Archive | Essays

What’s Next? by Jeanie Croope


I’m looking at my desk right now. You wouldn’t want to see it. It would make you crazy. It makes me crazy! But I know that underneath my calendar, a jar of scrabble tiles, six paper mache boxes that didn’t get jazzed up for

Christmas, a couple of notepads, a few pieces of inventory from my last art sale, a Pandora catalogue and way too many pens I will find the family tree I scribbled from an online site that I couldn’t get to print last night.

That family tree chart is part of “what’s next” for me. Well, not quite next. Almost next.

Next is a poetry book chronicling the past year Rick and I have spent together. This project is an annual event and by the time you read this, hopefully given and cherished. The concept began early in our courtship as a collection of poems about our travels, the kids, the events and places we shared together, illustrated with — well, whatever I happened to be into that year! It might include photographs or drawings, watercolors or printing. The books ranged from the converted journal to handmade books, folded and stitched by hand (with more than a few unprintable words — sewing is not my forte!

Next after that is is trying to pull together a piece on the power of creativity to enhance mental health for my blog. (Although there is something ironic about stressing out to pull together a piece on creativity’s positive affect on mental health.)

And then Next is finding and ordering a new camera to replace the poor thing that was dropped on its head too many times. I have come to the sad realization that a poor camera does not make for good photographs, no matter how carefully they are framed.

And finally, next is some sort of art journal piece, perhaps a prototype for something larger, that will incorporate some of that information I’ve been ferreting out of this family history site and that one. Maybe I’ll use photos or maps. Who knows? I’m barely getting to know the names of these people who somehow, generations ago, made relationship decisions that would end up in my DNA.

Focusing on any one thing during the white world of winter — even a light one — is not something I find easy to do. It’s a wonderful time to be inside if you’re not a snow bunny, a time to read, paint, draw, print, write. I look at the two tall columns of books, the blank page of the journal, the glare of the computer screen and think, “Maybe I’ll go play ‘Chopped’ today.” Yes, that’s it. Throw some chicken stock in the pot, add some onions and celery. What else is there in the fridge or the cupboard? Mushrooms! Yes, that’ll do. A can of pumpkin. Oh, and what about shredding that chicken breast from last night. A squirt of sriracha sauce. No, make it two. And some ginger. Or cumin. Yes, cumin. It may or may not be tasty. But it will be creative.

During my professional career, I had to be creative on cue. I had to write everything under the sun and under deadline — and to be honest, I found the deadline a blessing. A mixed blessing, sometimes, but nonetheless, it mandated focus. I could juggle multiple projects simultaneously but if the clock was ticking down I knew where to put my energies and exactly how I would do it. The deadline imposed a powerful discipline that I find I often lack in my more recent independent life.

And so, in these last days of winter, as we look forward to longer days and brighter skies, I also look forward to the deadlines I must impose on myself. A Saturday class doesn’t wait until Monday, nor does any assignment that comes from it. A party scheduled is a date that must be honored. And as I begin to again maneuver through a schedule and follow my calendar, I suspect I will find play dates on my calendar, a few more “assignments” that I must “turn in,” if only to myself.

And yes, I know. I have made these deadlines. I can break them. No one cares if I do a new art journal page or a canvas but me. There is a bit of comfort in that idea. But somehow, I think I’ll stick to my plan pretty well. After all, there’s a lot I want to do and probably more than a few things that will lure me away to something new. I can work with that. And now, a deadline is looming for my poetry book! Onward!


About the Author: Jeanie Croope

Jeanie Croope bioAfter a long career in public broadcasting, Jeanie Croope is now doing all the things she loves — art, photography, writing, cooking, reading wonderful books and discovering a multitude of new creative passions. You can find her blogging about life and all the things she loves at The Marmelade Gypsy.

Threads by Bernie Brown

Like hunger, the urge to create nags me and growls at me until I satisfy it. I know that any creative project will bring me just as much pain as it does pleasure, but my imagination works overtime, anyway. And sooner or later, what is happening in my head demands to be turned into reality.

Let me tell you how one sewing and one writing project both frustrate and fulfill me.

My heart beats a little faster when I walk into a fabric store: the Hawaiian prints, the embroidered denims, and the Needleandthreadslush velvets all put possibilities in my head. Even the neat little packages of zippers, thread, bias tape, and buttons—arranged rainbow-like—delight me. I want to buy them all, but time and money won’t let me. So I work one project at a time.

Two years ago, the sweetest, smartest, most adorable granddaughter on the planet arrived in our lives, our Helen. When she turned a year old, I imagined sewing a custom-made playhouse for her, a cloth cover that would turn an ordinary card table into a magical cottage with windows, a door that works, a roof, a bird’s nest, some flowers, butterflies, ladybugs, a mailbox, and a few garbage cans. Then I pictured Helen crawling in and out of this playhouse and wearing a smile that lit up my heart. For the past several months, that masterpiece has been taking shape.

At the same time, I have been writing a novel. Sitting down at my computer to write is like a visit to a fabric store. Just like all the bolts of fabric tempt me, a blank computer screen begs me to fill it with the stories of love affairs, family squabbles, heroes, villains, suburban homes, and country cottages. But I can’t write them all. I need the characters, setting, and conflict that will tell the story of Weaver Days.

Most days I help the book and the playhouse move forward, side by side. But some days, my projects disappoint me. Something just doesn’t click, doesn’t match my vision. That’s when I have to step back, even when that’s the last thing I want to do.

The first chimney for the playhouse, made of fabric printed with puzzle pieces, didn’t look at all like the whimsical chimney I envisioned. Instead, it just looked like a colorful box stuck to the roof. I fretted over the loss of several evenings’ work and my inability to bring my vision to life. But the thing had to go. My sewing machine whirred and I said naughty words and cried as I cranked out a second, more ordinary chimney of plain red cloth.

The novel proved equally uncooperative at times. In the first draft, several chapters near the end took one of the small town characters to a big city for spring fashion week. How could that go wrong? Up to-the-minute clothing styles filled the scenes. An eccentric, minor character enjoyed a bittersweet annual romance that would win readers’ hearts.

But no. The fashions and the eccentric’s love affair weren’t the real story. Like the colorful chimney, they had to go. In a bold move, I gritted my teeth and cut five thousand words, whimpering the whole time. I had spent countless precious writing hours and creative energy on those chapters.

Each time I stepped back on the sewing or the writing project, the finish line looked further and further away. But soon I found my rhythm again. I knew that someday I would finish both. I will watch Helen crawl in and out of her custom cottage, talking to imaginary friends, involved in adventures she created. And some day I will hold a published copy of Weaver Days with my name on the cover. In each case I will shout, “I did it!” and dance around the living room.

The thrill of personal goals achieved will satisfy me for weeks. But sooner or later, after I tire of resting on my laurels and patting myself on the back, other projects will take shape in my head, projects that demand attention. In spite of plans going awry, in spite of backslides and sidetracks, in spite of cuss words and tears, I won’t be able to resist the siren songs of the fabric store and the blank computer screen.

And I will ask myself, “What next?’

And the whole painful and wonderful process will start all over again.

About the Author: Bernie Brown

berniebrownI live in Raleigh, NC where I write, read, and watch birds. My stories have appeared in several magazines, most recently Every Writer’s Resource, Still Crazy and the Raleigh News and Observer. I am a Writer in Residence at the Weymouth Center. Get to know me better my website and connect with me on Facebook.

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