the mother of invention

I’m taking a little time off from writing.  Not a lot of time off:  just a couple of months. I just need to be creative in different ways for a little bit.  Like sewing kinda creative.  And re-covering old chairs kinda creative.  And cleaning up our house creative.  To the extent that you can call cleaning creative.

Some people have to write every day.  But I need breaks.  I need to paint furniture and sew and make collages.  I imagine my writing life like a bucket of water.  It fills up with stories, and then I pour them out, and then I have to wait for it to fill up again.  

It’s possible that if I wrote every single morning in a rigid schedule I’d be more productive.  But I’m just not a rigid schedule person.  I write when I feel like I have something to say.  And I believe that the arts nourish each other.  I am not writing when I’m picking out chair fabrics or sewing halloween costumes for my kids.  I’m only writing when I’m writing.  But I am living a creative life that keeps itself open to possibilities.  And somewhere in the back of my head I can always feel the stories gathering, kind of the way you can feel storm clouds.  

That said, I’ve just finished making my son’s halloween costume.


He wanted to be Fire Man, and his sister wanted to be Water Girl.  (He can shoot fire, and she can shoot water.)  I love that they made up their own superheroes, and I’m trying like heck to do them justice.


I don’t technically know how to sew — at least, not clothes.  So I decided to start with a red Power Rangers suit we already had and accessorize.  The great thing about felt is that it doesn’t fray too much, so you can just cut shapes and then sew them together.  They won’t hold up forever going through the wash, but they’ll certainly do for Halloween Night.


(Fire cuffs.  And, for me, a new obsession with fringe.)


My little guy has been sick with a nasty eye infection for two solid weeks, and we’ve been trapped in the house, the two of us, that entire time.  We’ve both been stir-crazy — and I, in particular, have had too little sleep, too much worry, and absolutely no personal time.  But having this project to work on gave us both something to do.  And reinforced my belief that making things — for me at least — can solve problems in a way that nothing else can.

(Stay tuned for Water Girl!)


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15 responses to “the mother of invention

  1. next stop…project runway! Love it! My kiddos would be trembling with giddy-ness if I made them super cool costumes like this at their request! Can’t wait to see “Water girl”!

  2. I have no craft skill, nor any desire to make things. But I wanted my boy to have a homemade Halloween costume. So I bought one on Ebay. It’s adorable, but not so adorable as Fire Man.

  3. Fireman is fabulous. (It’s the most distressing thing when one of our children is sick…nothing like it.)

  4. “that making things — for me at least — can solve problems in a way that nothing else can.”

    Amen to that! I feel the same exact way. I’m OK as long as I’m creating. Doesn’t matter what or even how it turns out, truth be told. The magic for me is in the doing.

  5. Amazing costume. Makes me feel like a bit of a slacker for ordering that bat costume on Amazon! Taking time off? What an earth-shattering idea. Why don’t we allow ourselves to take breaks (professional and existential) more often? Why the constant, ceaseless forward motion?

  6. Shelley Stein

    Teach me how!

  7. detes

    I’ll bet you had some creative costumes when you were little. Fireman is fabulous.

  8. Your costume-making talent brings tears to my eyes! I do the same thing – wing-it and bring it! It is amazing what you can do with what you have. I especially love the homegrown superheroes.

    Most creatives I know do something else besides their main thing – artists are also musicians, or vice versa. I like to bake (and eat the results, unfortunately!) when I’m not writing.

    Have a great time off – can’t wait to read your new book next year.

    – Julie

  9. Soooooooooooo impressed. And guilty since we just bought Declan’s first non-homemade costume: Harry Potter.

  10. Linsey

    Your creative breaks will no doubt make their way (indirectly) into your writing…and will make you an even better writer! I’m a beleiever that these creative breaks aren’t a distraction, but are ESSENTiAL! Go for it…feed your soul!

  11. Jet

    i LOVE felt (especially wool felt, but those are more muted colours) for how much it will work /play with you and your ideas. My daughter, now a teen, only had homemade costumes, many of her own, uh, design and creation: awesome memories have come out of that. We are all superheroes – i love how Karen Walrond talks about that. What wonderful mothering that you are supporting your kids’ discovery of their inner (and outer) superhero.

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