On craft monogamy

I like to put “writer” as my main vocation, but it’s a little bit of a lie.  I’m actually an artist, and writing is one of my many media.

I also paint, sculpt, sketch, knit, sew, build furniture, work on cars, cook, work in digital media, and sometimes I sing.  I like to imagine that I can maintain a certain amount of “project monogamy”, but that’s not always possible.  I’ve certainly failed at craft monogamy.

My greatest confession: I do not understand people who are craft monogamous.  It blows my mind.

What?  You’ve never heard of that?

Craft monogamy is where you do exactly ONE crafty thing at a time.  You’re into scrap-booking for a while, for instance, before switching to quilting.  This is considered “serial monogamy”.  It’s different from “pure monogamy”, where you only ever do one thing, forever.  Your regular go-to activity is crochet, and you would never consider embroidery – you crochet, and that’s all there is to it.

I can’t do it.  While I’m working on a story, I’m also knitting some kind of big project (or two).  I’ll put that down for a minute to build a jewelry display or maybe sculpt a doll or perhaps design and print some cards for a game I’m inventing.  And I’ll even work on multiple projects in each craft.

Right now, I have a two fairly large knitting projects going on.  The first is a bath mat made of t-shirt yarn, and the second is another Reflection Line.  I have two more projects patiently waiting in the wings once those are done (I need the needles they’re using).  I also just made a framed necklace display, with at least three more waiting for construction, as soon as I get another box from Amazon or FedEx for the backing.  I’m toying around with a board game idea, making sketches here and there, and I’m teaching myself all about Arduinos.

As though that weren’t bad enough, I’m also working on three (four, maybe five) stories right now – Shooting Blanks (the sequel to Middle of Nowhere), “Lost Ground” from the anthology All the Moons of Petrichor, “Long As There Are Violets”, and reviving the Twitter Tales.

Older, presumably wiser artists have told me that I should pick one thing and then pour my heart and soul into it.  That has never worked for me – at least, not for very long.  I have tried to just paint, but then I’m halfway through a great big piece and it gives me an idea for a story.  Or I’m working on a story and it gives me an idea for a short comic.  Or I’m working on a knitting pattern and… well, usually just listening to music and being in a gentle state of meditation, but I’m still thinking about making things.

Maybe my “true identity” should shift from “artist” to “maker“.  I am a maker, after all.  I make all kinds of things, from stories to dinner to humans to jumpers.  And makers fix things, too.  I fix cars and houses and plumbing and electrics and boo-boos.  I do adore the maker community, too.

But I always feel just a little bit guilty, being unable to maintain monogamy to any given skill, or even within the same skill.  I love them all equally, I couldn’t separate them if I wanted.  They feed each other.  Trying to stay purely monogamous to any one practice would be cutting away what makes the others brilliant.

I know I’m not alone in this.  Emily Wapnick did a great presentation on TEDTalks about how some of us don’t have one true calling.  It’s nice to know that other people like to dive deep and then move on.  It’s good to know that other people have had success in being craft non-monogamous.

I suspect that the thought pesters me because I wonder how much of my success (or lack thereof) is determined by this inability to be single-minded.  Don’t get me wrong!  When I’m in a story, I’m in a story.  My husband has to wander past and make sure that I’ve gone pee sometime in the last twelve hours.  As soon as the story is done, though, I’m on to something else.

The silliest part is that it doesn’t matter if this lack of craft monogamy impacts my chances of ultimate success or not.  (I define “success” in this sense as being able to write as my main income generator.)  I have tried to apply those rules of discipline, and I’m just not able to do it.  Maybe merely the act of wondering about it is enough to keep me on task, though, when another story winks at me before I’ve finished this one.

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