Saturday, January 5, 2008

Quilting with Words

by Christine Thackeray

I love Kristen's blog yesterday. I can entirely relate to it. Many of us feel compelled to write, and I'm not sure why. I do believe it is innate- a gift given before birth and inseparable from our soul. My first memory of really relishing the joy of writing was in the third grade. On the first day of school our teacher gave us each a journal in which we could write our deepest thoughts. I went home thrilled at the prospect of sharing some unique new vision with the world, something that no one else had seen before. Sitting at the kitchen table after school, I watched my mother with new eyes and began to write, describing her in extremely unflattering detail. I realized that without any emotional involvement she seemed plain, overweight and crude, but once she faced me and smiled or words poured from her mouth, her outer shell disappeared and I saw intellegence, beauty and the incredible strengths and talents she possessed. My pencil seemed to dance across the paper (I was only eight) and I thought my new insight was brilliant. Proud of myself, I closed the small spiral binder and ran outside to play with my siblings.

Later when I came back into the house sweaty from chasing my little brother around the swingsets, my mother stood before me with her hands on her hips and I felt a lump in my throat- she had read my journal. At first I thought she was angry but then I saw the truth, she was hurt. It hadn't even occurred to me that I had that power- to hurt her feelings through my writing- but I did, even at that tender age.

I wish I could say that was the last time I ever hurt someone with my writing. It has never been intentional and my audience has always been minute so I don't think libel has ever been an issue (although I did write a pretty biting parody once that may have offended.) But as a mother my most difficult struggle has been finding a place for my writing. There have been many days when I have put my writing before the dishes or laundry or even a homework assignment, encouraging my child with a shouted odd phrase here or there while tapping away at my keyboard for just one more minute which turns out to be more like a half an hour or more. It is so challenging when you have this idea begging to be brought to life on the page and real life gets in the way!

Recently, things have gotten worse or better, depending on how you look at it. My first book just sold and I have a contract on co-authoring a series that is taking hours of research. With my second son ready to leave on a mission I felt the money would be a gift and mentally "upped' the priority of my writing to the status of a part-time job. But in doing so, a part of me felt itchy and unsettled. It was harder to write fluently and I was frustrated yet wasn't quite sure why.

So last week I went to a wedding. My husband had already left to pull up the car and I was making my final good-byes when the father of the bride introduced me to his mother who I had never met. I told her of my writing projects and she told me that she had recently begun painting. She mentioned a quote from Gibran's The Prophet, which I later looked up. The fictional prophet says this to mothers:

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;

This great woman that I met at the wedding (and adore even though I only spoke to her for minutes) went on to say that as mothers we only have our children for a short time. We each need hobbies so that we can wait effectively and happily for the moments they need us, but the key is that we remember it is only a hobby. Our first priority is our families- our children and our marriages. I left humbled and happier.

Since that day, just last week, I've faced my writing with new eyes. Certainly, I hope the ideas I express through my writing will lift people's minds to new heights and I still hold the dream that my writing will in a small way shift the "conversation of humanity." But everyday I also remind myself that it is just a hobby- I am merely quilting with words.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks Christine! I can't tell you how much better I feel after reading your words. I have been spending a great deal of time fretting over using my talent wisely, caring for my family, etc. I felt guilty because I wasn't writing enough. I felt guilty because I spend too much writing. Deep down, every time I question what I want "to be when I grow up," the answer always comes up..."You are that. You are a Mom."

    I, too, have a large family of 9 children. 4 of them are still minors. but I am finding that the "big" kids still need me! And the grandkids need me too! How cool is that!

    I love writing. I love sharing ideas. But I love my family more. Thank you for helping me refocus.

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  2. Wow, Kari, I looked at your profile and stand in awe of all your doing. The truth is that you may not have that much time to write but with all your living in between, your writing will be so meaty and rich- it will be a joy to read, fraught with wisdom. I adore people who relish every crumb of life- like you.

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  3. "Quilting with words". What a beautiful phrase, Christine! I don't have any children, but I do know how hard it can be sometimes to know how to "justify" my writing time, when there are so many other important commitments...scripture reading, multiple Church callings, piano students, keeping in touch with family and friends, and let's not forget the all important HOUSEWORK. Sometimes I feel guilty using precious time to write at all. It's a daily challenge to understand where the "balance" lies, and all too often, I'm afraid I find myself too far over the line on one side or the other.

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  4. I, too, love the phrase 'quilting with words'. The nice thing about writing, as opposed to quilting, is that you can work on a project in the shower, just as you drop off to sleep, while you're sitting at a stop light, while you're rocking the baby. My first novel was totally written in my head as I rolled pie crusts in a bakery my children and I ran.

    And...you'll have great swaths of time as you reach middle age and beyond to write. You may look different on the outside, but inside you're just as vibrant and hungry to write as you ever were. It will be there later; the children won't.

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  5. Your post so touched me that I was sure I commented, but something must have gotten in the way.

    I remember when I was still in Primary, my mother expressed her disapproval of the choice one of Brigham Young's daughters made when she daily secluded herself in a room in a different house from where her children were, so she could write, uninterrupted. I knew my mother knew that motherhood is the highest calling a woman can have.

    So, have I ever neglected my kids to feed myself? Probably; maybe even indubitably. I remember being aware of a child repeatedly saying, "Mother," but being too caught up in my own thoughts to respond until I heard, "Oh, forget it." That always got my attention.

    I no longer have small sons and daughters who need me constantly, but I do have a husband who spends a great part of his day sitting. I think I'll quit writing this and go see to his undemanding needs. Like the kid in all of us, he also loves attention, and I can embellish his quilt with kind words and smiles.

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