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Recently, I started knitting.  I began for a few reasons, the most obvious being that I wanted to extend my wardrobe with lovely, handmade garments.  Also, it was around Christmas and I was annoyed at all the over-spending that goes on around that holiday, and on gifts that have arguably less meaning that something handmade.  As a writer, you always have the option of writing your loved ones a story, poem, or memoir (hopefully keeping it as cheese-free as possible).  But, let’s be honest, how difficult would it be to write something creative and uniquely styled for each family member while also working on your own projects?  And with the same 25th deadline for each present?  I don’t think so.  Now, with knitting, I’ve got next Christmas in the bag.

One of the driving reasons for my learning to knit, though, was as a way to connect with my grandmother.  Although she is healthy and active now, I know that she won’t always be around.  I feel a great push lately to spend as much time as possible with my grandparents and to accept their gifts of knowledge and skills, which will otherwise be lost.

So those were my reasons, and the time spent with my grandmother in pursuit of this craft produced lasting and precious memory.  However, as I’ve now completed two projects and am working on a third, I’ve discovered another benefit of learning a craft.  Knitting to me is like praying the rosary.  Sometimes I do pray; knit by knit, perl by perl, a prayer for every action, every loop, ever tug, every person in my life, for the stranger I’ve never met.  But even when I am not actively praying, I am meditating.

Knitting preoccupies the hands in a creative way, allowing the mind to mull over other creative pursuits.

For me it’s a great time to think — sometimes without being aware of it — of my writing projects and to work out issues which, if I stared at a computer screen and forced myself to work them out in an attitude of frustration would, A, be unproductive, and B, possibly, and hopefully only temporarily, snuff out the positive creative  vibrations associated with that project.  There is so much to be said for taking breaks from writing.  There’s even more wisdom, I think, in taking craft-based breaks which keep your creative muscles engaged in a way that might seemingly have nothing to do with your writing, but is actually keeping you in tune to those voices.

I’m officially a knitter, but I realize that as long as I’ve been a writer I’ve always been a crafts person.  In these next few days, I’d like to discuss the philosophy of “craft” and how it pertains to the writing life.  What crafts do y’all enjoy in partnership with your writing?

Pictures of my latest project, a basic hat using Araucania yarns from Chile.

I love how my camera picked up the lovely glints of green and blue of this yarn.  Safe to say it will be a photogenic hat even if the wearer is not.  🙂


find ideas just by opening your eyes

How do you practice coming up with ideas for fiction?  Here are two tips I’ve learned over the years, which have helped me in my practice.

1)      Be Aware:  Imagine you’re brain’s a Brita-filter.  Every second of every day, our brains process stimuli which we receive from our environment:  the natural world, the people we meet, the media, all of that is part of our environment.  As writers and storytellers, we have all the information we need for coming up with great stories.  It’s just a matter of seeing them.

That squished snail you just stepped on, for example.  The way the grass looked this morning with fog laced through its blades.  The person you just walked past that was in hysterics for having stepped on the snail.  Who among us is completely aware of every little thing that happens to or around us on any given day?  No one.   But maybe we should.

By paying a bit more attention to the world around us,  not only will we feel more alert and tuned-in to this beautiful world, we’ll see something worth writing down.

2)      Ask Questions:  Go through life asking the question “What if?”  “What if there were creatures from another planet?” H.G. Wells might have asked.  “How would they react to humans?  What would they look like?”  See how one question leads to another? And this trick doesn’t just work for fantasy or sci-fi.  Consider Jane Austen:  “What if a snobbish land-owning gentleman fell for a feisty, dowerless girl?” In fiction, anything can happen.  Prod your imagination awake by asking it questions.  Begin by asking, “What if?” and see where it takes you.

As an exercise, think about one thing that happened to you during your day.  It can be anything:  a scene from your day, like a meeting or a coffee break, something someone said, that car that nearly ran you over as you were trying to cross the street, anything.  What “What-if” scenario can you imagine coming from that event?

Here’s an example:  you overhear a snippet of an argument between a man and a woman.  All you catch is the man saying, “What do you mean you forgot to get the dried blood?!”  You know he was probably referring to compost fertilizer, but what if he wasn’t?

But the scenarios don’t have to be that ripe for the pickin’.  With a little bit of prodding, you can turn anything into a story.

Just start asking the questions and let the story unravel from there.

Eileen Hughes goes into more detail about finding story ideas using these two simple ideas.



"The purpose of art is not a rarified, intellectual distillate -- it is life, intensified, brilliant life." ~ Alain Arias-Misson