I believe a universe of neurons sends messages across synapses in writers’ brains as they work. What fuels our creativity? What blocks it? What connections within each of our worlds fuel our writing?
My friend Pat is a superb writer who writes her first draft in clear, lovely long hand. Her historical fiction flows from her mind, through her fingers, and on to the paper. Her old-fashioned way of writing is more than a nod to whatever century she is inhabiting at the time. A speaker at a conference I attended said the tactile sensation of handwriting enhances one’s creativity. It certainly works for Pat.
It may work for Pat, but it slows me down. I cannot write fast enough when I am in “the zone.” Nor could I read what I wrote later. I write best with my fingers flying over the keyboard.
Then I realized why Pat and I write differently. Pat is an artist and a retired art teacher. She works slowly, attending to minute details. Neither her writing nor her painting is rushed. Holding a brush or pen in her hand is Pat’s tactile form of creativity. She lives in two art worlds and blends them intellectually, sensually, and physically in her work, whether on canvass or paper.
As for me, my fingers have been flying over keys since I was seven and began piano lessons. My mind would whirr as I played compositions, sometimes at a “presto” tempo. No wonder I write best at a keyboard. Pat and I were hard-wired differently to write in our own ways.
Writing and Quilting
I wonder if, on a subconscious level, our other personal interests connect to each other as well. Having read several novels about quilters or quilting, I know only a quilter, or someone who appreciates that art form, could have written them. As a quilter, I savored those books. Then I began to see comparisons between quilting and writing.
Quilters first design their project, be it a table runner or bedspread, on paper (or sticky wall). They study their grand design that is based on smaller elements — blocks (smaller squares) made from snippets of various geometric shapes.
Novelists also work from a grand design, called the “story arc.” The protagonist begins in one place and ends up in another, either having changed his world or having been changed by his world. The author designs that journey using subplots and scenes written in chapters, like the quilters’ blocks. Then, at the end of their novels, writers “tie up the loose ends.” Quilters “bind” the edges of their quilts with fabric strips.
Authors create complex characters, who blend darkness and light, good and evil. Quilters use dark, medium, and light hues to bring their patterns to life and give them depth.
Do quilters write because creating a quilt is like creating a novel? Do writers see contrasts between their characters, and their opposing goals, like quilters see hues and adjoining blocks that make up a whole?
Anne K. Kaler PhD, in her book, Writers Who Quilt, Quilters Who Write: Stories Stitched with Pens and Needles, looks at those questions https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1477621008/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_image_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1#reader_1477621008
I will share her observations in subsequent blogs. But in the meanwhile, what do you think?