Posted by: jeannineatkins | December 30, 2008

Writing with Metaphors at our Elbows

Who knows what guides our hands, as we stare out windows, hoping for good words? Where do those words come from, especially those that seem inspired? There’s usually a lot of plain or uninspired thought behind them, and years of reading, and looking at lives. Sometimes when a good thought comes, then leads to another, I feel as if I’d just set the needle of a record player – a few of you remember those – to the line of a record that starts a song I love. The needle is down, and music begins. I wonder if my life would have been different if I’d grown up with different technology? I know I wouldn’t have that metaphor of how good writing can feel.

But the world is full of things to draw connections between. I recently finished stitching a rudimentary quilt for my husband, and my brain felt filled with cloth, color, and decisions about where to cross strips of cloth. Patches and borderlines didn’t go directly into my writing, but I know as I asked myself questions about where scenes should go, I’d see patches and the stirps of cloth I cut to frame them. I’ve written a bunch of words, good and bad, like two yards of cloth. Now I’m doing the cutting, trying to trust my eye as to measurements and how each color looks by the next. Cloth and words are mixing in my mind.



  1. Isn’t it amazing how creative things mix in our minds? I’m not that creative with much else but words, but I can do colors–and somehow colors and words seem to activate the same part of my brain. I “see” them in a way I don’t other things, very concrete and physical.
    How neat that you did the quilt for your husband and you’re getting your own benefits from it! 🙂

  2. That’s cool about the colors. I don’t think you have to be good in another form, but sometimes just being a novice at something else creative can st off something.

  3. Lovely post. It’s amazing how much metaphor tells us about how our minds work. My mother’s family are dyers and textile artisans from way back, and metaphors of fabric and color have permanently infused themselves into my brain.
    I sometimes set myself the challenge of thinking of modern-day metaphors and similes for a concept (say “white” or “simplicity”). And then I try and come up with others that might have worked in past times, say for a 19th century factory worker or a seventeenth-century house servant. An odd game, but I enjoy it.

  4. That’s so nice to have grown up with cloth as part of your mind! And I love that game! I do try to do it in part when I write: thinking of what things are around the person, what might turn into metaphor.
    Happy new year!

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