Finding inspiration

Quilt-1

One of my newest treasures is this hand stitched Double Irish Chain scrap quilt made by my aunt. She was 86 at the time. It took her two years, and I believe was the last one she made. I apologize for the cliché, but it truly is a work of art.

She had a sewing machine, but it was too heavy to lift from the cupboard shelf, so she decided she would sew the quilt entirely by hand, just as her mother and her grandmother had, and as she had done before. She said if she’d realized at the beginning, however, just how much work this one was going to be, she might not have undertaken it.

Quilt-2

I wonder if that isn’t true for many novelists, too. Few realize how much work will go into producing 90,000 ‘just right’ words, until ‘The End’ is staring back at us from the page. If we knew how much effort and time it was going to take, and the possibility that it would never be of publishable quality anyway, would we even begin?

While some might not, I believe the dedicated ones would, simply because they have a creative spirit and the desire to try. The drive to produce something special, something of significance, has to be followed by the determination to make a start. Then, word by word, stitch by stitch, we keep going. We know our earliest creative attempts aren’t going to be perfect, but only by learning and experience will we improve, and we have to begin somewhere.

Like playing a concerto, hand stitching an intricate pattern, or painting a masterpiece, writing an outstanding story takes more than desire. It takes ability, dedication, perseverance, and very hard work.

I’m not there yet as a writer, but the exquisite beauty created by my Aunt Norma inspires me to continue on my journey.

What inspires you in your creative pursuits?

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“For everything that was written in the past
was written to teach us,
so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures
and the encouragement they provide
we might have hope.”

[Romans 15:4]

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 (Photos by Norma McGuire)

 

Piecing things together… quilts and stories

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Stored on a shelf downstairs there’s a box labelled “Quilt”. It contains one of the two patchwork quilts I began making thirty-four years ago. Its face is done – various pink and white multi-sized gingham squares alternating with plain pink ones. I have this sweet fabric sprigged with pink flowers for its backing.

 

Originally there was enough fabric for a second quilt, but it became obvious many years ago that I wasn’t going to get one quilt finished, never mind a second, so the extra fabric was eventually given away.

I had great ambitions, but I’m not a quilter at heart. I don’t have the patience to do all the piecing, the painstaking stitching together of multi layers, locking polyester padding between the colourful cottons.  I wish I did, because I admire the finished works of art.

Quilt designed and made by Ellen Lewis - a retirement gift from our church choir. The theme reflects a combination of music with leisure time at our cabin, and my DH's love of hunting and the outdoors. (Click to enlarge photo)

I know a few very talented quilters who love what they do and find the process soothing. It only exasperates me.

For the perfect quilt, every piece of fabric and every stitch must be placed “just so” to comply with the pattern, or the end result will look slipshod or chaotic. It’s a little like piecing together a novel from an outline … which is probably why I’m more of a seat-of-my-pants novelist.

Deciding on a theme, choosing the colours and fabrics, and beginning to cut out swatches … these all resemble my novels’ initial stages since they get a certain amount of forethought and pre-planning. But during the actual writing I don’t do well when it comes to staying within a rigid outline. Of course some might think the end result would be better if I did, but no one has suggested that … yet.

Are you a quilter? A novelist who follows plot outlines? How do you reconcile the concept of using stringent control to produce something creative?

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Good friends are like quilts – they age with you yet never lose their warmth.  [Author Unknown]

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