Wednesday, December 19, 2012


This week even though I have to keep going to class (dutifully, if reluctantly), I have no more grading or class prep that has to be done, which means my evenings are quite free – at last!  So I’ve been wrapping presents and such, but before I wrapped certain presents, I had to make them. 

Not much to look at....
Specifically, I’m making two stuffed bears, one for each of my nieces.  Even though bears aren’t too hard to sew, especially since I recently sank a lot of my savings into a new, exciting sewing-machine, they do take about 2.5 hours apiece.  Oh, and that doesn’t count the stuffing, which probably adds another hour to each bear. 

However, I’m proud to report that the two bears are now completely sewn together.  I still have to stuff them, but I’ll be able to do that in spare moments. 

Anyway, today while making the second bear, I realized that my favorite part of the process is right at the end, after the head has been sewn on.  The whole shell is inside-out, so the legs, head and arms are completely invisible.  The result is a sort of unearthly pod, just waiting to become a bear.  I told a friend that it was a bear-egg…She suggested cocoon was not quite such an odd image. She’s probably right.

Right after this stage, you take the whole thing and flip it right side out.  In hardly any time, you go from a small, unidentifiable blob to a recognizable (if somewhat deflated) bear.  It’s amazing.  Also, so satisfactory, if I may say so!

Now we just have to keep our fingers crossed that the bears will stand up to the energy of my older niece!

But nieces aside – my progress on the bears made me think about the creative process in general.  And actually, I think my reflections hold true for any sort of endeavor or occurrence or relationship.  Human matters tend to fall into overarching patterns, I find.

How many of us can sympathize when someone says that their life seemed to be imploding but then suddenly took a turn for the better?  

Flat, but recognizable!
Quite often we work and work and exert every effort to achieve some purpose.  We’re good at pouring out our energies. Then just before the end we look at what we’ve produced and it seems odd and blobby and unfinished and generally a mess.  

There’s a dreadful temptation at such moments to stop completely.  After all, we’re obviously not getting where we wanted!  What’s the point anymore? 

And yet, with my bears, the moment they reached the disappointing cocoon stage was exactly when they were most filled with potential.  In just twenty seconds or so, they turned from nothing much at all, into a fully-constructed stuffed animal shell. 

Now, it’s a bit unfair that so many experiences turn out this way, since right before the end we’re most tired and ready to listen to negativity.  We begin to criticize ourselves quite harshly. 

That’s why I’m writing this blog post.  The bears are a whacky example, but even something so trivial demonstrates quite nicely how things can turn around in a second, with just a little effort. 

Even a thoughtful gift can validate your work!
Keeping this in mind should allow us to persevere.  In the uncertain moment before the end, we have to plug our ears to the criticism in our own minds and give one final little push.  Then, TADA, we have something complete on our hands, in which we can take pride.  Even if we’re tired, that’s forgotten in the general pleasure of a triumph – no matter how small. 

So, if you’re feeling discouraged about your work or hobbies or even how you’re dealing with other people, don’t give up!  Just a few more days, a small effort could bring some relief and happiness.  That’s my optimistic point of view at least!  And believe me, as a novelist, I need that optimism.  It’s always as you get further and further into the story that it seems poorer and poorer quality, until suddenly you’re done! 

Then you may have to edit and revise, but no one can deny you the pride of having a completed novel under your belt.  That sort of pride can be found anywhere in life, I think.  We just have to keep our trust alive during the cocoon stage of our undertakings!

1 comment:

  1. Your piece made me think of the movie "Cocoon" -
    Aliens taking refuge in an enclosed heated private swimming pool.

    Sometimes we can be so alien to our own selves. I like how your Teddy Bears evolved. Thanks for the optimism too. With all the negative news sometimes it is hard to see the glass at all much less half full. Which reminds me of a joke...and optimist an pessimist were having that age old argument, when a complete stranger walks by...Asks; "Are either of you going to drink that?" Two head shake. The stranger drinks and is no longer thirsty, says; "Thank you." and walks away. May we continue to be inspired as we quench our creative selves.