a result, I have very little knitting to show off this week. I’ve been working on the Secret Beach Scarf and I made it through the second contrasting color and onto the third. And it’s my favorite: the purple!

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I’m on the homestretch now, just need to get the purple section to 18″ and then it’ll be DONE and I can cast on something new with no guilt.

I did get to meet the knitting group at work and they seem to be a lovely group of people, very welcoming and funny and irreverent, as the best people are. They meet twice a week over lunch break so I should start getting a little more knitting time. Yesterday I took lunch out onto the patio and had some solo knitting time. It was lovely to have that little respite in the middle of the day.

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The other thing I’ve been doing is reading. Lots of my favorite authors have new books out, and I’ve finished Elin Hilderbrand’s Here’s to Us and Emily Giffin’s First Comes Love and I’m almost done with Allison Winn Scotch’s In Twenty Years. Coming up I have Sarah Pekkanen’s new book, but first I want to re-read Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell before the first book club meeting. (Haha, I’ve never been in a book club before, so this will be interesting!)

The puppies are not a fan of my new schedule, and are so so excited to see me when I get home. My first job is always to sit down and cuddle with them for a while, otherwise they just follow me around and jump on me.

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That’s it, that’s my week. Hopefully next week I’ll have more knitting to include!

Awesome Project Bag

No knitting photos to share today, sadly. I didn’t make it to the green stripes in the Marcelle Wrap (though I only have 10 rows left before I get there) so there’s not much to show. Instead, I’ll show you what I got in the mail.IMG_6169Isn’t that AWESOME??? I love Lionel Richie, and my husband’s text tone is a snippet from “Hello”. I first saw it in another knitter’s photo on Instagram, and of course I asked about it. I checked out The Yarn Stories, where she’d gotten it, and it was sold out. Thank goodness I’m on Instagram frequently, because the other day they posted they’d gotten restocked and there was ONE left. I was on the stationary bike exercising, but you can bet I went online and ordered that puppy while I was pedaling away. I’m delighted with it. It’s bigger than I was expecting, heavy and durable, and will hold at least a couple of projects. Now, I just checked and their website says they have ONE left, so if you want one, move fast!

I mostly played with yarn and watched TV yesterday, but by nine I was pooped so I retreated to my bed with my new book, a Mother’s Day gift from the girl (paid for with money from her first paycheck!!) and so far I’m loving it. IMG_6170Can’t go wrong with Clara Parkes. My only concert is that it’s too short. I think it will be done too quickly.

Now, today, I must ignore the sniffling/sneezing/coughing and do some errands, for a I can’t take a sick day every day. You can be sure that I will return to my couch and knitting as soon as possible, though. I hope you all have a sunnier, healthier day than I will!

Good Wrap, Bad Hat, and Writing

We’ll call this Making Progress Monday. Look what I did yesterday!! IMG_5622I’ve got just a little bit left of that medium gray, and then it’s the last color and my Color Block Wrap will be done! It knits up so much faster than I expected, but it probably helps that I spent yesterday watching TV and knitting. I started Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary, and fell in and couldn’t stop. Total binge day. This was perfect knitting for it too, mindless enough that I could keep my eyes on the screen most of the time. I wish I could have watched the whole series but I have two episodes left and the hubby says I have to wait and watch them with him. Sigh. Fine. Whatever. Maybe I’ll finish it tonight.

And the wrap was actually the second thing I worked on yesterday. I started out making a hat with some purple wool, because I needed a break from all the gray and wanted some color. It was easy to make, knit up quickly, and I like how it looks here: IMG_5620But this morning I put it on a head to take photos for this post, and…well. I kind of hate it. IMG_5624It’s not the pattern’s fault at all. I love the zigzags and the way the decreases look, but it came out so much more slouchy than I expected.IMG_5625I’ve made hats with this much slouch and they’re fine, but it’s not what I wanted this time. I’ll try it on my own head to make sure, but I’m thinking this one will be frogged and redone with fewer stitches and/or smaller needles.

I made progress with the writing this weekend too, on Saturday while my family was off camping. I took a break from the memoir I’m querying and instead focused on my novel. It’s the first one I wrote, probably the closest to my heart, and all I have is a printout from an old computer. So I’m typing it up and revising heavily as I go, and I was on a roll on Saturday. I was deep in a writing trance and got over 6000 words done. Granted, it’s revision so maybe not as impressive as pouring out that many new words, but I’m delighted anyway. I’m over halfway through it, and once it’s all typed up, I’ll leave it alone for a while and let it simmer again. I recently read Stephen King’s On Writing, and that was one of the pieces of advice that really struck me. (Sidebar: I loved his book; it was interesting and honest and smart. I didn’t learn a whole lot I didn’t already know about writing, but it made me feel I was doing the right things, and most importantly, it made me want to WRITE.) Anyway! I know this novel will need another big revision. I already have thoughts of what I need to add/change etc on the next go-round, but I’ve learned from experience that it’ll go more smoothly if I come at it with fresh eyes. I’ve also learned that I enjoy the writing part much more than the querying agents part!

One last thought: there’s been lots of buzz around Instagram lately, lots of posts asking people to “turn on notifications” so their posts don’t get lost, lots of anger that Instagram is changing their algorithm. I love Instagram the way it is, but I’m not freaking out about it. If nothing else, I have to accept that it’s a free app, and it’s a business, and they have to do what they feel is right for their business. We let them know what our thoughts are on the change, and now it’s up to me to adapt or move on.

In the interest of adapting, today I went through the accounts I follow and unfollowed several of the celebrity accounts, the bigger accounts I can see elsewhere or just don’t enjoy that much. Now my Follow list is a carefully curated list of crafters/knitters/dyers/makers (and friends of course) so whatever photos show up in my feed, I’ll be happy.

I’m a small fish: I don’t have a lot of followers and I’m excited when I get 20 likes on a photo, so this algorithm change might kill what little feedback I do get. And if it does, well. That will suck. And I will either keep posting photos because it pleases me, or I won’t. I have a new Ello account (I’m bonnyknits there too) and I might start using that more than Instagram eventually. But I’m going to be patient and give Instagram a shot. And while I do, I’m going to be generous with my Likes and comments, especially with the smaller makers/crafters. I really do think it will be okay.

I’ll leave you with my buddy Jack. He was so happy the hubby took the kids camping this weekend because it meant he could sleep next to me as long as he wanted! IMG_5610Happy Monday, friends!

Writing by Numbers

4: queries sent yesterday

8: queries sent total

1: rejection received

31: agents who rep memoir on my list. This is not a very high number. I’m sure I can find more if I keep searching, though.

10: agents who require a proposal for non-fiction queries. I confess, these are lower on my list. A proposal includes so much detailed stuff: platform, comp titles, background, expertise, why is my book different/better, table of contents with chapter summaries etc…and well, it’s not just that it’s harder than the query/synopsis stuff, but it’s also that I don’t have as much to fill out a proposal. No major platform. Expertise? Um, it’s my life. And maybe that means my manuscript won’t be accepted, and if so, I’ll deal with that. But in the meantime, I’m working on compiling all this proposal stuff and I’ll give it a shot.

3: entries I get on today’s Twitter PitMad contest! I can pitch my book 3 times, and if an agent likes/retweets it, they want me to query them. Fingers crossed. Here was my first entry from this morning: SAHM finds new life in retail management, deals with theft, lies & drunkenness until illness forces her to check priorities.

4: library books I checked out yesterday. I got Stephen King’s On Writing, which I can’t believe I haven’t read yet, and Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking, which is supposed to be a fantastic memoir. Also got two YA novels for fun.

0: new completed knitting projects. But I’ve been working on my Moonstone Wrap, and I’ve used up the first two skeins and am on the second pair, so it should be done just in time for warm weather to be here, haha! IMG_5516For those celebrating today, have a fun and safe St. Patrick’s day!

Frogging and Query Letters

Ugh. I need to frog my Because I Love You Wrap and start over. Okay, no, I don’t really *need* to, but I want to and won’t be happy with it if I don’t. Here’s what I’ve got so far: IMG_5440I love how it’s knitting up, and I even watched a video about intarsia and figured out the yarn-twisting bit so there’s no hole where I picked up the teal for the stripe. Great, right? Right! But then I looked at the pattern again and realized that in the second half of the shawl, the stockinette sections are much bigger because of how the shawl grows. I would much rather have the variegated yarn in the big sections of stockinette than the solid teal. Maybe it’s a minor thing, maybe it won’t make a huge difference, but in my mind right now, I’m thinking it will. The only downside is that I’ll lose those two lengths of teal yarn (unless I just use them and have even more ends to weave in). But at least I figured it out before I got even further into the wrap!

Here’s some good news though: remember my Duality hat from yesterday? The designer noticed my project page on Ravelry and asked to feature it on the pattern page!! I love when that happens! You can see it here, and remember, today’s the last day to get the pattern for free!

And more good news (maybe): I sent my first query letters to agents yesterday!! I don’t know if I’ll ever think my memoir manuscript is “done” but it feels done. It feels ready, although of course as soon as I sent the letters I was consumed with doubt and self-loathing. I only did three; they take longer than you’d think. You have to determine each agent’s requirements, tailor your query letter for each agent, then copy and paste the requested materials (and in my case, reformat it when it goes all wonky in the email). I also had to write a brief synopsis, since one agent requested it along with the query letter. Each one is so different, it seems like. And there’s so much pressure to be PERFECT with that one short letter.

Ugh. It’s hard hard hard. But also so exciting. It feels wonderful to move on to this step, to believe in myself enough to send my book out for others to judge. And they will, and most of them will reject it. I recognize that, and it’s okay. I know there are thousands of books written every year and agents have to turn down perfectly good books just because it didn’t call their name. I only need one, one fabulous agent who believes she can sell this book to a publisher. Until I find her, I’ll keep sending out queries and waiting patiently.

And I’ll knit of course, to calm my nerves while I’m pretending to be patient.

Okay, fine, you’re right. Yes, I’ll play with the puppies too. IMG_5414