Rebecca Barry's 10,000 Hours

Rebecca's Alter of Ganesh, candy is often an offering.

I've become obsessed with block printing.  I'm not very good at drawing and the idea of painting intimidates me, but carving a two dimensional image on a piece of rubber, covering it with ink and pressing it onto a surface?  Somehow, that's not scary at all.

That is not to say that I'm good at it.  The first image I carved was a simple circle.  I made bags out of this fabric that I love but it's out of print, so I thought it would be a good idea to try to recreate the print.  It didn't turn out at all like I envisioned, and it sure wasn't close to the original, in fact, the imprint it left was pretty darn ugly.  Clearly I have some work to do.

It's take a lot of patience and determination to stick with something that challenges you.  I hear all the time from people that they could never knit a sweater, though they've knit hats and cowls.  If you can knit and you can purl, you can knit a sweater.  You might need some help getting through pattern directions for a while, but you can do it.  It doesn’t take special talent to knit a sweater, it takes patience, a willingness to occasionally mess up, and a good reference source - that can be a book, Google, or a more skilled friend.  Notice that I wrote skilled, not talented.

Good writing, like knitting, requires patience and determination.  It requires working at your craft.  Nobody is instantly good at writing, just like no one is instantly good at painting.  Over the course of my conversations with Rebecca Barry and in reading her new book, one thing is abundantly clear:  while she is a very talented writer, she takes her craft very seriously, and it is a skill that she has honed and perfected over many years.

Malcolm Gladwell once wrote that it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to master it.  That accumulated time of practice is what separates the “gifted” from the rest of us.  He pointed out that Mozart, that paragon of child prodigy, didn’t actually start composing his masterpieces until he was 20.  And while to us, busy 21st century denizens that we are, that is remarkable, in truth, he had been honing his craft since he was 4 so he easily had the time invested to be considered a master of his trade.

When you read one of Rebecca’s articles for Fresh Dirt, the magazine she started with her husband, you see the hours of practice put into her work a little more transparently.  It takes great skill and discipline to write concisely and still bring another person’s story to life.  The magazines and publications she has written both fiction and non-fiction for are household names, evidence of a life spent perfecting her craft.

Where the writing happens.

It is in her book where her talent shines.  It is very difficult to capture universal themes about personal fulfillment and family dynamics and the obligations of a 21st century American middle class family life through a lens of humor and gentle regard, yet unremitting honesty.  While Rebecca’s book is very much about her family’s journey while chasing their dream life, it contains some nuggets of truth which speak to all of us.  Take a moment to really watch your children - they change so much so fast.  Stop and observe the flowers, the clouds, the dismal winter landscape - there is so much beauty there if you look.  When you’re really down, look to your friends and family to nurture you and guide you back to balance.  Make things with your hands when your brain isn't working right.  Laugh.  Laugh a lot.  Spend time with people who make you happy.

The Writer's Block Cupboard of Creativity

I love seeing people’s homes because it’s such a window into their inner lives.  Rebecca’s house is the same age as my own - both turn 150 this year - and both have the quirks and charms that old houses contain, sloping floors and huge windows, interesting nooks and old kitchens.  Her home is filled with color and warmth and airiness, and the ongoing repair list that my old house shares as well.  A stroll down Main Street brought us to the coffee house, which is like a second home in Rebecca's book.  

I hope you'll join us this Friday, April 24th from 5-7pm, as we gather to celebrate this wonderful new book, and new friend.  The wonderful Shelterbelt Farm will be providing some of their yummy lamb for us to cook up and Snow Farm Creamery has offered up two of their cheeses for us to serve.

The coffee house down the street features large in Rebecca's book.

In June, Rebecca will be teaching a workshop at the Craftsitute.  Details coming soon!