I’m lucky that the things I make—sentences, paragraphs, essays, and chapters—have a low barrier to entry.
The other morning, I woke up too early and the little baby slept surprisingly late, so, in the dark of a 5:30 winter morning, I grabbed my coffee, cracked open my laptop, and wrote in the good, insensate company of a snoring dog.
When my husband emerged an hour later, he peered into the living room and asked what I was doing. “Oh, writing about star suicides,” I responded happily.
In that precious sixty minutes, I produced 300 words of reasonable quality and had a good structuring idea for this somewhat morbid fifth chapter of my current book. And, because the only lag time between desire to work and working was seconds it took to reach from the couch to the desk—I didn’t even have to stand up—the gap between inspiration to write to doing the thing was pretty much zilch.
This is part of what I love about being a writer. I can do it pretty much any time and any place. Though I’ve gotten used to a laptop, I’ve scribbled many an idea in a notebook, and it’s still my practice to read using an index card as a bookmark so I can jot down ideas as I go.
But, as the wool hat that’s only three rows deep will attest, I do not find all art forms so easy to slip into.
As I’ve discussed before, I’ve been feeling the pull (is this a fabric arts joke?) of textile arts recently. Specifically, I’ve been wanting to learn knitting. Last year at Christmas my husband gave me a beautiful Wool and the Gang knitting kit. I declared it my favorite present. I enlisted my mother to help me. I practiced my knit stitch and my purl stitch with shittier yarn, making several lumpy squares. I began the hat.
And then I stopped.
To be sure, part of the problem is that while I’ve written and published enough at this point to consider myself a professional writer–this isn’t a quality claim, just a description that it’s the case I write for my work and that I do it as a daily practice—I am not a knitter. Now, this one is both a quality and a descriptive claim. Not only am I bad at knitting, but, more importantly from my perspective, I am not knitting. No knitting=not a knitter.
So, there’s a skill and an inertia problem here, but there’s also been an ease of access problem so stupid and obvious that I’m ashamed to admit it.
When we moved this summer, the bag of knitting stuff ended up in a box of frankly bizarre odds and ends, including leftover fabric from the living room curtains and the extra vacuum cleaner bags. Now, maybe you are the kind of person who knows where she stores the extra vacuum bags, but, Dear Reader, that ain’t me.
Over the course of this year, I have moved the aspirational goal “knit hat” across the seasons in my planner, from the somewhat reasonable January and February to the preposterous months of July and August. I live in the high desert of northern Nevada; unfortunately, in August, I’d be better off knitting a balaklava to avoid breathing smoke from California fires.
It’s now December, and I have made zero progress on the now cursed hat.
This became painfully clear to me as I reviewed my goals for the year 2019. Under the category of “creative growth,” I had written the relatively vague goal “more making,” which I detailed in bullet points to mean more cooking and learn to knit. (Sidebar: I am a huge planning nerd.)
In general, this is a post about me failing to knit, but I do get kudos for the more cooking resolution. I spatchcocked a mother-ing chicken this weekend! And I’m making crepes this week. On a Thursday, no less!
But, not so the knitting. And as I reviewed my failure of 2019, the stupid error became clear to me. Yes, I had been moving the knitting-related goal dutifully, like an Etsy penitent, from month to month in my planner, but I had no idea where the knitting needles were in the new house.
Hard to do something when you don’t have the supplies or even know where they are.
And this is the big point of contrast between the writing and the cooking on the one hand and the woeful story of the knitting on the other. My computer is almost always nearby. If not, I have a purse that typically contains multiple notebook and an absurd quantity of pens/ The kitchen and the basic animal need for food never fall out of view. But, tucked in a high cabinet with the vacuum bags, the knitting as a thing I might practically do, as opposed to just feel guilty about, was tucked away.
I’ve now retrieved the needles and wool and refreshed my memory with a YouTube video, so I’m starting again. It’s my goal to keep the supplies near at hand so that maybe, just maybe, I’ll have a new hat to wear before it’s swimsuit season.
P.S. I realize that I’ve just confessed to you that I pretty much never vacuum. I can live with that.
P.P.S. I’m curious about how people with more equipment-intensive creative practices deal with barriers to entry. If you are a mother who works creatively for a living and you’d like to be on the blog, please send me a note.