One of the central obsessions in my life is making. This has been true since I was a child. Whether it was jewelry, hatboxes, dollhouse furniture, or three-layer chocolate cakes, I delighted in the process of slowly combining basic materials into a new, formed whole. Now, with children of my own, I still make time to knit and sew. For me, there is no better cure for the daily chaos than a freshly pressed seam--the clean join of two separate pieces of fabric, ragged edges tucked behind.
A year ago, I realized that handcraft is not only my balm but my creative metaphor. Examining the concrete details of making and the made provides a side entrance into difficult emotional territories like grief, doubt, and fear. The safe distance of metaphor allows insight into memories that had never yielded to my pen. And now I have begun to claim writing as a form of handcraft; with my hands, I write longhand, I type. Wielding orange-handled scissors, I dissect my drafts into constituent parts, which I rearrange over and over again, like fabric shapes for a quilt, until the pieces move together as a whole. Writing is a process of wresting from within a hole created by loss or fear and making of it an exterior object, a thing now separate from the writer and, maybe more importantly, accessible to the reader.
I have been fortunate to find other writers who are also fascinated by the creative process, whose need to talk and write about it is intimately connected to the writing itself. One such writer is Diane Rhodes, the author of the delightful food and travel blog, Getting Greens with Zuzu. In lovely prose supported by lush images, she explores farmer's markets, food, and the memories and insights inspired by her search. I was delighted to find mention of my work in her most recent post, "Making Sense Through Soup."
To try this method for yourself, make a list of your favorite activities or hobbies. Then choose one and free write about it for ten minutes. Describe the necessary tools and materials. Consider in detail the necessary steps. What is your favorite part? Least favorite? How does your body feel when you are doing this activity?
If you spark a memory or connection as you write, follow that instinct. You may also find that the images and concrete details in our free writing will come to you later as you tackle a difficult topic. And please share any successes as a comment.