Binge Watching, Creativity, and Murdoch

I have to be honest: I never really understood binge watching. Don’t get me wrong–I like TV and have shows I follow faithfully. Sometimes I do watch rerun upon rerun of Castle or Bones, so I guess that might qualify as binge watching, but as they are reruns and I have probably seen them at least once before, it doesn’t feel that way to me. I feel free to move about the apartment to take care of whatever it is I need to do.  And if I miss something I had either forgotten or remembered as a particularly good moment, I can always rewind. If the story gets a little disjointed, it doesn’t matter; I have seen it before; I know what is going to happen. This is not what most people mean when they say they binge watched a show. When a friend says he binge watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or House of Cards, he means that he stayed home all weekend on the couch (or the bed) glued to the TV or computer. He didn’t open the mail, put in the laundry, or make himself lunch while the show was still running. And as much as I love a well-told tale, this feels like a hostage situation to me. I feel trapped and guilty; I should be doing something more productive with my time. No judgment here, by the way; I do not think this kind of relaxing is bad; it just has not been for me.

And then I met William Murdoch.

And I had a crochet deadline.

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Three things conspired to turn me into a binge watcher: 1. A friend’s baby shower was looming, and I needed to furiously crochet two blankets. Yes, she’s having twins. And yes, I didn’t leave myself enough time. I needed to devote my daytime hours to crochet, not just my night time, relaxing, TV watching time. 2. My husband caught a summer cold. We were supposed to go camping for three days, but the first day it rained and the second he came down with a cold. We didn’t go, but all my friends thought I was out of town, so my social calendar was quiet. Plus, it was good for him to have me home to make some soup and tea. 3. I remembered that a friend recommended Murdoch Mysteries to me.

I knew I had to buckle down to crochet these blankets, so I turned on the TV to find something to watch while I stitched. Being summer, nothing was on, so I flipped over to Netflix and started browsing. The name Murdoch Mysteries sounded familiar, though I really could not remember what my friend had said about it. “Eh,” I thought, “I trust his judgment.” And I turned it on. It is a little corny, a little predictable, and utterly charming. I was won over very quickly and started moving seamlessly from one episode to another. Murdoch, a detective in Victorian-era Toronto, turned me into a binge watcher. When the week was done, so were the blankets, and off I headed to the baby shower!

Now, vacation is over and real life has intruded. I have not quite finished the 7th season, and I think I’m going into withdrawal. And in googling Murdoch Mysteries for the picture above, I realize that while they are currently airing season 10, Netflix only has through season 7. What am I to do???

But in all seriousness, I do not think I could have finished the blankets without Murdoch. Binge watching kept my mind as busy as my hands.

Here are the two blankets: the same two colors,  reversing which is the main and which is the accent.  Though it took me nearly 45 minutes to choose the colors,  I am quite pleased with the result.  I can’t decide which one I like better! These little girls received many beautiful blankets before they have even been born. May they feel snuggled up with all the love that went into all those stitches.

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Damn! I’ve Gotta Rip It!

According to my husband, my mother-in-law used to say, “Damn, I’ve gotta rip it” when she made a mistake in her crocheting or knitting. First of all, let me say that she was such a good crafter that I can hardly imagine her making a mistake. On the other hand, I know how easy it is to drop a stitch. And it is frustrating. How frustrating depends on how quickly you realize it. Tonight, for example, I realized I had dropped a stitch in a very easy pattern about 12 rows back. Boy was I annoyed! “Damn, I’ve gotta rip it!”

20170715_232938Just as I thought I was making headway and  nearing last third of the project, I sent myself back to less than halfway. (The picture was taken after I had already rewound much of the yarn.) I am frustrated now. Yet, also strangely inspired. (Hence this late night blog)

Creativity does that to us doesn’t it? We are inspired by something and we forge ahead trying to get what is in our heads out in whatever form we are working in at the moment. We struggle with the words on the screen (or paper) or with drawing that picture that is so clear in the mind’s eye or in crocheting a perfect blanket. What is in our heads is so beautiful, so inspiring, so communicative. But what comes out at the end of the pencil, the brush, the hook, the needle, is often so knotted and gnarled that we go back again and again to smooth it out, leaving instead a muddied, crinkly wake in our trail.

But it does smooth out. The tough part is believing in the process again and again. Not letting the defeat of ripping out a dozen rows of a blanket get in the way of completing it nonetheless. Not letting the umpteenth rejection letter stop you from writing or submitting. Not letting the misshapened hand or disporportionate body lead you to putting down the charcoal or the brush. The mistakes we make show us what not to do in the future. They lead us to the another path and another perception. And sometimes, they lead us to an altogether new inspiration that we had missed in our single-minded pursuit of the original vision.

Creativity and Mr. Hardcastle

It’s been almost two weeks since National Poetry Month ended during which I posted quite a bit, but I haven’t posted since.  But I have been writing,  painting, and crocheting.  Pretty soon,  I will post photos of my latest painting (finished today,  but no good photo yet and it’s still at the studio) and of the blanket I’m almost done crocheting (tonight or tomorrow,  I hope).  Several writing pieces  are also in the works.  Some are good; others need work. But I’m keeping at it. I hope you are too! 

In the meantime,  here’s a picture of my Lionel Hardcastle doing what he does best,  being cute. 

Shout Outs to Some Creative Ladies

I am blessed to have friends who share my love of creative endeavors.  Today,  I would like to celebrate a few of them.

My good friend Alyson  and I met many years ago in Cambridge where we each went to study one summer.  So, our first shared love is literature (and the cute professor who taught her class 😉 ). Over the years, we found we shared more creative interests, especially regarding fabrics and yarns, until we finally started our Etsy business together. It’s pretty slow going,  but we still have fun creating the inventory.  Check us out: alycatcreations1.

Another creative friend who deserves some support I met at art school. Actually, she’s my teacher,  Julieann.  She helps me see, so I can paint.  (Let’s give a shout out to the whole Roslyn School of Painting while we’re at it. Charlie and Lydia create a warm environment and open studio so we can learn at our own pace.  My friends and classmates-Meera, Kelly, et. al.-are so encouraging too. It’s a wonderful place to paint. Check out their Instagram feed.) Julieann currently has a painting of her adorable Scottie, Violet, entered in a pet portraits contest. Why not check it out and vote for her!

I’d also like to acknowledge some newer, virtual friends. In this blogging universe there are many pretty creative people who nurture and support each other. Connie@BohemianArt is one such new friend who recently nominated me for a Creative Blogger Award. I am honored.  Check out her blog where she muses, much like I do, on a variety of creative topics. Sarah Dougherty at Heartstring Eulogies shares poetry worth checking out, full of vivid images which will pluck those heartstrings.

Two more blogs I recommend are by women whom I know in both the virtual world and the real one. Moira Donovan offers us her thoughts on fashion,  family, and fun at Nine Cent Girl. And Gerri Woods keeps me laughing with her snarky observations on grammar miscues at Grammarian in the City.

There are many more of you creating out there and sharing your talents and encouragement.  Thank you all.

Keep blogging, painting, sewing, knitting, ladies! Keep creating! And most of all,  let’s keep supporting one another. Creativity does not occur in a vacuum.

Multifaceted Creativity

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I was in the middle of writing a different post when I went to the Museum of Modern Art yesterday to see the Picasso Sculpture exhibit. It’s effect on me has led me to change direction and muse instead on the idea of being creative in multiple genres.

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I write in various genres: non-fiction (obviously), poetry, and fiction. You also know I crochet, sew, draw, and paint. I love to bake. I used to sing and play both piano and flute, and wish I had time to pick them up again. (Someday!) I often feel pulled in many directions and never feel I have enough time. After asserting in my last post that what it takes to be a writer is to write, I’ve written very little; yet, I have completed one fun crochet project, finished half of another, finished a drawing, and started a painting. So, I have been creative. Sometimes I wonder if I could be more productive if I pared my pastimes down to a select few. But, what would I cut? I cannot give up my writing, nor can painting go. It would be silly to cut crochet as I can do that when watching TV or chatting with friends. Granted, I don’t bake as much as I used to, but that’s probably better for our waistlines, but as Christmas is around the corner, I wouldn’t dream of not baking Christmas cookies no matter how busy I am! I don’t sew as much as I would like, but I am not about to give up my fabric stash. I have a couple of projects in mind that will get going in 2016.

What does this have to do with going to MOMA and Picasso, you may ask? I think most of us think of Picasso as a painter, the father of Cubism. Perhaps, his “Blue Period” comes to mind or his Cubist portraits. However, there is another side to his creativity, and like his painting, it it’s multifaceted. That is his sculpture. He was prolific throughout his life in his sculpture, yet be was never formally trained in it. He began with cardboard and wood but when he decided to make a sculpture of a guitar out of metal and didn’t know how to weld, he sewed the pieces together. Some years later, he decided to work with a welder and learn that craft. He cast in bronze; he carved wood; he assembled pieces out of found objects. Every few years, he changed his sub-genre. And he never stopped painting. He did not abandon one pursuit in following another. He let creativity guide him to new materials, new techniques, new expressions.

I am no Picasso, and I must continue to hold down a job. Granted I love teaching, but it does take more time than those not in education would imagine. Nevertheless, I felt a sense of validation after viewing the exhibit. He continued to expand and try different genres, different materials. Like Picasso, I will not let genre hold me back. The varied creative outlets will not bring me the fame or fortune Picasso enjoyed, but they will do something much more important. These pursuits all feed my soul, and they feed each other and lead to a life well-lived.

The Need to Weed

As I was returning home today, I noticed that my flower bed needs weeding. Even though the impatiens are not doing well, I still don’t want them surrounded by weeds. I need to get out there and pull those green shoots and clovers that distract the eye from the flowers.

Coming inside and sitting down at my desk, I began to reread a short story I wrote a few years ago. I had sent it out to a professional editor for an assessment and was a bit disheartened by the response. I really felt he didn’t get it. The commentary focused on a character I considered minor. And, many of the mark ups were stylistic rather than content based. I had not submitted this to the magazine, but rather for a professional commentary. To direct much of the energy of the marginalia to changing the manuscript to that particular journal’s style guide seemed disingenuous to me, fraudulent even. I thought I was paying for a content assessment, not a comma check. My knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss the review altogether. However, after some time has passed and the initial dejection experienced by the editor’s comments has dissipated, I can more objectively look at the advice given.  I reread the story, and there is some weeding to be done there as well.

“Kill your darlings.” Every writer has heard this advice, but it is hard isn’t it? Sometimes the perfect sentence just doesn’t add anything to the story. I have read advice of creating a file of the darlings you excise for use in some other story, but I find that just doesn’t work. Once they’re dead, they’re dead.

In other creative endeavors, this advice still rings true. Tonight, I was crocheting a blanket–a pattern of my own making–, and I noticed that after a few rows, it was growing wider. I recounted the stitches, and indeed, I had somehow gone from 56 to 59. I tried first to figure if I could adjust the next few rows down again to a happy medium. There will be an outer edge crocheted on at the end to finish the project which could hide this imperfection. But, no. I thought of my mother-in-law and how proficient and precise she was with her crafting. Her works are truly heirlooms to be treasured not only because they came from her hands but also because they are truly works of art.  So, I did what I needed to do and I ripped it out to the point where the mistake happened and started over. I killed my darlings and started over. I weeded out the extra stitches.

Now I am contemplating the same thing with a painting I am working on. The painting, which I blogged about back in March (https://crcreateaday.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/angelic-assistance/), is a copy of the face of Mary during the Annunciation. However, in my version, I think she looks like a character on The Simpsons. Not exactly what I was going for. While I may not exactly “kill this darling,” I think she needs to be put aside for a while until my skills improve. In the meantime, I will sketch and paint other things. My teachers will give me projects and assignments to help me improve. Hopefully, by the time I am ready to go back to Mary, I will be ready to weed out what needs to be gone from the painting in order for Mary to leave The Simpsons and regain her ultimate innocence.

We all need to weed from time to time, in all different areas of our lives. Next week, I will attack the flower beds and then the other creative endeavors. Weeding helps the beautiful flowers grow.

AlyCatCreations1

As you know if you follow this blog,  I love to create. I crochet and sew and paint and draw and bake and write. I sing, and play the flute and piano as well, though less successfully than my other myriad pursuits.

Do you ever wonder what to do with all your creations? I do. The baking,  well that’s no problem. Everyone loves homemade baked goods,  and even if something is not finished,  it goes bad and you throw it out. And the writing,  well that can stay in a drawer, a notebook,  or a file (and burn a hole in my heart). But the textile crafts,  the sketching, and painting, that’s another story. Of course,  there are gifts. I have made baby blankets for friends’ children,  and I’ve painted pictures/portraits (okay, animal portraits) to give as gifts. I have donated paintings to auctions as well.  (Should I worry that those auctions no longer take place?) But that does not really take care of all the goods I can produce. The sketches stay in their sketch pads, but even those take up space. And while I have quite a few of my own paintings on my walls, but there is only so much wall space in a two-bedroom apartment. And then there are the crocheted and sewn goods. They (and the raw materials that go into their making) take up more than their fair share of said apartment.

So, why do I keep crocheting more scarves, shawls, and blankets? Why do I keep sewing? I love it. Crocheting is a nightly activity for me. It relaxes me. I sit on the couch after a long day of teaching and grading, and I crochet while I watch TV with my hubby. As I wind the yarn around itself, I unwind myself. And, as a bonus, I have a completed physical product at the end of it.

The sewing? That feeds my creativity. The physical product, the knowledge that I created it myself, the unique item, it is an accomplishment. I teach for a living, high school English, and I love it, but there is no physical product by which one sees one’s accomplishments. Having a hobby that ends in a unique physical creation is a satisfying hobby for one who spends so much of her time in the mind.

Yet, that physical product builds up. I have a storage bin now filled with scarves, shawls, and blankets.

Luckily (?), my good friend Alyson has a similar problem. Fabric shops call to her with promises of projects. Her stash threatens to take over her apartment.

So, we finally did it. My friend Alyson and I finally opened our Etsy shop. We are putting our collective goods together for your benefit (we hope). Please visit us: we are AlyCatCreations1 on Etsy.com, Facebook, and Instagram.

Here’s our Etsy link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AlyCatCreations1?ref=hdr_shop_menu

https://www.etsy.com/listing/234584960/crochet-blue-ruffle-yarn-spring-summer

And a few photos of some of our products. I hope you enjoy.20150217_152420 - Copy 20150503_222936 20150504_083143 20150514_175152

When Creativity Becomes Work

Last night I was watching TV and trying to crochet a baby blanket. I say trying because, despite the fact that I have made several baby blankets with this pattern, it is my go-to–a simple yet charming finished product if I do say so myself–, I kept making mistakes. I had to rip out a couple rows three times. (“S*!$, I have to rip it,” my mother-in-law used to say.) I turned to my husband, “I can’t seem to do this right tonight.” “Maybe you’re tired.” Maybe? He hit the nail on the head. I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open, so I put the yarn aside and went to bed. But still I’m thinking about that blanket and whether it will be done in time. The baby it is for will be born any day now, and while I won’t see the family till Christmas time, I feel pressure to finish the blanket. I am notoriously slow in my crafts. I love to crochet, to write, to bake, to paint, but everything I do takes me what seems like forever.

Normally, I don’t mind my pace. I do my crafts for myself, my psyche. When they get done, they get done. But then there’s Christmas. I also do my crafts for others. Sometimes I think of something I think someone else will like and I try to make it for them. That puts my crafts on a deadline. And Christmas time becomes a big deadline. There are more people to create for. I WANT to do it. This is not a chore. I believe a hand crafted gift expresses a high level of love and care for the recipient. You not only receive and item, you have also received the maker’s time and thoughts as she made it. But deadlines for the maker can cause stress–the exact opposite of what crafting usually does for me.

And, quite honestly, while I am crafting, I am still relaxed. I become absorbed. I am lost in the materials, the pattern, the idea, the person it is for, but when I am not crafting, I become worried about when will I find the time to get back to “work on it,” to finish “in time.”

To add to this conundrum, a friend and I have decided to start a home-made accessories business: scarves, blankets, table runners, pot holders, place mats, and the like. We both love crafts: for me crocheting and sewing, for her quilting, sewing, and knitting. We both love fabric; you should see the piles we each couldn’t resist buying even before we decided on the business–one of the reasons we decided to start the business to tell the truth. There is only one way to justify having, and taking up the storage space in a two-bedroom apartment for, all that fabric: use it. So we do. And we love it. But…

(There had to be a but, right?) There is also much other work involved in starting a business: booking, federal filing, promotion, website design, etc. etc. And it is a side business, a cottage industry. Neither one of us is quitting our day jobs over this. So we are back again to the question of time. When do we create? We carve out minutes here and there in the evening. We spend time on the weekend. But time management becomes an issue. We have families, friends, commitments, and only so much energy. And then there are the gifts.

Christmas adds to the time crunch because we want to not only create for our store, but also for our family and friends. How to prioritize? That is the essential question. I do not yet know the answer. Should I mention that a couple of months ago I bought a book on time management, but I haven’t had the time to read it yet? What I do know is that I will continue to craft. I will write here more often (I promise); I will crochet; I will paint; I will sew; and I will bake. And I will get tired. But even when we have our store up and running (keep an eye out for an announcement soon!), I will never consider crafting “work.” Creativity is an essential part of our lives that we should all nurture in whatever minutes we have. Enjoy.

 

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.

 

Follow the Fairies…

I began today reading an excerpt from “Fairies” by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge which arrived in my inbox as the poem for today from the Academy of American Poets, and I was struck by the first line:

“Fairies begin their day by coming together a moment and sharing joy.”

What a lovely thought, especially as I was sitting in the faculty room at that moment, and while we share good times and bad for I am lucky to be part of a congenial faculty, there are more complaints than moments of joy. How often do any of us feel and share true joy? It is so easy to get caught up in our daily lives and the minutiae of modern life that we can let those moments of joy slip through our fingers. 

My creativity of late has consisted of lesson planning rather than curtain making, and I sometimes feel guilty about the material still sitting on the side waiting to be made into something useful or pretty. But, those lesson plans designed to expose young ladies to great literature and examples of creativity (especially women’s creativity with the women in lit course I recently designed) are art as well. I need to make better use of my time to accommodate both the lessons and the sewing (or painting, or crocheting, or baking), but I also need to appreciate the creativity available in my working life. So today, I’ll discuss “The Cask of Amontillado” and “To Build a Fire,” and tonight I’ll go home and create a chocolate truffle torte. Tomorrow, I’ll share the chocolate, and thereby joy, with friends. Won’t you join me in “coming together a moment and sharing joy”?