Pumpkin Carving & Writing
Pumpkin carving ranks among our top seasonal traditions, up there with baking Christmas cookies and hosting big Thanksgivings. While we bring creativity to all these ventures, our individuality is best expressed via our Halloween pumpkins.
Well, except for Abby’s very expressive murderous gingerbreads.
Pumpkin carving originates from an Irish myth. To scare off a wandering spirit called Stingy Jack, they carved demonic faces in turnips. Irish immigrants to America used pumpkins instead, as they were more plentiful. And later, Jack-o-Lanterns merged with Halloween. Combining all things spirit-related into one holiday makes sense.
These guys wanted to say hello...
Not all of our carved pumpkins scare away spirits. Last year, mine was a jellyfish, and it’d be super-weird for that to cause ghosts anxiety. Video game symbols, Star Wars, and superheroes have been featured over the years, depending on what the kids are into. Once, many years ago, we had the cutest Blue’s Clues pumpkin. It really looked like Blue, too. Once, in an homage to Twilight (sort of), I did a vampire about to bite into a neck, which turned out to be an artsy favorite. Those pics are lost to time… and perhaps an old thingy that we store pics on?... but they live on in fond memories.
This weekend, we will scour the internet for inspiring templates to copy—the perfect balance of easy and challenging. Then, we’ll cover the dining room table with a vinyl cloth, conjure our inner artists, and get to work. Hours of concentrated effort and elbow grease will deliver memorable Halloween masterpieces like these….
It’s always fun seeing our picks and how they turn out. We do surprisingly well for non-artists. Last year, we even purchased actual carving tools instead of the plastic ones that come in kits.
Years of successful pumpkins have taught us essential skills and encouraged us to up our game.
Besides, Joe has set a new bar with this one from last year.
Not only is pumpkin carving fun, but it’s also meditative. Hours at the table, eyes on task, moving step by step to a finished product—the focus required pulls you into the project. It’s like painting or knitting, but with more action and goo. And once you begin, you must follow through… or you’ll be left with nothing but a mutilated pumpkin. It may still work okay for capturing the Halloween spirit, but you’ll know that you only gave it partial effort… and perhaps Stingy Jack will know it, too.
If you see it through to the end, you put a light inside, and it glows. Bonus. Who doesn’t like mood lighting?
In my effort to get in the mood for pumpkin carving (because I really must bring it this year, thanks, Joe), I’ve considered that it’s a lot like writing.
You start with a big idea (one that feels right). That is, you pick your pumpkin.
You envision what you want it to look like and make a plan. Your story-carving template can be as detailed as an outline or as scattered as sticky notes.
You break out your tools. The better your tools, the more serious you are about your project. A writer’s toolbox should be heavy.
You enact the plan step by step until it’s finished. Starting with that first cut, you’ve committed. Then, you dig and scrape and saw and etch until it resembles what you wanted. Sticking with it during this long stage is the true test. Things get dirty. The creator gets tired. So many things cry for attention. In the mushy middle, you may ask… Is it worth it?
Resoundingly, YES. The difference between a finished project and one left undone or done poorly is far more significant than you’d expect on the ol’ ego. Unfinished things haunt our consciousness, nagging at us and making us feel bad. While accomplishments boost and encourage us. It’s much better to say, “I did that,” than to think, “I wish I’d done that.”
And if you mess up your pumpkin, try using toothpicks. Or call it avant-garde. Or a haunted Picasso pumpkin.
Mess-ups or not, the more focus, precision, and care you give, the better it will be. With pumpkins and manuscripts and, well, life.
Then when you’re finished, stick a light in it and hope people enjoy it. For writers, this could be querying or publication. For pumpkin carvers, it means the front porch on Halloween night—a tradition kept and spooky (or non-spooky) vibes honored.
I’m on the hunt for the perfect pumpkin stencil. What are your pumpkin carving plans? Share your big pumpkin ideas below.