Friday, December 18, 2015

'Tis the Season

Woke up this morning to fairly steady snow so it's beginning to look a lot like winter.

With the solstice just a few days away, I always feel as though the turning of the diurnal cycle is the 'true' beginning of the new year, much as our far away and long ago ancestors must have felt.  I don't live all that far north, although it's a lot further north than many.  Our town is just far enough north that we really notice the shortening days of winter.  Our reward is the long days and short nights of summer.

But, back to the 'new year' thoughts...

For many years, by the time Christmas and the New Year arrived all I could do was just get through the season.  For a weaver (or any other craftsperson dependent upon the Christmas craft fairs), the veil of exhaustion from a year's worth of production then a couple months worth of (sometimes frantic) show schedule, collapsing for a few weeks before entering the fray again was the top priority.  
As I have gotten older, it seems to take longer to feel rested and able to enter the fray all over again.

All of the above had a factor in my decision to write The Book.  If I have an income from some other source, I won't need to do so many shows.  We won't have to white knuckle our way through the Rocky Mountains - in November - there and back again.

But I also have a more...altruistic...reason for writing The Book.  I want to share some of what I have learned with others.  I want to do it in a way that makes sense to new-to-the-craft weavers.  I have shared hints and tips frequently here and other places on the internet, done the two DVD's, produced a large book with woven samples.  I am no stranger to writing.  

Thing is, writing The Book is much more difficult than writing blog posts or the occasional article for a magazine.  There is a stream of logical thought that needs to happen so that people can easily follow the process.  If they can follow my thread of thought, they will more easily be able to understand the processes.  

Weaving is not a straight forward craft.  (I doubt any of the traditional crafts are, but I'm most familiar with weaving.)

There are layers and layers and layers of subtlety.  Everything depends.  Things change when equipment, materials and intended function change.  How can I convey that subtlety without losing people in their journey through the many twists and turns my thought processes take when I design a textile?

Writing The Book feels very audacious.  When I get tired, I get discouraged.  When I get discouraged, I find it more difficult to find the thread to follow without getting lost my own self.  How can I guide someone else through?

And then I think about all that I have learned and I don't want that knowledge to just...get lost...when I'm gone.  And so I go back to the text and I pick through the threads of my thoughts and try to weave them into a coherent story.  The story of cloth.


Tien Chiu said...

A few suggestions from my experience with my own book:

- First, look into buying Scrivener. It's a word processing program designed for writers. It allows you to split up your writing into sections, associate each section with a card, and then drag and drop the cards around to reorder your section. This makes rearranging ideas really easy. And it's only $40. Check it out at

- Second, put up a design wall somewhere. Make a collection of Post-Its, one for each idea. Rearrange the ideas into chapters, a mind map, or whatever best organizes your thoughts. It's important to use a physical board because monitors simply aren't big enough to let you take in all your ideas at once.

- Third, since you have a complex web of topics, don't try to write the book linearly, deciding on an order and then writing things neatly, in order. Write the individual topics, then figure out how they fit together. It's much less stressful than thinking you have to decide everything in advance. At worst, you have to throw away a few topics - but that would likely be true even if you had planned everything first. Also, writing in small chunks lets you break down the job into lots of small, bite-sized pieces that are much more approachable than the entire behemoth. One of the reasons I blogged the first draft of my book (not suggesting that you do that, though) is that I could write each blog post in about half an hour to an hour, so it felt manageable. At the same time, it represented a commitment of at least 500 words three times a week, so it kept me moving.

Hope that helps! Feel free to email me if you want more suggestions.

Peg Cherre said...

Wow, Tien, that sounds like lots of great advice. So glad I'm not writing a book myself. ;-)

Laura - whether you choose to follow any/all of Tien's advice, know that I've never seen anything you've produced that was other than coherent, thoughtful, and helpful. Recognize that you are a great teacher and don't let the self doubts overwhelm you.