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Cross-stitching to Read Better

May 12, 2017

I've picked up cross-stitching again, mostly to quell my social media tics. If you don't know what cross-stitching is, it's basically paint-by-numbers, but with needle and thread. If that sounds even more confusing (what's a needle? And thread? Like a reddit thread?), then think about it as rendering a picture, one pixel at a time, except the rendering of each pixel requires human handiwork. Shocking, I know. 

 

I was reading A Little Life, which is so intense in parts I had to stop and do something else. The default way of killing time or occupying hands these days is to go on social media and watch other people be clever or combative. It was draining me. So I'm cross-stitching a biology textbook representation of a human heart. The activity is mindless enough that I can chew on what I've just read, but satisfying enough that I still feel like I'm producing something with some beauty.

 

Here's a cross-stitch project I finished a while back: say my name.

 

When I was cross-stitching the heart in-between pages of A Little Life, I also sometimes thought about my current book project. Then, perhaps inevitably, I started forming connections between cross-stitch and my writing process. Unlike Walter White above, the human heart I'm stitching is rendered in full colour. I thought it would be the most efficient to first stitch in all parts with the same colour, which requires traversing the entire evenweave fabric and leaving blank spaces throughout. That's similar to how my writing for the second book has been going, which is to write chapters out of order, based on their tone, or on events that recur. I suppose it's a bit like shooting a film as well, where scenes that take place in the same location are shot together, even though the scenes might take place months or years apart in the movie's timeline. 

 

But then I started mixing in other colours as well. Sometimes I try to capture emotions while I'm experiencing them. I could be in the middle of writing a tranquil scene, but if I then have an episode of strong fear and anxiety, sometimes I switch to writing a different scene, one in which the characters go through fearful experiences. When it works, it can be almost fulfilling, like I've caught and ridden a wave. Extracted some utility out of this thing that wears me down.

 

Of course I'll have to make the bits fit into a seamless whole at the end. But that's a given anyway, for someone who writes in snatches of time outside their day job.  I read somewhere that when Hemingway was working on a piece, he started each day by reading through what he'd already written, before adding more words. That seems such luxury to me. Maybe someday I'll have uninterrupted time enough to work a story in linear order. 

 

On a side note: I've started "Remember Me 2: The Return." I read it in snatches, during lunch breaks at work. Review coming, if I ever finish the book. It can be upsetting to re-read favourite books from childhood as an adult, and realize the many things wrong with them you were too young to see. Maybe even more infuriating than that is reading sequels to favourite childhood books. "Remember Me 2: The Return" is such a sequel. It doesn't help that I realized, too late, it ends on a "To Be Continued...," because there is a third book. 

 

To Be Continued...

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