Figuring it Out

Besides writing novels, I also weave tapestries on a small lap loom and am learning to play the harp. I feel fortunate to have several different creative endeavors and I try to do a little of each every day. I’m not retired or a lady of leisure so only a minimal amount of time can be given to these pursuits.

I usually write for at least an hour (never more than two). I play (I’m not sure it should be called that yet) the harp for several ten minute sessions. And I weave in the evenings while I’m watching TV.

In every one of these mediums I have to figure things out. It doesn’t matter that I’ve woven tapestries before. The new tapestry has new shapes in it, and I have to figure out the best way to make them. It doesn’t matter that I know Joy to the World on the harp, the new song has a different arrangement of notes in it and I have to train my fingers to them and figure out the best placement of my hands. It doesn’t matter that I’ve written novels before, the new novel has different characters and a different setting, a different plot and different tensions, and I have to figure out how best to make it all fit together.

Today as I was weaving a mermaid I set the loom down and stepped back from it and realized that I needed to change my design. I needed to un-weave some of what I’d done and do it differently. This didn’t upset me. There’s no reason it should. It’s just a part of the process, something I needed to do to make it right. As I began to take the yarn over and under the warp so that it removed part of the image rather than built it, I thought about figuring things out as I go. I believe it is one of the greatest gifts of a creative life. If I can figure this project out, then I can figure the next one out too. And I know I can figure this one out because I figured the last one out.

This crosses over disciplines too. Because I have to figure out weaving I know that I also have to figure out writing. And because I have to figure out writing I know I also have to figure out playing the harp.

Playing the harp has been the most difficult for me, the most embarrassing even though I play for no one, and am the only one witnessing my clunky awkwardness. Nothing musical comes out. It’s not how I imagined it at all. When I first felt this, I put the harp down and didn’t mess with it for months. I felt ashamed that I had spent money for it and ashamed that I’d ever thought I could play music. Then, after awhile, I just decided I’d practice the crap out of one song, nothing more, and I’m getting better. I’m not great. I’m not even adequate. But there is definite improvement. And best of all, it’s not like I imagined it. It’s actually better. I feel myself developing a relationship to this instrument. My harp and I are friends now. My harp accepts my limitations. So does my loom. So does my writing. I just had to keep showing up for all of these things in order for them, and me, to accept this.

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2 Responses to Figuring it Out

  1. Karissa Knox Sorrell just directed me to your blog, and she’s right… I’m really enjoying it. Like you, I try other creative pursuits (other than my writing) to try to find balance and enjoyment, and a break from the hard work. A year ago my husband gave me a wonderful electronic keyboard for my birthday. I hadn’t played in years, so I bought some sheet music and sat down to enjoy it. It was much harder than I expected, and now I go days (sometimes weeks) without playing. Your words about the harp have encouraged me to try again. I don’t do weaving or other needlework, but I sometimes paint, which I haven’t done in a long while. Again, thanks for the encouragment.

    • Nancy says:

      Hi Susan – How great to hear from you. I sometimes feel bad for all my “dabbling.” I feel like I should focus more on writing, and get more writing done. But the reality is I need the break from it. Music is like nothing I’ve ever done before, and that’s good. It’s kind of like walking, but with my fingers. I wish you the very best! Nancy

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