In the middle of last year, I was at a loss for words.
I didn’t have any assigned writing projects or deadlines. I had been receiving lots of rejections from publishers (a part of the process, I know, but disheartening all the same). I had some old projects that I wanted to revise, but no ideas how to improve them. And forget about new ideas. Words were hiding from me, and I grew frustrated for not being able to find them. I forced myself to sit at my desk to write, but my word-well was dry.
Then, I took a class from a talented artist and friend who works with alcohol inks. These inks are colorful and adventurous. When you paint or drip them onto nonporous surfaces, they swirl, mix, and spread into unpredictable shapes as the alcohol in them quickly evaporates. I couldn’t force the inks to do anything—they had minds of their own. My creativity was sparking, and I found myself looking for more fuel for the metaphorical fire.
I remembered a knitting pattern for a simple round bag from long ago, scrounged in my closet to find it, and used it as a springboard to experiment. The meditative clicking of the knitting needles cleared my head. I also started collaging—collecting seemingly unimportant bits of paper, layering, arranging, and juxtaposing them in ways so that the colors, shapes, patterns, and textures had interesting conversations with each other.
It’s not like I’ve never made art before—I’m a knitter, painter, crafter, all-around compulsive creator. But I’ve never put my writing aside and spent hours upon hours with my art—with no plan, no purpose, no reason except to play. I created. I created and created and created until I had so much stuff that I decided to open an Etsy shop and sign up for craft fairs and call my new little business Rau Haus Creations.
Another unexpected thing happened. Because I had stopped trying so hard to write and let in a different creative activity, the words started coming back. And now, I have a new project idea that’s consuming my days—with equal part words and pictures.
Sometimes it’s important to sit at your desk and work hard to find the words. But sometimes it’s important to step away, stop looking so hard, and create in other ways. When you least expect it, the word-well will fill on its own.