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.


What Do You Do to Feel More Creative?

I came across this video today when a friend posted it to Facebook: What Do You Do to Feel More Creative? Take a gander before reading on. It runs for less than three minutes.

I found it very interesting listening to people who make their living on their creative powers discuss what they do to feel more creative. It made me think about my own creative interests, and how nice it would be to make a living out of them (or so I think). What do I do to feel more creative? I think my answer is varied. I agree with most of the individuals interviewed. Sometimes I need to get out–of the house, of my head, of my own way. Other times, I need to see the world from a different vantage point. But the view I agree with the most, and the least, is the need to break routine.

Breaking away from routine can spur creativity, but we also need routine to follow through on the inspiration. Even when I am run down or experiencing a “dry spell,” I find that I still manage to keep painting because I have a class that I go to every week. The routine keeps me going to the studio and putting paint on canvas or charcoal on paper. Sometimes we need to just power through the dry spell; routine helps one do that. I think that is why my writing, my first creative love, has taken a hit recently. My work, which I love, keeps me busy and involves much reading and writing, but that writing is commenting on student papers. When I get home, I am tired, and I don’t have a regular writing time or space. I need a routine to keep my own writing flowing.

And let’s not forget, without routine, there is nothing to break away from!

So, dear readers, what do you do to feel more creative?

Multifaceted Creativity


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 (, 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.


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, Facebook, and Instagram.

Here’s our Etsy link:

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.


Solitary, Solitude, Solitaire

Today’s creativity musings revolve around the idea of being alone. Much of the time creativity is a solitary practice. We write by ourselves, often paint by ourselves, frequently sew by ourselves, practice instruments by ourselves. Yet the finished products are released to a wider world. It’s a strange dichotomy, isn’t it. We work in solitude. We are alone in our rooms, studios, at our desks–or we convince ourselves that we are out in the world by writing in bars and coffee shops, but ultimately, the work is done alone. 

However, in that first solitary stage, we are not really alone are we? We writers are surrounded by our characters. We inhabit their world with them and let them tell us where they want to go next. They become real to us. Sometimes they hijack the story. We begin writing with one thing in mind, but frequently, a character’s voice becomes too loud to ignore, or less frequently too soft to hear. I’ve had a minor character fight with me to be the big dog. And he’s won. I’m sure it’s the same for many of you. Diana Gabaldon author of the Outlander series said that the book became a time travel novel because Claire kept saying things that didn’t fit 1793 Scotland. She had to come from somewhere/when else. These characters we create are all around us whether we’re sitting at the keyboard, swishing on the elliptical machine, or even interacting with other “real” people at a cocktail party. This solitary pursuit, this time in solitude is peopled with our own creations and they follow us into the world at large.

I’d say the feeling is similar for the visual artist. Paintings may not necessarily be peopled, unless one is working on a portrait, but the concentration, the consumption the artist feels for the form, the hue, the darks and lights surrounds him/her even when the studio is empty of other humans. And frequently I find that on my best painting days, I “get in the zone” and the other people in the studio seem to disappear–even if just for a few minutes. That solitude in the midst of others occurs when one is most connected to one’s art. 

How about the musician? The scales and arpeggios are a solitary pursuit. Practicing a piece takes place alone in a room. I’ve sung with a choir that has brought in soloists for certain parts, and the first time all the soloists, choir, and musicians appeared together has been the dress rehearsal. Even in the choir, we would each practice our parts at home in addition to the once a week rehearsals. Yet even in our individual rehearsals we can connect with the music and the singers/musicians we will eventually join, not to mention the artists who have performed the piece in the past.

Eventually, however, the solitude is not enough. Eventually, the art must become public. We must join the other voices; we must let our “children” out into the world and hope for the best for them and for us. There will be praise; there will be critique. But eventually, there must be a sharing.

And what about solitaire? That’s an addiction that keeps us away from our solitary family! 🙂

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.