Unique Embellishments

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“Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique.”

~Stephen King’s On Writing

The weekend before Halloween is upon us, and like many other moms around the country, I’ve been scrambling to prepare costumes. Today I sewed a cow-print vest for my four-year-old — complete with a hidden pocket in the back that holds a retractable string. Next up is a pirate vest complete with gold embroidery-type stuff to look all Baroque or whatever (noticed this when checking out Johnny Depp on the cover of the latest Pirates movie).

And while I’ve been making trips to the nearest craft stores to find supplies for these one-night wonders, I couldn’t help grabbing materials for a more practical project that’s been on my mind for a while — and that quickly became more intricate than I intended.

The one type of jewelry I like to wear (besides my wedding rings) is necklaces. And yet even while I’ve been collecting more and more of them over the years, I’ve had nowhere to hang them. I’ve looked for jewelry trees but never had the serendipity of finding one that I liked and enough money to buy it. Then a few months ago a friend mentioned the idea making my own by putting hooks on a plaque. Genius!

Anyhow, I found a plaque with a good shape and then thought, “Well, it’ll need paint.” And then I thought, “Ooh, and wouldn’t a fabric background look cool? I’ve got that Mod Podge stuff . . .” And then once I picked out fabric, I decided ribbon was a must. Next I looked for hooks and couldn’t find anyone ordinary ones that I liked — and then happened to walk through the Aisle of Knobs (doesn’t that have a fun ring to it?).

Serendipity struck: The knobs were 50% off.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of hanging necklaces on knobs. And this did sort of end up being slightly more expensive than other jewelry trees I’d seen (the knobs were still $20 after the discount). But I love it. And if nothing else, I know that this exact combination of materials is one of a kind.

And the evolution of the project is also sort of indicative of how I write.

I swear that my novels start out simple enough. But then once I actually start putting them together, well, all these other ideas begin to jump out at me. I swear that I’m choosy about the ones I incorporate. I don’t just throw in the kitchen sink. But very quickly my manuscripts become way more intricate than I intended.

At times I have doubts about whether I can actually pull it off. As I bought the knobs I asked the clerk twice, “Um, I can return these if it doesn’t work, right?”

Funny enough, I decided on coordinating eight different knobs, which is roughly the same number of point-of-view characters I’m trying to coordinate in my current novel. It’s riskier, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy the ordinary hooks any more than I could ignore the niggling notion in my head saying, “This story is bigger than just Wendy. We need to hear from all of them.”

Also, it takes longer. I was still hot-gluing ribbon to the edges at midnight last night, four hours after I started drilling holes through the wood (having to change drill bits every time for the different-sized knobs). Likewise a more ordinary, less complicated novel started in 2009 would have been finished by now.

But here’s what I’ve decided:

You have to write what makes you happy.

For me, I love complexity. I love asymmetry. I love to stretch boundaries just a tad and see what I can come up with. I love balance and compromise, but I’m not happy being ordinary.

This week, it’s been fun to have the challenge of adding a pull-string to my four-year-old’s Woody costume (we bought the hat in Disneyland in May; the rest has been up to me) and to assemble a pirate outfit (also based around a Disneyland hat — and Jack Sparrow dreadlocks). I got excited about the necklace display as the pieces came together: the plaque, the fabric, the hooks.

And I get excited to work on my manuscript, even through the challenges of complications I’ve brought upon myself.

Besides, if nothing else, it will be one of a kind.

What sort of project person are you? What do you love and what makes you happy?

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