I imagine that there are people who can be creative in a vacuum, but I'm not one of them.
I had a visitor once, a young aspiring decorator, who told me candidly that my living room gave him a headache."I don't understand your theme," he said, wincing.
Well, Mary, there ain't no theme. If I like it, I hang it on the wall. If it has a happy association for me, I hang it on the wall. If it makes me want to pick up a pen and draw, or sit down at the keyboard and type, I hang it on the wall. You're not going to see my apartment in Homosexual Interiors magazine, except possibly on the "Yikes!" page, but it keeps me going.
Working on the little book has made me understand for the first time that if I'm cut off from stimulation, I stop producing. At one point I tried to go the monastic route, with life reduced to barest necessities and all extraneous matter removed. For a week, all I made were doodles of little, pinched faces that got angrier and angrier; and finally a picture of a lady kicking a cat down the stairs.
So I relaxed, and let myself indulge in other stuff–like really, really bad late-Victorian chick lit. Here's the latest gem on the bedside table: Polly: A New-Fashioned Girl by L.T. Meade. I picked this up at a bookshop in the neighborhood for a pittance, attracted by the cover art (shown left), the title, and my previous experience with other titles by the author.
Polly is a "new fashioned" girl. What could that mean? According to the flyleaf inscription the book was a Christmas present for "Violet from Mamma" in 1900, so it could mean Polly shows her bare ankle to the butcher's boy, or joins the Suffragettes, or travels to the Middle East and converts to Islam.
Well, I'm about a third of the way through Polly and I'm still befuddled. Nothing remotely new-fashioned has happened yet. Polly's mother dies on page six, as most good mothers do in these books. It's such a common plot twist that as soon as I see an angelic mommy surrounded by an adoring brood, I automatically assume the Grim Reaper is crouched behind the pianola sharpening his blade.
Polly and her twenty-three siblings are left carry on with their father (a good doctor, but apparently a lousy obstetrician) and a handful of servants. Dr. Daddy is worried about the kids running wild, since he is constantly being called out to preside over other childbed deaths in the neighborhood. He says that if his eldest daughter can't keep house he's going to hire a governess.
The children, who have all read "The Turn of the Screw," understandably freak out. I've reached a point in the tale where Polly, anxious to do her bit, has begun to order the servants around according to cockeyed notions gathered from old cookbooks. It's not going well. Breakfast is a mess; and on top of everything else it turns out that father is going blind.
I can hardly wait to find out what happens next. Maybe new-fashioned Polly will attempt to save his sight by performing emergency surgery on the dining room table, using her copy of Mrs Beeton and dead mama's embroidery scissors.
I sure hope so.
And Some Knitting
I also decided that if you're writing a knitting book, knitting counts as research and development. So I'm still tapping away to finish up the essays, but I've also started Sharon Miller's Wedding Ring Shawl.
The picture shows the eighth patterned row of the 300+ in the center square. After that, there's a very deep (63 row) border knit around and around the center, followed by a sideways edging. So I won't be able to show you a picture of the finished piece until at least next Tuesday.
The best part is the temporary cast-on in pink acrylic DK yarn, which makes it look like I'm working a misbegotten pink-and-red baby blanket for a kid named Valentine.