The very last exercise in Make It Mighty Ugly is one I actually started here on the blog well over a year ago. It was so interesting, and seemed to be so effective, that I put it in the book.
That exercise is to write me a letter. And in that letter, to name your creative fears, discomforts, demons. Name them, shove them into an envelope, and send that envelope to me. I, in turn, receive your letter. And in reading your letter, I become one other human being in the world who knows what plagues you. Who will, by virtue of my very existence, make you less alone. And then, if it’s cool with you, I might write about what you wrote (anonymously or not, your choice); or destroy your letter and never tell another soul about it.
This week, I received my first letter since the book came out.
Keetha wrote about something I’ve struggled with pretty much forever (in no small part because I once received the worst [well-meaning] advice ever, which I’ll write about another time), and I’m very grateful that she said I could write about her letter, because I have a feeling this will strike a chord with many of you, too. Here’s what she wrote:
My fear is that I let my fear stop me. This morning I’ve felt sickening, heart-racing anxiety: I have a free day to work on fun, holiday mixed media projects that I’m excited about! And can’t wait to dive into – except the fear that I will let myself down. Unrealized potential, ideas not acted on, dormant creativity, not ever trying because of fear – that is my fear.
I know, right? I honestly don’t think I made headway with my very similar fear until this year. In fact, I’m pretty sure the act of writing MIMU is what finally got me into a mindset that allows me to pretty much always start something I’m excited about. I used to be total shit at doing things I was excited about. It was as if the excitement was just too much. I was sure I’d screw up the act itself, so I’d just allow myself to bask in the excitement while not actually doing the exciting thing. I was constantly twisted up about this. It’s part of why I got into the habit of making audacious proclamations publicly – then at least I’d feel like I had to do a thing, you know?
The nail in the coffin of this habit I used to have of not making things has been #yearofmaking. I worked through so much of my own crap writing the book, that when I had the idea to make something every day, I was just sitting there ready to take all that work I’d done and, uh, put it to work. Keetha’s letter made me realize that my ugly voice pretty much never chimes in about this anymore. He never tells me I shouldn’t bother because I won’t be able to create something that even remotely approaches my idea of it. He doesn’t tell me my time would be better spent continuing to daydream instead of just doing. Nope. I’ve quieted him, at least on this one topic.
Now, when I have a free afternoon and a hankering to spend a few hours making something, I make it. I can’t stress enough how freaking awesome that feels.
If you’re reading this, Keetha, drop me a note sometime and let me know if you’ve made headway confronting this fear, eh? I’m rooting for you!
Soft-toy designer Abby Glassenberg runs a successful online pattern shop and blogs regularly about the business of craft. In today’s show, we discuss the siren song of immediacy and impulsiveness, the focus of identifying a very narrow niche interest, and the value of practice. Plus: the tension between imperfection and perfection, and between serving yourself and serving others. Also: cooking!
Thanks so much for your enthusiasm as we get this podcast party started! I’ll be releasing new episodes every second Monday. Please let me know your wish list of people to have on the show (just leave a comment or shoot me an email), and if you’re enjoying so far, please leave a rating on iTunes so other people can discover Compulsory and enjoy it, too! (
I’m waiting to hear back from Stitcher about including the show there, too. The show is now available on Stitcher! If you don’t know Stitcher, you should. It’s a great app for managing and listening to your podcasts. Wahoo!)
Back in 2006, I bought myself a spinning wheel (an Ashford Joy) to celebrate being hired as editor of Interweave Crochet. I got a copy of Alden Amos’s book, and was excited to get down to spinning some yarn for myself.
I dabbled, for sure, for a bit. But I was so busy with work that I ended up not spinning very much at all. I figured someday. Someday.
One of my Craftsy students recently asked me about crocheting with handspun yarn*, and that planted a seed. When I was finally starting to feel better after last week’s stomach bug from hell, I decided it was time to take the spinning wheel out again. This time, I wouldn’t even think of forcing myself to wade through hundreds of pages of dense text to find the bits of inspiration I need to teach myself how to properly spin – I’d follow my student’s lead instead, and take an online class.
I’m into the second lesson of Amy King’s Foundations of Spinning class, and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve had some braids of fiber sitting in a drawer for years, and I’m looking forward to making some yarn!
* From what I understand, the beauty of handspinning yarn for crochet is that you have control over the direction of the twist. Most commercial yarns are designed for knitters, and they’re spun with an S-twist. Because crochet involves different sorts of movements, some S-twist yarns untwist when they’re crocheted, which can lead to really annoying splitting. But yarns spun with a Z-twist work with the motions of crochet. I intend to explore this, for sure, once I get the hang of the basics of spinning.
No time like immediately to do something you just have to do, right? So today I recorded the first episode of my new podcast. It’s called Compulsory, and you can listen to it below. I’ve submitted it to iTunes, but it’ll take a few days to be approved over there, so for now, please listen here.
I’ll let you know as soon as iTunes has it ready for subscribers! UPDATE: You can now subscribe to Compulsory on iTunes. Tell your friends!
In each episode, I’ll talk to someone about the things they absolutely must make. In this episode, that person is Rachael Ashe.
Artist Rachael Ashe makes cut-paper works of intricate, repeating designs. In today’s show, we discuss focus, repetition, tediousness, and more.
- Rachael Ashe’s website and portfolio
- Rachael on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook
- Vancouver’s Eastside Culture Crawl
- Hot Talks at Hot Art Wet City
- Podcasts: This American Life, Serial, 99% Invisible
- The tutorial I used to make my pop filter
If there’s anyone you’d like to hear on the show, talking about the things they have no choice but to make, shoot me a comment or an email!
I wrote about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in Make It Mighty Ugly, and I said I’d probably participate this year. And so, though I didn’t have a clue what to write a novel about until I was in bed on Friday night, I’m doing it. After all, I did say I’d do it. In print. That’s practically like writing it in blood.
The idea of NaNoWriMo is that you write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. The reason I mention it in MIMU, and why I think it’s so great, is that the focus of the whole challenge is on quantity rather than quality. It’s about just getting it done, not about getting it done well. It’s not uncommon for fellow challenge-takers to wish each other well on their shitty novel. Because you can’t write a great novel in thirty days. But you sure can write a shitty one. And then you can revise and rework it into a great novel (or not) another time. (I’m pretty sure Water for Elephants came from NaNoWriMo. [I found that book a disappointment, but loads and loads of people loved it.])
(Edited to add: Here, Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, says it way better than I do.)
The whole point is simply to write a novel, and to not concern yourself with good writing.
I’ve never written a novel. I’m not a writer who has a handful of novels sitting in a drawer in my desk (also, my desk doesn’t have drawers). I have, however, started NaNoWriMo at least twice before, and not finished.
So this time I’m determined to finish. This time, I know I can write a 50,000-word book, because I have. And I know I can stick with a daily challenge, because I have. So I’m in a different place than I was the other times I took on this challenge then bailed.
What do you say? Are you in? It’s not too late to start!
On Friday night, when I asked Greg what I should write about, he told me I should write something to do with a hairdryer factory closing down. That’s a terrible idea, but it’s one more idea than I’d had without it, and so I went with it. (You may or may not be pleased by my assurance that the factory in my novel is not a hairdryer factory.)
I’m not concerned about how shitty my novel may be, but I am concerned that I’ll have nothing to write about. Then again, at the time I’m writing this post, I’ve written more than 3,000 words, so.
So far, my novel is terrible, but my word count is on target.
I’m going to follow Rachael Herron‘s advice from MIMU and try to do my novel writing before I start my workday every morning, so then it will be done and I won’t have to concern myself with it at the end of the day when I’m tired and lazy.
Come on, dear readers. Write a shitty novel. I dare you.
This year, a tow truck, made by Greg and Owen:
Did you and/or your kids make a costume this year? Share a link or photo in the comments! I want to see!
I have never particularly liked my name.
I mean, it’s a totally okay name, I guess. Kim.
But I’ve never really identified with it. I never seemed to myself to be a Kim.
(It’s not that I wanted my name to be Kimberly instead. I don’t think I’m much of a Kimberly, either.)
I always used to love it when people just called me Piper. Kids at camp called me Piper. One summer when I was a camp counselor, I introduced myself to my campers as Piper, so everyone called me that all summer long. Then I got married, and I do enjoy it when people call me Werker, but let’s be honest, Piper has more character.
Every month, I co-host a drop-in art and craft social at Hot Art Wet City with my friend Rachael. Chris, the owner of the gallery, always has mugs out next to a water jug, and there’s this one mug that I just immediately fell in love with. Rita.
At last’s night’s social, Rachael offered to grab me water in the Rita mug. She knew. Such is my love for that mug.
When I was a kid, I used to want to write stories about a tomboy named Sam or Charlie. But even then I was aware of how utterly clichéd that was. Also, I wanted those stories to be about me. I wanted my own name to be Sam or Charlie.
Now I’m just thinking Rita is obviously my alter ego.
I have absolutely no point other than to share this with you.