Eureka Moment or, “Why I Push Hard.”

posted in: Work 1
"Dutch Summer" by me, 2015. This quilt uses the Netherlands group from Small Wonders. Photo: Court at Springs Creative.
“Dutch Summer” by me, 2015. This quilt uses the Netherlands group from Small Wonders. Photo: Court at Springs Creative.

I had a huge, revelatory moment with Tammy, the ebullient and creamy-complexioned event coordinator and production genius at Nancy Zieman’s here in Beaver Dam:

When I get done at the end of a day on a gig, I am bone-weary. Missing a number of internal organs has something to do with it (and my low hemogoblins don’t help) — and in a day I will typically meet hundreds of people, sign a lot of things, and smile for a whole bunch of pictures, which is all pretty intense — but it’s something else, too.

Proving myself in the quilt world takes an extraordinary amount of energy. Since I began doing this quilt world thing for keeps, I have committed myself to knocking it out of the park every single time I do anything: editing a magazine, hosting shows online or or TV, lecturing, speaking, teaching, etc., etc. I know for a fact I have failed at all of these things in various ways over the years, but boy, I will take extraordinary measures to not let that happen. I am nearly obsessed with taking everything through and past that finish line because I have to prove that I am not riding on Mom’s coattails, that I have my own point of view, that I know what I’m doing, that I’m not an imposter. Sticking around for a bunch of years has done a lot; I can’t be a dilettante if I’m still here.

But if people leave an event with me feeling disappointed, if they don’t have a good experience in class, any feelings they had about me being lame or a phony, well, those feelings are suddenly validated for them. “Hm!” they might say, “I went to see/take a class from Mary Fons and it was just awful.” I fight, fight, fight hard to “catch” every last person and create happy customers so that doesn’t happen. A lad in Buffalo last weekend said, “You know, when you first came on the show, I thought you were just a spoiled brat. I told my husband, ‘I won’t watch this show anymore.’ But now I think you’re great!” These sorts of things haunt me.

But my thinking on these things is ridiculous — cannot possibly change what a person thinks about me; they’re gonna feel a type of way whether I bend over backwards for them or not. But look at my profile: I’m a middle child whose dad left early on in life and I have a born interest in doing stuff onstage. I’m perfectly set up to be an over-achiever; add to that a fierce need to prove I’m not just glomming onto my mother’s success… It’s a recipe for dragging myself to my hotel room and getting horizontal as soon as possible after a day of work.

Mary: get over it. You’re starting to get circles under your eyes. I think that’s supposed to start happening at forty-something. Don’t push it at thirty-six.

**Crucial note: I don’t just try to do a good job because I need to prove something. I genuinely want people to have a fabulous day, an a-ha moment-rich class experience, to laugh and ponder stuff I share with them. That is really important to understand.


A Writing Prompt for Both of Us.

posted in: Art, Tips, Word Nerd 0
Mary Pickford, 1918. Photo: Wikipedia
Mary Pickford, 1918. Photo: Wikipedia

I’ve been asked, “How do you come up with something to write every day?”

There are two parts to the answer. The first is that I want to be a decent writer and the only way to get decent at something is to practice. It’s true for a violinist. It’s true for a bridge player. I’ll never be a great writer, and I know that. Earnest Hemingway was a great writer. Virginia Woolf was a great writer. Both of those writers committed suicide, though, so maybe I don’t want to be a great writer.

“Now, now, Mary. Plenty of great writers did not commit suicide.” I’ll say yes, that’s true, and why are you speaking to me like a governess? The point is that even though I’ll never be great, I can be better than I was last year, hopefully. That’s the goal.

The second part of the answer is that I’m a naturally observant person and things that I see frequently make me intensely sad, excited, or confused. Frequently I see comedy, or at least what I perceive as comedic. I find those things worth examining more closely, even if they are otherwise insignificant things and they usually are. Writing stuff down is my preferred method of more closely examining things. I’m a terrible oil painter.

I suppose there’s a third reason: I like writing PaperGirl so much that if I miss a day, I’m grumpy. There was a spell this past holiday season when I was really lax and it was uncomfortable, like having a poke-y tag on my shirt. So sometimes I just plain make myself write about something because I don’t sleep as well if I don’t.

This morning was strange. I drew a blank. My aborted or curtailed travel plans were off the table. I didn’t want to write about my body. I couldn’t think of something funny that happened to me. I did see a shooting star the other night but I didn’t feel like being woo-woo. So I did something I’ve never done, which was to google, “non-fiction writing prompts.” It turned out to be a very good idea, because none of the prompts inspired me, but the act of looking up writing prompts was a writing prompt in itself. It also prompted me to create my own prompts. You have my permission to use them.

What is your personal credo?
Closely examine your feelings on olive loaf.
What stops you in your tracks?
How do you feel about adults who take tango lessons? Explain.
What the heck is wrong with you and what are you going to do about it?