Plowing Under, Digging Up

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him, a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”

– Pearl S. Buck

Autumn, and all of the sages say it’s the time for quiet, for mourning, for covering the beds with mulch and covering the body with wool. And part of me feels that, as temperatures threaten to dip down to freezing and I’m cooking with pumpkin, squash, cranberries, the last of the apples, all grown close by. I know as a pregnant woman I ought to be (and I feel that I should be) taking it easy, resting, sleeping a little more, running more slowly and more rarely, sticking to stretches and walks and self-care.

But another part of me is nesting not just with food (although, wow, have I been food nesting with this pregnancy) but with making. There will be another baby, another infancy, another year of sleep-deprivation and nursing for hours and my arms full, full, full of child, and all I can think of now is what I want to accomplish first. I want this novel to have a shape, to be done, nearly done, at least halfway finished before April (Tracy Chevalier allegedly was inspired to write Girl with the Pearl Earring just before she found out she was pregnant, so she researched and wrote the whole thing, finishing weeks before her child came). Though I’m not on instagram, I found this one through her blog and spend far too much time wishing I had endless hours and motivation to simply quilt, to dye good fabric with natural fruits and seeds and roots, to make beautiful patterns of it, then to stitch it all with beautiful, hypnotic sashiko quilting. And then there’s the knitting, the sweater I promised Thomas, the blanket I want for this new baby (though that could, now that I’m considering it, simply be the first thing I work on postpartum, something rather mindless and cozy during those hours of nursing), the socks I want to make for my husband. Yesterday I passed the last forty-five minutes of Thomas’s nap slipping tiny glass beads onto thread, something I haven’t done in (ten? fifteen? more?) years to make a bracelet, tied to my wrist, blues and greens and frosty whites, to remind myself of the novel, of the work, of the creating to be done.

I spend far too much time wishing I could be a single-minded dynamo, an expert, a specialized craftswoman. I know that plenty of amazing people have been well-rounded, fingers in many pies, exploring all of their skills and interests, but I confess I’m having some trouble with it.


Not just one baby, but two.
Not twins. There’s only one tiny human growing inside of me, now the size of a lemon, now able to make faces, now growing hair, now one third finished.

But a different baby. Another novel.
I’ve been poking around this one for years, writing a few pages of it, then forgetting about it, abandoning it, knowing it wasn’t quite sure where to go. Picking it up again a few seasons later, trying it on the way you try on the dress you find at the back of your closet, and knowing that “not just yet…”
But reading an excerpt of someone else’s novel cracked open this little idea, and suddenly it’s three-dimensional. Suddenly I’m seeing connections and links and metaphors and plot lines. Suddenly I have a to-read list a mile long, literature that I just haven’t gotten to yet and scientific research and field guides. Note cards collecting on my desk with facts and references.
It’s not quite ready to be written yet. It’s gestating, incubating, invisibly forming parts all on its own while I continue to feed and protect it, trusting that when it does come into the world, whenever that may be, it’ll have the backbone it needs so that I can take full responsibility in bringing it to maturity. I’m excited and nervous and hopeful and hesitant and curious.