Thursday, March 1, 2012

Carolyne Aarsen

If you check my website, you will notice that I do other things beside write. I sew. Knit. Embroider and, more recently make scrapbooks and cards. All my life I've been doing one type of craft or another. When I was young, I would knit sweaters and make up stories. I would sew and dream up heroes for the romance I wanted to write someday. It was all so much fun. So pleasant and inspiring.

And then , so many years after that, I started writing. At first, it seemed to be just another hobby but when I sold my first book and then my second and third and fourth, it became much more than that. It became a vocation. And soon I started writing more and more. When our youngest son moved out of the house, writing became my entire focus and my passion. I would spend every day at the computer and sometimes, even the evenings. The sewing machine gathered dust. The knitting got shoved into a cupboard. I didn't have time for this fooling around. I was a writer and writing consumed all my time. And it did.

Then, a couple of years ago, as I was fiddling with a story line, I felt it. A general malaise. Disinterest. Reluctance to get going. I just didn't 'feel' like writing. Now, as a professional, I know that I can't work just based on 'feelings'. But I also know that there has to be some spark, some ember of excitement that makes me want to tell the stories. I wasn't sure what was going on and kept whining to my writing partner that I just didn't want to write. I had scads of time to do it. Whole days yawned ahead of me that I could spend, sitting at the computer. But I didn't want to be there. Trouble was, I didn't know where else I wanted to be. I got nervous about my lack of enthusiasm for crafting the stories I used to love so much.

Then our church held a fundraiser for our youth to go and work on an orphanage in Honduras. They were going to have an auction and I was asked if I could donate something. But other than my books, what? I started rooting through my cupboard and found a bunch of dolls that I had bought at one time, still boxed up. At one time I'd had dreams of clothing these poor, naked things, but my writing took over my life. So I pulled them out, hauled out the numerous scraps of material I'd had sitting around from years of sewing. Most of them were too small for anything else except doll clothes.

While I sorted and fingered material and laid out the fun colours and patterns on the floor of my office, the ever present deadlines taunted me, telling me. I didn't have time for this fooling around. I had to get back to work. But I knew work would just mean staring at a computer screen and sighing. So I stayed where I was, sorting lace and buttons and trim, memories of the joy this work gave me seeping into the day. And as I did, I made a decision. In spite of the reality of having a book to finish and another set of galleys to check over, I was going to find time to make some clothes for a doll and donate them to the auction. I would work in the evening, that was all.

And I did. But as I cut and pinned and sewed and snipped, an interesting thing started happening. The story I just couldn't get excited about, the characters I couldn't care about, started slipping around the edges of my brain. They started talking. The ideas started flitting around. My mind started playing with story lines. It was as if my mind played as my hands did. And slowly, slowly, the embers started glowing again. I was excited to get back to the computer to put down the ideas that came to me as I sewed.

The picture you see here is of a set of clothes and doll that I am donating to yet another auction. And while I was sewing these clothes, I was working on another series of books I want to do. I was letting the characters play around in my head as I worked. It was fun. And this week, I'm back at the computer. Back at work.

But since making those doll clothes, I've learned to give myself some craft time as well. Some time to fill the creative well I had been drawing from far too deeply for far too long. I've let colours and paper and fabric and textures back into my life and I'm having fun doing other things beside writing. It was an important lesson to me.

As for the doll? She and her clothes sold for a goodly amount of money. Multi purpose crafting.

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