Thursday, June 5, 2008


OK, I know they call it spinning class because you spin your bike wheels around, and don't really move anywhere, although your legs burn and your heart thumps and you leave looking like a saltwater drenched rat. But as it turns out, my brain wheels were also spinning during class yesterday.

It happened this way: I had reached the end of a certain stage in my revisions last week, and took a minor break to help my daughter move, which turned into a longer break due to uninvited germs romping through my body. But somehow, though it all, that busy tailor in the cellar of my mind* kept sewing. So, as I was sweating out the last germs of my illness in spin class, she suddenly said, "HEY! Look at this!" She held up a lovely vision of how to shift a major piece of my manuscript from one spot to another. The seams of the plaid fabric lined up perfectly and everything. I was so impressed.

You should also be impressed with my sewing metaphor, since I don't communicate well via needle and thread in real life. I tried sewing curtains for a patio door once and when I got to the end of a long, long seam attaching two panels together, there was a six inch difference in the two sides. I'm not kidding you. Six whole inches. I gave up and hung a sheet over the door for the last few months we had in that house before we moved. Shameful, but true.

What's also strange is that I often see fabric, beautiful swathes of intricately decorated cloth, in my mind's eye. Sometimes, the fabric is made into amazing clothing. I'll wake from sleep and remember a dress to die for, or a truly hip trench coat, or even a chic purse. It's so weird. How can I dream these things, hold them briefly in my head in order to admire them when I'm barely awake, and yet have no way of ever turning these visions into reality? You'd think the envisioning was the hard part, right? But no, just like writing, it's the MAKING that's hard.

So thanks, industrious little tailor. But I still need to thread the needle, and poke it in and out about a thousand times, sewing each word to the page until every seam matches.

*From Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: "There in your unconscious, where the real creation goes on, is the little kid or the Dr. Seuss creature in the cellar, arranging and stitching things together. When this being is ready to hand things up to you, to give you a paragraph or a sudden move one character makes that will change the whole course of your novel, and you will be entrusted with it. So in the meantime, while the tailor is working, you might as well go get some fresh air."


  1. As I pack and clean for an impending vaca, I am writing - in my head.

    Sometimes I need to remind myself that the life I live AWAY from my computer and desk will help me with the life I live on paper.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  2. I love it when that happens! The solution slips in sideways, when you're not quite looking. (I'm sure I read that somewhere??)

  3. I also love it when that happens - those seams coming together like that - so seamlessly.....

    (I'm a lousy sewer, too, by the way.)

  4. There's something about spinning class that makes my mind work just as hard as my legs, but in a completely different direction. I think it might be my mind desperately trying to detach itself from my legs, but still.

    I write for those times when I'm just flying along lost in my writing (I have moments like this, too, when I'm ice skating) and also for these moments you and Lamott describe, when a solution to a problem is just all of a sudden THERE in your head, while you're doing the dishes or something. Both these things, though, are unpredictable. I know that I, for one, have to spin my wheels quite a bit to find them. :)

  5. Just as I thought: I spent the whole day fighting with that needle and thread. Ouch. But I have a sleeve. Or maybe that's a pant leg? Too early to tell. :)

    Thanks for encouraging me with your tales of spinning/sewing/skating/writing/not writing. I need to hear 'em.

  6. Sewing is a lot like writing is, sometimes... it seems harder than it really is when you're afraid to do it. ;-)

    Back before I learned to drive, I had vivid driving dreams where my rearview mirrors were blank, because I didn't know what, exactly, one was supposed to see through rearview mirrors. And the best part? My nerd subconscious connected it to an episode of Star Trek where something similar happened. Bizarre.

  7. Y'know, this makes me long for the gym. I rarely reached a zen state in my spin class -- the music didn't work for me -- but on a elliptical machine, I can go there sometimes and have things make sense. And while knitting. Just unlooping the brain while looping the sari ribbon, at the moment. I'm not great with sewing yet either, but I believe all the artsy things tie in with helping me write. Well done you for spinning away!


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