Scarf

I made a scarf for my daughter, using cotton yarn.

The pattern was extremely simple and looks great.

Cast on 30 stitches (or odd number to suit what width you want) knit the first row. Start the pattern:

Row 1- slip first stitch,* yarn over, knit two together * repeat to last stitch, knit

Row 2- slip first stitch, purl

Repeat pattern until it’s the length you want, to finish, knit a plain row and bind off.

Mittens

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knitting is very soothing. It is something between meditation and fiddling with your hands.  I was stuck in the Dulles airport for a day and a half, and having knitting with me kept me sane, kept me watching the riot forming at the ticket counter with quiet amusement.  These mittens are for my 2 year old.  I did them on two needles, because I have a hard time with double-pointed needles.  I also journaled about my trip, drew pictures of costumes I wanted to make and strategized how I could get my entire family including my parents to come to this same science fiction convention next year.  I had it so worked out that I was surprised when my Mother didn’t seem as enthusiastic as I had imagined.

You can be creative anywhere.  All you need is time and thought.  Yarn helps too.

 

writer’s block

Right now, nothing I write is any good.  In fact, it’s horrible.  Worse than drivel.  It is so hard to fight against the inner critic.  While it is destructive, it’s also subtle.  I don’t even realize I’m sinking, that I’m avoiding the few precious moments I have to write with excuses.  Then the excuses run out.  Here is the time.  Here is the place.  Here are all the resources I need to work on this project.  Silence.  Oh, all right then dear, how about this project?  Silence. No worry, let’s just try this one.  Rapidly going through all potential projects and dismissing them as not worthy.  Then I realize that it’s not time management that’s the problem.  It’s pre-judging.  In my mind, nothing is any good.  I should just give up, because I can’t write.  I’m just fooling myself that I could ever publish a novel.  No one would ever like such boring, trite, clunky prose, plots tangled up in cliche and melodrama.  No editor would waste her time on it.  My best friends would only read it to be polite.

 

Is it any wonder that it’s easier for me to start something than to finish it?  I’ve done lots of first drafts, segments of stories, bits and bites, but hardly anything is really polished. I get to a certain point where looking at the story gives me a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach, as if I were reading an eviction notice or an obituary.  I have eight works in progress.

 

So I surf the net, do laundry, read, watch tv, stare off into space, instead of write.  Then, in the last few moments before falling asleep, I try to write something, finding my head nodding over my computer.

 

The only solutions I have are to not start anything new until I’ve completed something, and to find some other person to give me input, to tell me, in a way I can believe isn’t just being polite, that my work doesn’t suck.  That, in fact, I should keep going. It may not be award-winning, paradigm shifting stuff, but it’s good enough to publish.

 

Anybody?

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

So I have finished Brandon Sanderson’s 1,001 page opus, “The Way of Kings”.  He has begun his story.  This man is a world-builder and a character creator.  If I was gaming with him, he’d have a different character at each gaming session and would be begging the GM to let him use 3 at a time.  If he was a GM, we’d not get very far down the corridor, but we would know all about it and have a great time.

I wish I was as… verbose.  I have a tendency for brevity.  I put down a skeleton of a story and then feel I am done.  I stick to one or two characters.  I catch myself using cliched tropes, derivative reworkings.  This man created a whole different world, an alien place, not some slightly skewed mirror.  Magical storms rage across it, so the plants have adapted, drawing themselves in to shells to avoid damage.  The main creatures are shelled monsters.  The magical storms infuse magic into gemstones, which are used as both currency and as a light source.  The ultimate warriors of the world use shardblades, which cut through souls and through inanimate objects like butter.  He crafted several cultures and included fascinating details, such as a way of controlling women that is worse than a burka- showing your left hand is considered indecent.

He touches on themes of war and peace, of the dichotomy between the thrill and horror of battle.  He explores the nature of fate, religion and honor.  As with his other works I’ve read- very few people are truly good, and those who are don’t think they are.

He introduces four main characters with three main story lines- a slave who becomes a hero, a “mad king”, an assasin under a geis, and a young scholar with a secret.  I tried to go through to figure out how many characters there are- not walk throughs, mind you, characters, and lost count at about twenty. In one chapter he introduces a character that he never mentions again!  It is a testimony to his skill as a writer that I kept on reading- while the scale was epic, he cares about every one of those characters.

Should I touch on the author’s presumed religion (he teaches at Brigham Young in Utah) or would that be dangerous ground?  From what I know, they encourage creative thought over there, let’s just leave it at that.

Overall, I’d recommend the book, but I think it could have stood paring down by about 500 pages.

Craft time

Library craft time this week was Delft tiles.  The summer reading theme this year is “One World, Many Stories” and we are doing crafts from around the world.  The Delft style is Dutch, with predominantly blue on white color schemes, with usually a picture in the center and a design in each corner that can be continued into the next square.  What I did was have the kids look through pictures, pencil out a design on paper, then paint onto a tile.  I got them from Home Depot for about 40 cents each.  Just basic acrylic paint worked fine.  It would have been nice to have a spray clearcoat to seal them.  We had 10 kids and 20 tiles, so most kids chose to do more than one tile.

Next week we are doing weaving- I need to get my act together on that and have a demonstration craft, instructions and possibly related pictures or books.


Creativity without “purpose”

Sometimes I struggle with myself about creative endeavors.  Writing in hopes of publication, crafting useful items and hand made presents, that is acceptable, but playing around creatively?  I shouldn’t, some boring old practical part of me says. I’ve convinced that inner editor that this blog is a practical thing to set up my platform as a writer, never mind that no one is going to read it.

Yesterday I took a list of all my friends on Facebook and gave them all their own theme songs.  I actually took a few days, grabbing a few minutes here and there, on this project, listening to songs, thinking about how I felt about each person.  I found the songs that represented them in my mind at the present moment.  I took into consideration the type of music, the lyrics and the associations I had with the songs.  There were a few where I realized that I really didn’t know much about the person at all, and had to fudge a little.  It helped me see who was on my list.  Everybody “made the cut”, though.  All that were on the list were either people I knew well or wanted to know better.  So even though this will never gain me fame, it was not purposeless.  I need to open myself up for creative play, it will always have benefit, even though it might not be obvious.  Creative play is good for mental health.

Stephen King- On Writing

I was halfway through the book before I realized that Stephen King’s On Writing is basically an auto-biography (the copy I have has been labeled Dewey Decimal 92, instead of 808 for writing).  I was beginning to despair when on page 122 he starts giving some advice.

I don’t think that anyone else could have gotten away with this book, but then maybe that’s the point.  He dares to be himself.  The first part is a biography, the second part is advice on writing, and the third part an account of being run down by a car and his continuing struggle to recover.

I have never been a horror buff, but I have great respect for someone who has written so much that has been transferred to movies and television.  To me that shows that his base ideas and characters have a strong foundation.  It shows that he has a gift for storytelling, one I want.  So I leaned forward to listen, metaphorically, as he imparted his wisdom.

He spoke of writing with the door closed and the door open.  With the door closed, you throw the story on the page, full speed.  With the door open, you invite trusted readers to give their opinion, you ask your inner ideal reader to tell you the flaws.

More gems:

  • “You must not come lightly to the blank page.”
  • avoid passive voice
  • the adverb is not your friend
  • If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.
  • the story exists already, you are just releasing it
  • write for your ideal writer (his is his wife)
  • get feedback- if everyone complains about one thing, fix it, if they all have different opinions, it’s a wash.
  • writing classes could drain your muse by questioning the work in progress
  • get an agent by sending a letter about yourself (this one seems a bit ..off).

 

Make suggestions for my reading list

I’m currently reading “The Art of War for Writers” by James Scott Bell, and I’ll review it when I’m done.  I’ve read quite a lot of books on writing, crafts, knitting and creativity and I will revisit some of them in reviews. Does anyone have reccomendations?  A book that inspired you, gave you insight or started a fun project?

Here’s my list:

  • On Writing- Stephen King
  • Writing Down the Bones- Natalie Goldberg (revisit)
  • The Artist’s Way- Julia Cameron (revisit)
  • Simple Abundance – Sarah Ban Breathnach (revisit)
  • Brain Storm -Don Hahn

Be a lit Star…

Book review:

How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead: Your Words in Print, Your Name in Lights by Ariel Gore.

Becoming a famous writer isn’t about selling celebrity secrets or field-tackling literary agents at conventions.  Reading this book was like having a wild, shameless writer grab you by the hand and run into the world of being published.  Continue reading