Marie Bostwick believes everyone is born with an innate gift of creativity and she lives it daily between writing best selling novels and creating carefully crafted colorful quilts. Having lived in a lot of different places in her life, she is influenced by the cultures, people and experiences that provide her with inspiration and insights reflected in both her writing and her quilting.
How did you find yourself on a creative path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
I believe that everyone is born with an innate gift of creativity and a desire to express it. Unfortunately, it often gets smothered in the process of growing up. I’m one of the lucky ones who managed to lean into creativity from childhood onward, though it took a while for me to realize that I could actually make a living as a creative.
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For years and years, I wrote just for fun and just for myself, because well…it’s what I do. I’m somebody who can’t not write. But my lightbulb moment about writing as a profession came when I was about thirty. The short version of the story is that I sort of stumbled into a writer’s workshop – my first – on a whim. After reading my work, the teacher said, “So, you’re a writer. What have you published?” When I explained that I wasn’t really a writer, just someone who hadn’t fired her imaginary friends when she grew up, he said, “Well? What do you think writers are?”
That was my lightbulb moment. As soon as he said it, I realized that writing isn’t just something I do but a huge part of who I am. Even so, when it comes to the creative path – yes, I am still evolving. Because if you ever stop, you stop creating.
Which came first: quilting or writing? What are the similarities and differences in the creative process between quilting and writing?
Writing definitely came first. I’ve been writing stories since the age of 5, basically as soon as I could spell and hold a pen. Quilting came along a couple of decades later. As a mid-twenties mom, I saw a quilt in a shop window, then went inside and signed up for a class. At the time, I think I was just looking for a reason to get out of the house. I could never have imagined how much I would come to love quilting, the places it would take me, or the amazing wealth of friends it would bring to my life.
When it comes to the creative process, there are tons of similarities between writing, quilting, and almost any creative pursuit. A talk I’ve developed and delivered to quilt guilds and libraries all over the country, “Writing a Book is Like Making A Quilt: Common Threads in the Creative Process” discusses that in detail. It’s a fascinating topic and there’s a lot to cover, far more than I can address here. But whether you’re writing, or quilting, or painting, or composing, or doing almost anything that requires you to tap into your creativity, the hardest part comes in owning that creativity, embracing the truth of your own ability and artistry and then pushing through the fears and self-doubt that every artist struggles with.
Are there recurring themes in your work? What is it about a subject that inspires you to continue exploring it?
Yes, definitely. The old (and true) adage says that you should “write what you know”. The things I know, believe, and write about again and again are these:
- The tendency to hold grudges, refusing to forgive yourself or other people is a huge barrier to happiness and fulfillment.
- As children, the way we remember family history and the motivations we assign to the people who were part of it aren’t always accurate. Finding peace in life sometimes means coming to terms with the fact that the adults who were part of your childhood were just as confused, fallible, and imperfect as you are now.
- Life can be hard. Holding tight to family and friends, or friends that become family, makes it a whole lot easier. So does believing in something bigger than yourself.
- Creativity is innate. It’s also a necessary component of happiness, purpose, and fulfillment. As is finding the people who understand and support your creative journey, and doing the same for them.
- Money is pitifully poor payment if it denies, diminishes, or distracts you from employing and enjoying your creative gifts.
You have lived in a lot of different places. What impact has that had on your creativity?
It’s true. Over the years, I’ve had more than 20 addresses in 8 states. I spent a few years in Mexico too. It’s kind of ironic because I am really not someone who likes change! But now I’m so thankful for it. Every move has exposed me to people, cultures, and ideas that I wouldn’t have encountered otherwise. Those experiences have provided me so much inspiration for my books, and given me insights that have enabled me to write about people from every walk of life and region of the country with authenticity.
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
When it comes to books, I only work on one and a time and I usually start a new project almost as soon as I finish the previous one. However, I do collect ideas along the way, writing up a short treatment of potential story ideas which are filed away until I need to decide what to write next.
When it comes to quilting, I’m far less disciplined. I buy fabric for new projects constantly, work on ten different things at once, start and stop and start again on a whim, and add to my pile of UFOs on a yearly basis.
What do you do to develop your skills? How do you get better at what you do?
In writing, quilting, or any creative endeavor, there’s no substitute for time. Even when the end product doesn’t turn out as well as I may have hoped, every project I undertake teaches me something and makes me a better artist. It’s a cliché to say that practice makes progress, but it does. The way to become a good artist is to spend time making art.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I am definitely a planner. That being said, I am always open to ideas and inspiration that might alter my plans or take me in different directions.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
My current office was created by knocking out a wall between two small bedrooms, with two closets. In theory, half of the space is supposed to be devoted to writing, giving a home to my desk, bookshelves, and writing chair. The other half is supposed to be where my sewing machine, ironing and cutting boards, and quilting and crafting supplies live. But the quilting and crafty stuff has a way of creeping across the line and invading writing space on a fairly regular basis.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
Until recently, I didn’t. However, I am working on a new and, for me, very different writing project. For the first time in my career, I decided to start by using a sketchbook. For a few weeks, I wrote out my notes by hand, pasted in images that sparked ideas or pictures of people who looked like the characters did in my mind, and just took a lot of time letting my imagination wander while I put flesh on the characters and mapped out the plot. It’s been a very interesting and creatively stimulating experience.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
Every time I begin writing a new book, I spend a few weeks “auditioning” CDs (Yes, I still use CDs. I’m old school that way) to find a soundtrack that feels like a good fit for that project. Once I’ve found it, I play it over and over and over and over. For some reason, this really helps my concentration. The music is so familiar that I really stop hearing it after a few seconds, but something about it seems to send a signal to my brain that says it’s time to work, tamps down outside distraction, and helps maintain my focus.
Normally, I settle on classical instrumental music. Yo-Yo Ma has been my companion on many a writing journey. But for one book, my CD of choice was the soundtrack of The Mikado. I played it so many times that I memorized all the lyrics. Weird, right?
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I firmly believe that every person is born with innate creative talents and inclinations, so I don’t think creativity is something we have to learn – it’s simply part of our being. However, creativity does require cultivation. We have to give ourselves permission, space, and time to lean into our creativity. As Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain one once he grows up.” In short, no. I don’t think creativity is a skill that can be learned because it’s just part of who we are. But unless you nurture it, creativity can be unlearned, and all too easily.
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
At the moment, what I really hope people will gain when they visit my website is a little more information about my books, especially my May 30th, 2023 release, Esme Cahill Fails Spectacularly. I also hope they’ll check out my calendar, including all the dates for my extensive upcoming book tour, and come to one of the events. We always have a lot of fun. Beyond that, I hope that people will just spend a little time poking around and checking out all the goodies that I’ve created for them to enjoy. I’ve got a bunch of quilt patterns (most were designed by my good friend, Deb Tucker) and recipes inspired my books which people can download for free.
I’ve also got a section with information, tips, and resources for writers. They can also find my lifestyle blog, Fiercely Marie, with recipes, crafting projects, travel, relationships, and anything else I think will help people, “Live every moment and love every minute.” Because, at the end of the day, creativity really is about living and loving life, don’t you think? Check out Marie’s upcoming events on her website.
Interview posted January, 2023