I believe a universe of neurons sends messages across synapses in writers’ brains as they work. What fuels our creativity? What blocks it? What connections within each of our worlds fuel our writing?
My friend Pat is a superb writer who writes her first draft in clear, lovely long hand. Her historical fiction flows from her mind, through her fingers, and on to the paper. Her old-fashioned way of writing is more than a nod to whatever century she is inhabiting at the time. A speaker at a conference I attended said the tactile sensation of handwriting enhances one’s creativity. It certainly works for Pat.
It may work for Pat, but it slows me down. I cannot write fast enough when I am in “the zone.” Nor could I read what I wrote later. I write best with my fingers flying over the keyboard.
Then I realized why Pat and I write differently. Pat is an artist and a retired art teacher. She works slowly, attending to minute details. Neither her writing nor her painting is rushed. Holding a brush or pen in her hand is Pat’s tactile form of creativity. She lives in two art worlds and blends them intellectually, sensually, and physically in her work, whether on canvass or paper.
As for me, my fingers have been flying over keys since I was seven and began piano lessons. My mind would whirr as I played compositions, sometimes at a “presto” tempo. No wonder I write best at a keyboard. Pat and I were hard-wired differently to write in our own ways.
Writing and Quilting
I wonder if, on a subconscious level, our other personal interests connect to each other as well. Having read several novels about quilters or quilting, I know only a quilter, or someone who appreciates that art form, could have written them. As a quilter, I savored those books. Then I began to see comparisons between quilting and writing.
Quilters first design their project, be it a table runner or bedspread, on paper (or sticky wall). They study their grand design that is based on smaller elements — blocks (smaller squares) made from snippets of various geometric shapes.
Novelists also work from a grand design, called the “story arc.” The protagonist begins in one place and ends up in another, either having changed his world or having been changed by his world. The author designs that journey using subplots and scenes written in chapters, like the quilters’ blocks. Then, at the end of their novels, writers “tie up the loose ends.” Quilters “bind” the edges of their quilts with fabric strips.
Authors create complex characters, who blend darkness and light, good and evil. Quilters use dark, medium, and light hues to bring their patterns to life and give them depth.
Do quilters write because creating a quilt is like creating a novel? Do writers see contrasts between their characters, and their opposing goals, like quilters see hues and adjoining blocks that make up a whole?
Anne K. Kaler PhD, in her book, Writers Who Quilt, Quilters Who Write: Stories Stitched with Pens and Needles, looks at those questions https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1477621008/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_image_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1#reader_1477621008
I will share her observations in subsequent blogs. But in the meanwhile, what do you think?
Very good Sue. Love your writing!!
Very interesting, never considered the relationships between writing plus art, music and quilting! Definitely encourages me to tap into my creative side!
Oh do, Cathy! You’ve got a great creative side.
Well said, Sue. Once or twice I’ve seen a gathering of women engaged in the art of quilting. It was intriguing to watch. Maybe that’s why I included a “quilting bee” scene in my book, “House with a Heart”. As I was reading your essay, I thought of the great value of teaching the Arts, and of the constant struggle to keep an Arts program in front of our children at school. I have a young granddaughter, a freshman in high school, who has explored all forms of art since the beginning. I think her first words must have been, “I touch?” We can’t wait to see how that develops over the years.
You are so right about the importance of teaching the “arts” in school – and not just the fine arts. I got into quilting with my daughter-in-law and between the two of us, her daughter now enjoys quilting and even my great granddaughter tried her hand at it. We must pass these “home” skills on because they are art true art forms in their own right. What a blessing that your historical book, “House With a Heart” keeps these traditions alive, Rick.
Very interesting! I never thought about writing and crafting that way. Quilting is very methodical, like the writing process. I’m eager to see if she talks about the “pantsers”.
You will have to read the book when I’m through with it. Just started it yesterday!
Oh. My. Word…What astute observations on the Lord’s gifts to us, the connections between writing and other blessings we take joy in–and why we should value them. Especially in the beauty and language of music–one of the last things our minds cling to as we age. May they glorify Him as they bring joy to us and others! (p.s. Thank you for the mention, Sue)!
So much of our humanity is connected, isn’t it, Pat. (I didn’t think you would mind my description of your wonderful work.)