art / novel / writing

Fridge Magnets & Other Gifts

Years ago, I made an afghan for my step-mother. I took care to match the colors of her room and get the right size for the bed. Only, I hadn’t mastered crocheting and the cover ended up much too big. It reached the floor from one side of the queen-size bed to the other. But I was proud of it, and I had this silly idea that spending so much time on a gift for her would finally prove to my father that I liked her.

About a month after I gave her the afghan (that took an entire suitcase on my flight home for Christmas vacation), they redecorated the bedroom and the colors no longer matched. I didn’t see the thing for a very long time, until about 10 years later when it was used to cover up flowers during a freeze. We’ve certainly never discussed it.

I’d like to be Zen about it. When you give a gift, give it. Let it go. They’ll like it. Or they won’t. It isn’t about you. The gift is just a thing. And don’t we all get gifts we hate from people we love? Sure.

But every gift-giving occasion makes me want to ram my head into the steering wheel of my car.

So, my writing is reminding me a bit of this afghan business. I send these stories into the world, and, you know, it just doesn’t match the wallpaper. What are you going to do? Are you really going to ask someone to keep something out for company to see to make you feel better?

I like this old British comedy The Thin Blue Line. A rather dim character blames juvenile delinquency on fridge magnets. He argues that parents put the worst sort of scribblings on the fridge with the magnets and ooo and ah over the so-called art, leading the child to expect such a response to everything they do. Maybe there is some truth to that… though I’d like to see the fridge magnet that could hold up my novel!

Oh well. Watch the first part of this clip. Every writer should appreciate the appropriate subjects for fiction.

9 thoughts on “Fridge Magnets & Other Gifts

  1. Those crochet blankets take ages to make. I think a bought gift that isn’t well received is one thing, but if it’s hand made it feels very rejecting. I hate choosing gifts because I’m always sure I get it wrong.

    I’m sending out a story at the moment and I think I need more lessons in how to crochet it!

    Oh, and that clip is very funny at the beginning.!

    • I enjoy buying gifts when i know what to get! But for some people it is endless frustration!

      Good luck with the story you’re sending out–crocheted or not.

  2. I think it’s much harder NOT to take it personally when you make something which requires effort and care and time to make, and it ends up being something the receiver doesn’t want, doesn’t like, doesn’t use, doesn’t care about. I know it’s the thought which is supposed to count, but the time and effort and energy should mean something too.

    And this is why rejections on our writing hurt more than we can imagine, at least at first. Even if we KNOW we’ve done something great, something worthwhile, enough rejection is a problem for us to swallow.

    I’d have been a little more than peeved to have seen it on the flowers during a freeze. Oh, I think so. You handled it much more maturely than I would have, for sure.

  3. Marta- I actually went online about two months ago and cancelled/removed several submissions I had made to various lit journals. I can’t even tell you how freeing that was. I just don’t want to hear the no-thanks, and waiting to hear felt like mosquitos buzzing around my head, trying to bite. Distracting in a very bad way. At least, that’s what’s true for me, right now. I can only go by how it felt to pull that work back off the table, so to speak- it felt great. And believe me, I’ve always been a “submit first, decide if it’s ready later” kind of gal. But now I find I only want to “give” my writing to the world if I know it’s so damn good that if they don’t like it, it’s their problem, not mine. And I’m just not there yet.

    • That sounds freeing. I have a hard time knowing anything I’ve written is good. It all seems a mess and I’m incapable of getting it to damn good. I can’t get myself to submit anything right now. Well, eventually…

  4. “parents put the worst sort of scribblings on the fridge with the magnets and ooo and ah over the so-called art, leading the child to expect such a response to everything they do.”

    That line actually made me laugh, because I’ve used it to describe people who haven’t a clue what they’re doing, yet expect all kinds of accolades. I’ve also used the expression, “They think they can paint the Sistine Chapel with spray paint, and without having a clue how to draw anything other than stick figures!”

    There are lots of people out there with more desire than talent or ability. One of them would be me. And I’m good with that. Which is why I quit pretending.

    As for giving it away – well. Only you can decide how willing you are to do that. I’d have been upset with the stepmother, personally. At some point, you will either decide that what you are putting into it does not equal what you are getting out of it and you will stop, or you will still be filled with the desire to keep putting it out there in the hopes for others to see and admire. 🙂

    • Darcs, I’m usually worried that I have more desire than talent. Terrified really.

      As for my step-mother, I figure the conversation between her and my father went something like this: Dad said there weren’t enough blankets to protect the garden (it is a huge garden) “What about this?” and my step-mom said, “You can’t use that. Your daughter made it.” And he probably said something like, “Marta won’t mind. She knows how important the garden is to you. And we can wash it later.” And she probably said she still didn’t think it was a good idea, and he did it anyway.

      I could be totally wrong, but knowing them, I doubt I’m far off.

      • How do you judge when someone else has talent? Do you use a different standard when you measure your own work? If so, why? Do you think it’s not possible for you to be as talented, or more so, than anyone else?

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