Sacred Irreverence

Author Leah Hager Cohen asserts that “‘[c]reativity,’ ‘play,’ ‘imagining,’ and ‘irreverence’ could all be next to each other in a thesaurus” (qtd in Schlack). I would easily have put the first three together, but the fourth is the genius. 

When we first try a new skill, the focus is on the technique. I know this is true for me. I recently wanted to try a new crochet stitch, the Tunisian Afghan stitch. I still have to have the pattern directions and Encyclopedia of Crochet near me while I work. And work is the right term. I love to crochet and am excited about learning this new stitch, but my focus is different as I work the yarn than when I am crocheting a scarf or a baby blanket using a pattern I’ve followed many times before. I need to focus on the steps for this stitch. I still feel the creative juices flowing; I still feel the play; I can imagine the finished product as it comes to life little by little in my hands. Yet, I cannot yet be irreverent with this pattern, with this stitch. I still need to follow the pattern step by step. However, with the baby blanket pattern, for example, I can go off book a bit. I can start the project even if I am not sure if I have enough yarn to follow it exactly; I know I can figure a way to change colors or size if I need to. 

When my students complain about the grammar rules or the corrections on their papers, or when they notice the peculiarities of particular authors and how these authors break the rules, I tell them that they must know the rules before they can break them. To make the break meaningful, you have to know why you’re breaking the rule. 

So, the lesson I gather from Cohen is to remember to color outside the lines. Learning the technique is important. Whether one is crocheting, baking, painting, writing, or whatever creative passion one follows, the technique will always be important–it is the base, the foundation. We need to learn the rules, but then we need to break them meaningfully so that the creative product truly comes from each of us, so that the creative product is a sacred manifestation of its creator. From time to time, we need sacred irreverence. 

 

Schlack, Julie Wittes. “The Writing Life.” Holy Cross Magazine. Summer 2014. 19-23.

 

What’s Your Summer Project?

 I was listening to The Brian Lehrer Show this morning, and there was a short segment on “What’s Your Summer Project?” Listeners called in to share what they planned to achieve this summer. One man, a new farmer, was working on turning his manure into fuel; he was so intense and dedicated to his project and pushing for more people to join him so that we can radically reduce our impact on the environment. The show gave him the forum to share his enthusiasm. While I don’t really have any manure on hand in my two-bedroom apartment (thank goodness!), I do admire his enthusiasm. Interestingly, one of the reviewers on the show’s website thought the topic was silly and irrelevant. I have to disagree with that reviewer. I think goals are important. What the reviewer lists (cleaning, laundry, going to the doctor) are necessary, but are more like chores than goals. We all need to clean our homes or do our laundry–and sometimes when life gets crowded, the time to actually do so becomes precious–but our goals tap into something deeper, something more personal, something soulful. If anything, I thought the segment was too short. We all need encouragement to move outside the realm of the daily needs and pressures towards the enrichment of creativity. Hearing about other’s goals helps us to remain committed to our own. If I’ve done this right (and there’s no guarantee that I have), you can listen to the segment here and draw your own conclusion: The Brian Lehrer Show

Of course the segment made me think about my own summer goals. As usual, they are far too many to actually accomplish. And some are just too vague. “Write.” Yay! I should write every day. (And I started, yesterday, to do so…two days in a row so far–go me!) But I suspect I should be more specific. I am also continuing my myriad other creative interests. Perhaps if I were less of a Renaissance woman, I would accomplish more in one field, but my interests are too varied! I really enjoy many creative interests, and as these interests, unfortunately, are not income generating, why not enjoy them all I can!

Painting class will continue about once a week, but I also want to sketch more at home (or at least outside of class) this summer. My sketching needs work, and I need more confidence in my sketching. 

Summer, which for me is vacation time, also affords me the time to pursue other creative outlets that I don’t always have time for during the school year. I want to sew–both for the home and for myself. I plan on finishing the curtains I started last summer (one window done, one yet to do), and to make at least one dress.

 

I’ve also been baking and crocheting, and that will continue.

And the writing? I hope to finish a novel by the end of the summer. Should I set myself a word count goal each day? pages? time spent in chair? plot points? Fellow writers, I would like to hear from you about how you set your goals. And, do you accomplish them?

Stay tuned for updates. And share your goals and accomplishments.