Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Three Paths Converge on Story

Over Thanksgiving break, I realized where I have been traveling in my creative life through this blog...and it wasn't just to Texas to visit Jim's family.

I realized that there are three paths of creative expression on my blog: my needlework, my photography and my writing, and that they were all leading to the same place.

And that place centered around my desire to Tell a Story.

Once I saw the title I realized something Maura had already known. I was using my blog as a vehicle for telling my story.

It sounds fairly obvious, I know, since isn't that what most people use their blogs for? Please don't think me stupid but I had never intended for my blog to be the vehicle for story. It just kind of evolved that way.

Did you have an intention for your blog when you first started it? Is it the same today?

When I first started this blog, I thought I would use it as an entree to the online needlework community, seeking like-minded friends with a love for all things needle.

A place to share my needlework with others and likewise, see theirs...I don't think my original intent went much beyond the idea of sharing and needlework...

It wasn't long after I started blogging that I connected with Robin Atkins and started the Bead Journal Project. Thanks to Robin's approach, I began expressing small bits of myself and my life with beads, needle and thread. I surprised even myself. I had never realized I had a unique, creative voice...and that it had something to say.

After the Bead Journal Project, all my work started to have a purpose and a connection to my self, my life experiences or to the people I love. And the story behind the creation of my needlework, became equally as important as the finished pieces themselves. Maybe even more so.

For me, the creative process moved beyond the physical generation of needlework...beyond the accomplishment of a finished piece or task...to the expression of the intentions and daily revelations I experienced while making the pieces.

And it was the desire to better convey the emotional experiences of my work which led me to seek better ways to capture and express my feelings both visually and verbally.

That led me smack dab in the middle of the vast world of photography, trying to better convey my story through the photographs I was taking for my blog. Though I've made some improvements, I am still really a neophyte in the photography world.

And now, I find myself a bit of a neophyte in the vast world of writing as well...

So...while my stuffing was soaking up the gravy from my turkey, my brain was soaking up all the tips and advice for writing memoir in Marion Roach Smith's short, 100-page book, The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life.

Sooo much more goes into writing well than I admit to considering before writing my blog posts...

Which words to choose? Which details to include and which to leave out? What angle to take? How can I boil down all the thousands of thoughts and feelings that are jamming up my mind into something expressive yet...simple.

How can I better convey those routine moments of my one, divine life that feel so important to me? How do I tell my story...better?

It seems overwhelming.

And yet, I know that the struggle to best illustrate my life...through my needle, through my photography and through my words...is the best teacher of all.

Because it's the struggle of self-expression, of deciding how to tell my story, that teaches me who I am.

And maybe I'm not the only one? Perhaps there are many of you reading this post today who have struggled similarly in expressing yourself through your own blog.

Well. Marion Roach gives lots of great tips for writing about your life. Not only is her book a very quick read but I happen to think that it translates to telling story through needlework as well.

She gives 3 basic guidelines to writing memoir:
  1. Writing memoir is about telling the truth.
  2. Every page must drive one single story forward.
  3. Just because something happens doesn't make it interesting.
She then goes onto to give writing and editing advice...and I honestly believe that it is all translatable to telling a story through needle and thread.

What is the story that the piece of needlework is trying to tell? Do all the elements on the piece contribute to moving the story forward? Just because you have a beautiful button or ribbon or thread, doesn't mean that it belongs in the design...etc...

Over the next few months, I plan to further explore the idea of telling story through needlework...and to further explore the nuances of sharing that story through photography and memoir.

In the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about writing memoir, Marion has a website here, a blog here and you can find her book here, The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life.

And should you think that for some reason your life isn't worth writing about? Well, that's just not true. Everyone has a story. And I, for one, find your unique point of view very interesting.

It's why I read blogs.

See you next time.

From Marion Roach Smith's Memoir Project:

"Learn to value the reader, whose hunger for truth is enormous and whose thirst for understanding this life is unquenchable."

"It's in the small moments that life is really lived."

"A blog post is not about stuffing in as much as you can; rather, it's about illustrating something correctly."

"Learn to write with intent and you might learn something about life."

"Scenes from real life fade fast, losing blood and paling, and your job is to jump on the damn thing, with those wild, electrified ping-pong paddles in hand and jolt it back to life before it goes blue."


Catherine said...

You know, when three storms converge it's referred to as "perfect" and that is exactly what you have accomplished. I love seeing your needlework through your photos and understanding them more through your words....

Carol said...

This post is so Susan. Over the years you have shared with us how you have researched 2 aspects of your story telling and now you are researching the third.

The truth. That's always been my dilemma. What to tell and what to keep hidden.

YOU do it so well.

Emily said...

This year I got into the idea much more that needlework is art and thus is an expression of yourself. I've been considering what influences around me lead me to choose certain subjects and not others (there isn't time enough for everything!!) You're a great inspiration. I like that you have stories behind your projects.

I've been thinking about it for awhile and have been a bit jealous of the bead and art quilt journal projects, so I am going to start an embroidery journal project 2012 from my blog for now. Maybe it will grow and move to its own site, but I think it's time to begin!

Thanks for keeping a great blog for us to read!!

Sweetpea said...

Well this is certainly a timely post for me, Susan, but no need to say I am not surprised that you should write it now, BJP sistah! I'm going to run over to that link and take a look at that book RIGHT NOW and I thank you so much for sharing about it here. To answer your question: my intention for my blog has remained pretty much the same as when I started, plus a whole lot more...more of me, and dare I say, more truthful as time goes on. Connection with like-minded folks has always been paramount. Now, telling my/a story with as much honesty as possible is an intention that's pushing me beyond where I initially thought I would go.

Vicky~ stichr ~ said...

i have said many times that if i have to re-write the story as i read it, it's not worth reading.

i have never felt i needed to re-write anything i have read of yours.

my blog...it's about the pictures...

Faith said...

Funny how we can start out in different places, going different directions and end up in the same place. Not that we are in exactly the same place, exactly, either. I have been writing off and on all my life and have played a bit with photography (but never seriously) and only in the past two years came to embroidery. When I read your post, it was familiar territory... only more focused. I haven't considered them together as you have, and for pointing that out, I thank you. Now, if only I can learn to focus and bring them together, as you do so well.

Sandra Henderson said...

There is a song by Allison Krauss...
"When You Say Nothing At All"
this is what comes to mind when I look at your needlework. It is so beautiful, it tells its own story.
However, I know what you are saying. I just hope people don't overcomplicate things. I think you are doing a great job and personally see no room for improvement, but everyone has their own personal goals. Just speak from your heart. Less is more. Keep it simple. If it aint broke, don't fix it... Get how I feel!?!? lol

JoWynn Johns said...

When you and Greg Rittler had lunch with me, this is what I was telling Greg about your work. Remember?

verobirdie said...

I started reading this post in the bus. But I put aside, because I knew I did not have enough time to appreciate it fully.
Yes you tell a story with your blog and this is a beautiful story, because it is yours,
Your post also puts words on a feeling I have. I have neglected my blog lately, because I have nothing to say, because I don't take enough time to be creative, and I miss that. I must remedy to that.

Anyway, it is alAys a pleasure to read you, because you put a lot of you in your words.

Ati. said...

I always like the stories you tell connecting to your work.For me it is difficult. I cannot express myself clear enough in English to tell stories like you do. So my goal with my blog is to inspire other people to get the most pleasure out of their hobby.Either it is CQ, needlefelt, crochet or knitting socks. LOL

Sheila said...

I love your post.

Sometimes we don't know where we're going, until we turn around and look where we've been. And only then can we see what was obvious to the ones around us.

Also, we're all beginners... All the time... every time we master something new, there's more to master... I luuuuuuuve your photography. But you know that... :)

I'll be sticking your book recommendation on my TBR pile. Thank you for the suggestions, as always they send me off in great directions.

Marjorie said...

I found your blog some months back and had to start reading it from the beginning. I spent the better part of several days getting caught up on your postings. I have seen the growth of your son and watch a proud mom showcase parts of his life. I saw a doting aunt share so much with all her nieces. I got absorbed it the most beautiful needlework. I purchased books and products recommended by you. I visited other blogs and website I didn't know existed. I felt your pain in the passing of your mom. You have been writing your story and been brave enough to share. Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

Thoughtful as ever, Susan. Thank you for giving me still more pause for thought.

Anonymous said...

When I started my blog, back in 2006, I was just interested in using it as a vehicle to journal in (with photos, etc:) - I was pretty sure that almost nobody would be interested in reading it (except maybe my Mom and my kids:) ... it was just for me (I have a really bad memory and I wanted a way to look back at the things I had made).

I've met lots of people and enriched my life through blogging and reading blogs. Like yours, Susan. :)

Thank you for letting us travel with you and for telling us your stories!

:) Linda

sharonb said...

Thanks for the link. As I grow older two aspects of stitching fascinate me more. The first is stitch as graphic mark - in other words representation of something. The second is stitch as narrative and that of course includes autobiography.
Blogs of course are also a representation of self and when the two mix it becomes even more interesting. As I say thanks for the thoughtful post and the links

Marion Roach Smith said...

Dear Susan:
What a joy to find this post. I am deeply honored. You are right, of course, about creativity. I, too, knit, and write in my head while I do so; I also knit up things in my head while I write. Same goes for cooking.
I am delighted that my quirky little book is a help to you.
Write on, sister.
We are grateful readers.

Linda H said...

Susan, you bring so much joy to others with your blog - your stitching, photography AND writing. I would say these three paths converge beautifully at Plays With Needles, and we your readers are SO very grateful. You give us such a wonderful gift by so generously sharing with us your work, stories and adventures. Certainly your writing skills and photography skills equal your talent with the needle. I love reading the stories "behind" your needlework, and your photography is always so perfect. No need for changes or improvements, sister - You've got it all happenin' now. Please don't stop... Your fans would mutiny!!

Related Posts with Thumbnails