Friday, February 5, 2010

Cross-Stitch VS Writing - Let the Hobby Wars Begin...

No, I haven’t delegated my writing back to hobby status. It’s in limbo right now, not sure exactly what category it fits into, but that’s another story.

I’ve been reintroduced to a wonderful group of women here on Canada’s East Coast that meet every Wednesday morning for some tea/coffee and crafting. During this wonderful two and a half hours, we snack on cake, fruit, cheese, the occasional chocolate, and wile away the rest of the time with whatever project we bring with us. Some of us knit, some do paper embroidery, and others rug hook or quilt. Since I am not a crafty person – my mom tried to get me to be a knitter, but squares kept coming out as triangles – I discovered cross-stitch is something I can actually accomplish with confidence. And it’s been wonderful getting back into the hobby (having given it up while out west).

This week, as I pulled out the hobby one night, I realized that cross-stitch compared to writing has some advantages. So let’s begin:

1. The Husband does not look at you strangely for stitching little tiny X’s on cloth in order to make a picture. Scribbling on paper to create fiction – a much different story altogether.
2. No thought involved what so ever. Follow the pattern, stitch away, and picture complete. Writing- I didn’t get a pattern, did you?
3. No blinking cursor! That’s right – no blank screen, no empty page waiting to be filled with words made up by me. Oh yeah, there’s a blank canvas, but after the first stitch (finding a starting point is a bit of a headache), you’re on your way.
4. Success every time. I have yet to screw up a project and have to either start over or completely abandon. Talk about a confidence booster!
5. I can pick it up at anytime and go. No re-reading to figure out where I thought I was going. No fishing through notes to figure out where I was going. I just go – quick check of the pattern, thread the needle, and presto, on my way.
6. No one asks me about my plans. Or what I’m working on at the present moment.
7. I don’t have to explain to people the process of getting published – that there’s more to getting a book on the shelf than just writing a novel and sending it away for binding. The only process I need to explain, for the uninitiated, is the idea of taking a thread from one corner of a tiny square and then crossing over the other corner, thus making an X over and over again until a picture emerges.
8. NO EDITING! ‘Nuff said.
9. NO QUERYING! What I do with a finished product is up to me. I don’t have to get it ready to send out on submission. I don’t have to cut out a tiny corner and send it away to see if anyone wants to see more. And…
10. NO REJECTION! No one’s going to come back and say "Thanks, but it’s just not what we’re looking for at this time."

But, I hear you say, in any war there are two sides. And you’re right. So here’s the points writing has over cross-stitch:

1. Imagination. I am free to make up any story I want. No patterns, no prescribed thread colors, no end product picture.
2. Brain exercise. Some days I think my brain will explode as I try and find the perfect word or edit a sentence for more impact, more punch. Writing stretches the mental muscle, works both the right and left side, and places you in a realm of constant learning and growing.
3. A blinking cursor – a blank page – just waiting to be filled with metaphors, similes, colorful characters, excitement. The challenge awaits!
4. Success. Sometimes in a wonderful turn of phrase. Perhaps in a snippet that others found compelling, thoughtful, beautiful. Always in a first draft completed.
5. I can write anywhere. There’s always a notebook handy and there’s always a story to jot down. Pages of notes that remind me of the wonderful characters who desperately want their story told. Previous chapters that make me smile, fuel my creativity, beg for continuance. In as little as 5 minutes, I can write a sentence, an idea or the start of a poem. In the car, on the bus, in a waiting room.
6. I love talking about my plans. My writing. My hopes. My dreams. My characters.
7. I love explaining the process of publication so that the next time that person picks up a book, she’ll know the author’s heart and soul is found between the covers. And that getting that book into her hands took a great deal of determination, persistence, blood, sweat, and (most likely) tears.
8. EDITING! Yeah, I love to edit. Finding the right word. Creating a better story. If you’re going to write, you’re going to edit – may as well love it!
9. QUERYING! OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but you sure do learn how to sell – and condense. Not to mention great lessons in writing business letters and resumes. High school and university graduates should be made to query!
10. REJECTION! If you can handle the heat, then stay in the kitchen. After the submission process there isn’t anything in life you can’t handle.

So, People of Blogland, which side are you going to take today? Do you have a hobby that could go to war with your writing time? Have I missed a point or two on either side? And for fun – besides writing, what is a hobby you enjoy doing?



Heather said...

I can't do either well when i am driving. My passion is quilting and am trying to write. I have no interest in getting my quilting published ie: selling patterns, though I do plan to have a one man quilt show.

I decided to put quilting in my book and kill two birds with one stone.

Julia Smith said...

LOL, Heather!

Janet - I love your descriptions of the pull of cross-stitching vs writing ('The Husband does not look at you strangely for stitching little tiny X’s on cloth in order to make a picture' and 'I don’t have to cut out a tiny corner and send it away to see if anyone wants to see more')

My personal conviction is to value creative cross training rather than consider it a waste of valuable writing time. Most athletes cross train without question. But if you're a writer, often the nag that you could be using this time to write insinuates when you do another creative activity like cross stitch.

But I personally need to fill my creative well, and I can only do that with other creative pursuits, not constant writing. Singing in a choir and photography are two that feed me deeply.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

I love cross-stitch and quilting; they aren't nearly as much work as writing, and offer a visual delight that the written word doesn't. However, as long as I have stories in my head, I'll need to write them down. I guess I'll continue to divide my time among them all!

Helena said...

I think we need many activities in our lives for various reasons: maintain a household (necessity), work at a job (make a living), exercise or play sports (physical well-being), express our beliefs and faith (spirituality), and create things for utility or beauty (bake, sew, paint, knit, crochet, scrapbook, make cards, write poetry or novels and everything in between, sing, play an instrument, etc.).

When we have a proper balance of all those things that nurture us, we feel satisfied and could even claim that we are defined by what we do. The priorities we place on those activities do change from time to time, but I think that when one (e.g. writing) drops while another gains ground (cross-stitching or quilting), the creative energy within is in a refuelling stage. As others have said, they also feed each other.

Really enjoyed your post today, Janet. (My chief 'hobby' these days is writing, because I enjoy it, and what better reason is there to do anything?)

Jana Richards said...

Hi Janet,
I agree with what Julia said about feeling guilty when taking time away from writing to pursue a hobby. I like to garden and I even enjoy preserving vegetables and fruits from the garden, but there never seems to be enough time. The weeds in my garden can attest to the lack of time I'm spending on the yard. I also took up golf a few years ago. I mostly took it up at the urging of my husband who loves golf with a passion. Mostly I want to spend time with him, doing something we both enjoy together. But last summer I didn't get out very much. It's hard to get better if I don't practice, and it's not much fun to play if I'm in the water or sand traps most of the time!

I like what Julia said about filling the creative well. Having other outlets is totally necessary to us as writers and people. I have to remind myself that bobbies I love are just as important as exercise and nutrition to my well being.


Anita Mae Draper said...

Janet, here's what I think about your list:

#1 - I find it's much more interesting in a family setting when you fill a page with male names instead. Adding an occasional heart here and there adds to the ... uproar.

#2 - Obviously you're not working counted cross stitich. I haven't done one yet where one little x in the middle somewhere isn't out of alignment and I'm trying to compensate the rest of the project.

#3 I refer you back to #2. Now find a starting point when there's not even a pattern.

#4 *sigh. I refer you back to #2. again.

#5 I see a pattern emerging here... please see #2

#6 Really? With counted cross stitch, because they can't see a pattern, they're always asking what I'm working on because they can't see it.

#7 but don't they ask you what you're going to do with the project after? Or who you're going to give it to? Or how you're going to frame it?

#8 I don't think enough has been said... refer to #2

#9 No? You don't think your craft group will ask what happened to it? Why you haven't done anything with it?

#10 - obviously you haven't submitted your craft work to the local fairs where you're up against the 10 yr olds who've been stitching since they were toddlers and have never misplaced a stitch.

I much like your 2nd list better.

Which one do you think I'm choosing? LOL

Great post, Janet.

Janet said...

Hey, Heather - I've been to your blog and know of your passion for quilting. And a brilliant idea of including your hobby in your manuscript - not only are you using your hobby in a different way, but you'll bring authenticity to your manuscript.

I must ask - have you read Carol Shields' Happenstance about a quilter who goes to a quilting conference, leaving her husband to deal with his own life? It's one of my favorite Shields' books - she was an awesome writer.

Janet said...

Good to see you over here, Julia! Glad you liked my tongue in cheek look at one hobby over another.

Excellent reference to cross-training. You're so right - as writers, we need to fill that creative well. I think that's why it's so important, as writers, that we read. And now, you've given me the validation for cross-stitching.

I can't wait to get my loom set up in my new house and get back to weaving. Another creative pursuit I love :)

Janet said...

I knew you were a cross-stitcher, Lesley-Anne - and a fine one, at that. I'm glad you mentioned visual delight. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? And I love how a picture develops right before your very eyes when cross-stitching.

Janet said...

Balance - so very important to everyone, Helena! I think everyone today knows the value of having that balance in our lives - and the joy of many creative pursuits.

I, however, am guilty of unbalanced life, at times. I will go on a writing binge, no time for anything else, and then feel drained and unstable in other aspects of my life. Very important that I remember to 'dabble' at a little of everything over the day and end my day satisfied and in control of all aspects (this holds true especially with regard to housework - leaving it all until it looks as if a hurricane has torn through is not a good idea :)

I'm so glad you re-posted - and don't you hate it when blogger eats your comments - or the wireless flickers? I know I do.

Janet said...

"It's hard to get better if I don't practice, and it's not much fun to play if I'm in the water or sand traps most of the time!"

OK - you could write your own writing versus golf wars post. This is not only good golf advice, it's good writing advice - thanks, Jana.

And I know how much you love to garden - the pictures of your garden that you have posted on your website are so pretty. You have a real green thumb. I hope you find time this summer for gardening and golfing - but you also need to write, because I love your writing :)

Janet said...

I do counted cross-stitch, but for the tongue in cheek look at one hobby versus another - well, let's call it poetic licence.

And I really do find cross-stitch relaxing - which, in my mind, is thoughtless. Yes, the projects are very, very difficult, but a whole different mind set when it comes to that versus writing. It's very much like weaving - very difficult, but very repetitive. (Can't wait to get my loom set up).

I'm glad you enjoyed my second list, Anita. Actually, that list was much harder to write (ha, some kind of cosmic joke in there somewhere) than the list about cross-stitch.

I take it you cross-stitch - are you still doing that on your time away from writing? Have you ever entered a exhibition competition? I don't think I ever would - not really something I aspire to.

Karyn Good said...

I have tried cross stitcing. Maybe I should pull that project out again. Or not. Maybe. Or not.

I think it was too big and too intimidating. I need little projects. And not the counting kind. I need a cross stitch by number kind of thing. The kind those cross stitching toddlers start with!

I think I'll stick with photography. I love taking pictures. Maybe I'll follow through on my idea of taking a class. Reading (but I classify that as a necessity). Does camping count as a hobby? I mean the way we do it - with a bathroom and a microwave.

Now weaving - that sounds like a totally cool hobby to have!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Yes, I have entered my counted cross-stitching in local fairs but not at the Buffalo Days provincial exhibition...I took all my baking there.

I stopped cross stitching about 6 yrs ago when my finger joints started swelling due to arthritis. The writing - or the typing - keeps it under control. Now when I try to stitch, my fingers cramp up. Yet I still have 2 of those plastic boxes with my embroidery flosses along with the fabrics and supplies. I don't want to give them up yet... just in case.

Janet said...

Hey, Karyn - I didn't know you were into photography. Cool. I love pictures, but have a very bad habit of too much sky or too much ground, not enough subject. And I can't handle anything over and above a PhD camera (Push here, Dummie).

Camping is a great hobby - no matter how you do it. Family time, no real rules on when to get up, when to go to bed, no real housekeeping chores, food dropping in the fire is still fine to eat, and every night ends with gooey toasted marshmallows. Oh, yeah, great hobby.

Janet said...

Sorry you can't cross-stitch any more, Anita. But I wouldn't be able to give up the supply boxes either. I love the threads - the colors, the sheen, so beautiful.

Now baking - that's a great hobby. But I need someone to eat the treats that I love to bake. If I do it, I'll just gain weight. But I do love to bake (especially fresh bread).

Lilly Cain said...

Hmmm - I gave up my cross stitching about 2 years ago when writing took over my life. The other hobbies slowly drifted off my priority list. I didn't want them all to go - I still have all my paints and all my cross stich materials (enough charts, kits and floss so that I neve have to step foot into a shop again, but what fun would THAT be?).

Maybe someday I will get back to my hobbies. Maybe when writing becomes my career instead of a side job I'll have time to refill the well. :)


Janet said...

Great to see you here, Lilly - looking forward to your guest blog tomorrow.

Yes, I forgot that point about hobbies - the shopping for supplies. There's nothing like going into a specialty store and browsing, dreaming, touching, planning. And I always come out with stuff I 'might' need. I do this with wool shops particularly - I have a ton of wool waiting to be woven into blankets. Someday :)

I didn't know you painted. It's amazing how talented writers really are!

Crystal Posey said...

"Writing- I didn’t get a pattern, did you?"


Awesome post. I loved it.

Janet said...

Thanks, Crystal. And wouldn't it be great to get a pattern - or at least a starter kit?

Great to 'see' you here on The Prairies.