George [McWhirter] stressed that Creative Writing was not an academic subject. We did not study things. We made things. Before I’d met George, no one had ever told me that writing poetry was practical, but this approach demystified the creative process. I began to look at writing as a constructive, physical act. Writing became the artful arrangement of words. There was no teary-eyed emotional or mystical dimension to making better work. The words you used either worked or they didn’t. And if they did not work, there were steps that could be taken to fix them.
This post was about making things with kids but I think most of the points apply to anyone of any age.
1. It’s important to make something—anything—with your hands every once in awhile.
2. Making things by hand can put you and your child into a state of “flow.”
3. Value process over final product.
4. Stop consuming, start creating.
5. Handmade work teaches children to be original and inventive.
6. DIYs let kids use their imaginations, a skill they have in abundance.
7. Research shows a strong connection between creativity and well-being.
8. Accept that we are all creative.
9. Notice the sense of wonder in your child.
10. Go [a]head, dive back into your childhood reserve of wonder.
Or, another overpriced item to add to my future Etsy shop.
$58 monkey’s fist knots. If you went to summer camp or are a sailor, you may have made these yourself. But, you know, these ones have a bit of paint on them. (This things-that-are-half-painted trend has to be nearly over, don’t you think?) So that clearly makes a knot (a knot!) worth nearly 60 bucks.
I think my future knot line will include a $27 bowline and a $5 reef knot 😉
First, it was these. A bag of “story stones”—aka 12 rocks each painted with a different simple image to use as storytelling prompts. Price? $42. Shipping unknown.
Then, it was this. A crocheted “pan mat”—aka six (6!) rounds of single crocheted hemp. Price? $59 + $9 shipping.
I’m not protesting the concept of either of these items. I am gasping at the fact that people are apparently willing to pay outrageous amounts for items that can be DIYed in minutes with inexpensive and/or free materials.
This is the kind of thing that makes me kick myself for not pursuing crafting-as-a-career. If only Etsy had come along 5 years sooner, I could have skipped all this back-to-school business and made a fortune selling crafts. Although, I suppose it’s never too late. Forget writing! I need to open an Etsy shop.
So I’m scrolling through my feeds this morning and I see this (first photo). It’s a hot water bottle cover. Exciting, I know. So I would’ve just continued on my way except… wtf? $105?! Are you kidding me?
This gives me pause because I recently made this:
Keep in mind, this was my first attempt at something like this and I freehanded it. (So far in my my crocheting adventure, I haven’t used any patterns. 100% winging it.) I thought it would be a bit of a challenge to figure out how to get around the angles and such. Cost? Maybe $5 for the yarn (100% wool, probably not organic), but I didn’t use the whole skein, so a little less than that. Time? I think it took me an afternoon. While watching movies.
So, basically on the $105 item above, we’re talking $100 profit. Assuming there are people who would actually pay $105 for a hot water bottle cover (who are you?), I clearly should give up this PhD thing and open up an Etsy store.
And I came to writing fiction, in the first place, out of being an art student. From the beginning, I wanted to make stuff. I wanted to make paintings and sculptures. And so the idea of artifice and craft and artificiality seemed really like the baseline condition of my gesture to begin with. The idea of verifiability or objectivity-these characteristics that writing inherits not from the arts but from journalism or scholarship-those weren’t native to me in any way. I was a failed student. I had never written a thesis, let alone a dissertation. I’d never done any journalism. I wasn’t even a person who kept a journal. I just wanted to make stories.
All those years ago, I didn’t think it unusual to spend so much time making stuff. This had a lot to do with my grandmother, a woman who, when she was not preserving produce, was ceaselessly creating other kinds of goods. She spent her evenings at her handwork: The needlepoint and cross-stitch samplers she’d frame and hang on walls; she hooked rugs and sewed the odd quilt, made Christmas ornaments and wine cozies and doorstop covers. As a little kid, I followed her lead, pulling thick yarn through big-holed plastic patterns of butterflies and strawberries, later graduating to friendship bracelets, some small needlepoint and, briefly, origami.