Saturday, January 2, 2016

Life of Norman, The New-Project Itchies, I Sewed!

I recently discovered on Reddit an interesting group experiment called “The Life of Norman”. It’s a forum on which one can write and submit stories about Norman, an extremely boring, if harmless, fictional character. The trick is to write stories with the lowest stakes possible, which is antithetical to fiction writers. Norman’s life is incredibly bland, and the stories are meant to describe only the most mundane aspects of his everyday reality: Norman buys milk. Norman writes a check. Norman watches CSI. Norman gets a glass of tap water. It’s a weirdly genius concept. It’s also very soothing. But what I find most interesting about it is how a community of unconnected people can all agree on the “rules” of Norman’s life and write stories that reflect the same tone and feel. This community builds a group story of Norman’s boring existence, with oddly compelling results. I’ve never been much of a collaborator when it comes to creative writing, and the idea of a character sharing ownership among thousands of different narrators is fascinating to me. Having read through a number of the stories, I now feel the same affinity to Norman as I do to the characters in my own stories and novel. I haven’t plunged in to contribute yet, but I plan to write and post a Norman story soon. I hope I do okay!

I've been waiting for a new writing project to breathe life into. I always know that I’ve hit on something when my hands start to tingle, like a ball of energy gaining momentum, and I get little itchy flashes of excited joy thinking about it. That’s happening now, and I’m really glad. I needed a longer creative rest than I realized after finishing the novel, and I’ve been worried that I was finally, totally, “written out”. But the new-writing-project excitement is coming back to me at last. It’s still a very un-formed idea, but it gels a little bit more each day. It’s also a bit experimental in form, so we’ll see where it goes. All or a portion of it may be posted on this blog as a regular series. Or it may not. I just don’t know yet. So stop pressuring me, alright?? Geez.

Yesterday, I actually sewed! I’m making my latest rug into a throw pillow to send to my mom (Merry late Christmas, Mom!), and I had to do the edging, which I bravely did, thanks to the encouragement of Mr. Typist. I had to go to Jo-Anne’s Fabric to get the stuff I needed, and as always, I found the experience intimidating. Jo-Anne’s used to be a boring, sleepy place where dowdy elderly ladies shuffled in to buy knitting needles and dried flowers. But ever since the DYI crafter movement went full-throttle amongst the hipster elite, it’s been crammed with punked-out, beanie-clad scenesters who possess machine-like determination and focus, mowing down the aisles stuffing their carts with gadgets and crafty gew-gaws that I don’t even recognize. I feel totally out of my element. I had to ask the cybergoth behind the fabric counter how many yards of cloth I needed for the backing, and I felt like a complete newb. Which I am. I just make rugs for fun—writing is such an amorphous activity, and it’s nice to counteract it with an activity in which you can actually see the final results of your creative labor. Being pretty inept at making, I’m just excited to have a craft I can actually do. But I don’t have any ambitions to be great at it. I just want to make my silly little rugs and pillows, and have the freedom to be bad at it.

--Kristen McHenry

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