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Brittany: A New Focus

Once upon a time I made dolls. It started when I was little, maybe even before elementary school. My great-grandmother, a seamstress, often babysat me and her house was a treasure trove of fabric scraps, spare yarn, and mismatched buttons. One day I asked her if I could make a doll. She showed me how to make a pattern, supervised as I hand-sewed the body, and basically left to my disposal her arsenal of craft supplies.

I made dozens of dolls after that. Long before I was able to write, I used dollmaking as a kinetic activity to tap into my creativity. As I got older, writing supplanted dollmaking as creative hobby #1, but I still made dolls whenever I needed a jumpstart. I have made a number of different types of dolls over the years, but my favorites are made of cloth, with faces sculpted with the needle. I was working on my face-sculpting technique when life intervened. I graduated from college, found a job, had two boys who cared little for needlecraft and even less for dolls, and before I knew it, it had been years since I’d attempted a new project. I kept saying I wanted to make dolls again, but always put it off.  There were only so many hours in the day and if I was going to indulge in a hobby, writing always won out.

But lately, I haven’t had much interest in writing. The final push to finish my novel, combined with my months-long recovery from whooping cough and pneumonia have left me stripped and bare and uninspired. John is also becoming more curious and isn’t happy to sit idly by anymore while I type page after page. I’ve been through this before with Sam, but this time, instead of trying to fight it, I just put the writing aside. It’s no longer an all-consuming fire for me. I’m still writing, never fear, but only in a piddling manner, writing in fits and starts, and only when the mood strikes me.  My life is chaotic right now, and to force yet another to-do on myself would be counter-productive.

Which brings me to Saturday…

It was Valentine’s, and aside from the usual card exchange with Tom, was an ordinary day in every regard. We got up early to take Sam to his gym class, ran a few errands before lunchtime, came home, put the boys down for naps, Tom got to work finishing the last of the tile in the powder room and entryway, I went to my novelist’s critique group. It was a good time, we all laughed, I got excellent feedback, drove home. And yet I found myself totally overwhelmed with angst. There was no reason for it, but nonetheless, it was there — this undeniable feeling of anxiety and dread.

In the meantime, my brother-in-law got engaged, and posted the news on Facebook for all to see. I got online as soon as I got home, hoping I would be comforted by the familiarity of my laptop, and saw his change in status. I couldn’t be happier for them. But I also felt like it was about time he proposed to her.

An image popped into my head of Cupid, wearing oversized boxing gloves, hitting slowpoke boyfriends upside the head on Valentine’s Day. My fingers began itching to sew him. I went upstairs and found the perfect fabrics in my long-neglected stash of craft supplies. I got to work on him right away, and slowly the anxiety began to fade.

He was a quick project as far as dolls go. I finished him Sunday afternoon. Unlike a novel, where train of thought matters, I could pick him up and put him down as needed. Sam sat beside me while I sewed, entranced with his train videos, and I was able to escape a bit more deeply into my sewing than I ever could have with my writing. I’ve needed that — the ability to shut out the rest of the world like that — and having that time in my own head was just what I needed to shrug off the funk I was in.

Since then, I have felt a bit of my spirit revive. I am a little bit happier now that I have reclaimed a bit of my former self. My writing life is still on the horizon, but for now, my new focus is on the dolls.

[Editor’s note: Brittany’s cupid doll won this week’s creativity contest!]

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. cathy #

    your change of focus sounds like just what the doctor ordered. i made snickerdoodles after i couldn’t seem to write yesterday. they made me happy, and the rest of my family, too. and even people of fb, when i mentioned it! funny.

    speaking of fb, for the others, i will add that brittany came up with a great new list of truly odd qestions the other night in a creative moment….go check them out! i answered them.

    between my post this am and brittany’s, it occurred to me that i was writing better as i was reading other youth novels. “hoot” has been sitting on my desk, nightstand and coffee table for about a week now, but not opened yet. i’ve read it before, i know it will be a good support for my book as it conquers similar themes. time i go read. and my soup is ready….

    February 19, 2009
  2. Liz #

    What a cute doll!!!!

    Creativity isn’t just about writing. Do what your heart tells you to do.

    February 19, 2009
  3. Kristine #

    That’s great! It’s important to have more than one creative pursuit. That way, your mind is always creating in one form or another.

    February 19, 2009
  4. Moving to another creative outlet is a great idea — keeps you satisfied creatively and may actually serve your writing down the line. Your writing project will be percolating in the background while you’re sewing, even if it’s just subconscious. The change of flavor may serve to recharge your batteries, put a smile on your face, and make you look forward to writing again. And if not on the latter, you’ll still be having fun and making something. From my interviews, flexibility is the cornerstone of happiness for creative mothers. When you box yourself into a set of specific expectations, you’re bound to face disappointment (hence your previous Murphy’s Law correlation). Bravo!

    February 19, 2009
  5. i truly enjoyed this post, brittany. you are speaking to my heart here. i’m glad you rediscovered your dolls!

    February 19, 2009
  6. Jen #

    This sounds so familiar, Brittany! When I became a mother, I went through a very similar shift, refocusing much of my creative energies from writing (where they’d resided for years) into handcrafts and jewelry making. The writing happens much less frequently than I’d like these days, but when I do have a literary project in process, I find that it absolutely does percolate (as Miranda noted) while I’m working with my hands. Thanks for your post, and have great fun with the dolls!

    February 20, 2009

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