Following the Twerge: Incubator by Katherine McDaniel

In the process of making art we can learn so much about ourselves. How does creativity help us understand life?


Yesterday, I took a trip to the craft store with my mother. I wasn’t thinking of making anything, but when I turned onto an aisle with moss and raffia I felt the creative twerge. Yes, twerge. This is something that occurs when my creativity seizes on a path to expression, when a connection or resonance forms. It is part twinge, part urge, sort of a tightening and quickening in my center. My stomach flips; I become breathless.

Blogger Gilles Havik at Sailing on Dreams, who has an enchanting way of making new words, challenged me to coin some words of my own. Twerge is the first of these. It’s impossible to predict what will set off a twerge. A color, a flower may get things going while an exquisite piece of music or art causes no awakening, or vice versa. When I’m writing, a particular set of words will resonate just right, or the layout on the page jumps with electricity, and the twerge appears, as if to say, “over here”. When I’m painting, the blending of color, the creation of texture or an edge or line may reveal the twerge, peeking out from the underbrush. I seek out those twerges and follow them, even if they lead down strange, scary or lonely paths. I have abandoned some creative efforts because they felt twergeless. Sometimes the feeling occurs when I’m not creating, when something fits together in my life. You see, I think the twerge is a divining rod for synchronicity, pointing at meaning that conventional wisdom might miss.


Back to the craft store. I assembled my materials at the insistence of the twerge, quickly realizing that I was about to build a nest. A coconut fiber liner (intended for hanging baskets) would become the foundation. I bought excelsior, a mass of long, thin, curled wooden shavings, in a deep reddish brown to be the core of the nest, along with cream colored raffia, made from palm tree fiber. A bundle of light and malleable twigs, a package of delightful assorted mosses and a strand of speckled wooden beads rounded out my haul.

Once I got everything home, excited to start work, I realized that I had no idea how this was going to go together. The twerge was stubbornly silent on the matter. Knowing that it would not show itself again until I got something interesting together, I began constructing. The coconut fiber liner was a large, floppy bowl. I cut slits in the bowl from the edge toward the center, creating flaps of coconut fiber, and threaded the twigs through the slits, making a framework to hold the bowl up. It was a bit of a pain to find a weaving pattern that would work for the sticks. The twerge thought this smelled like work and kept its distance.

I put some excelsior in the center of the bowl and then spent time trying to wind the raffia around the edge, enamored with the contrast between light and dark. The raffia didn’t want to work that way and the twigs kept falling out. I cut some of the slits a little deeper and one sliced much farther than I intended. This nest was bigger than the image I had in my head and I had serious doubts that it would ever look like anything. I stopped to make lunch, leaving a nasty mess (thanks to the uncooperative raffia)  in the living room. Things were not going well.

Inspiration comes from weird places, like this escarole.
Inspiration comes from weird places, like this escarole.

After lunch, I put away the organic grocery delivery that arrives on Mondays. Totally unremarkable, except that the groceries contained the biggest escarole lettuce I have ever seen in my life. I’m not sure if I processed it at the time, but that escarole has an extremely similar form to my nest. Returning to the project, I took a handful of craft moss, which is quite pretty and has fantastic texture, and glued it to the flaps. In a matter of minutes I was breathless with twerge. Inspired, I took a few individual pieces of raffia and tied them to the support sticks so that they came up through the structure. The deep incision, which had seemed a bit of a disaster earlier, had made one side much lower than the other, giving the nest a pleasing angle when viewed as a centerpiece. The twerge wagged his tail and barked with glee.


After completing the application of copious amounts of moss and a tiny bit of raffia, there was no doubt that the new creation was a nest, but it was missing the most important ingredient. I threaded some speckled beads onto pieces of raffia and tied the raffia to the twig frame, placing ten new eggs into a pit in the excelsior. Stomach jumping, I added a couple of sweet gum seedpods and a few small touches I had been saving to build fairy houses. It was done.


The twerge wasn’t finished yet. As I looked at the nest, I realized that it is the perfect symbol for the early stages of synkroniciti. When I began, I had no idea how it would fit together, and some of my assumptions were not useful and had to be changed. I had to find a foundation, shore up that foundation, and make the nest beautiful and inviting, but that was not enough. The eggs in the center symbolize my most precious assets; the creative souls that come to my nest to experience something new and the creative ideas that lie within them and within me. Some day these will hatch and fly far into the sky, but for today, they enjoy the safety and comfort of synkroniciti’s nest. I call this piece of art Incubator.

The jewels of the nest, the speckled eggs.
The jewels of the nest, the speckled eggs.

Have you ever felt the twerge? Maybe you get goosebumps or have déjà vu? Keep in mind that just because something can be explained by science as a natural process does not mean that it doesn’t have meaning and that the meaning can’t be metaphysical or spiritual. That’s conventional thought speaking.

Maybe you don’t experience twerge at all. That’s okay. It can’t be coerced and it can be extremely fickle. Often it feels a whole lot like fear. You don’t have to be a twerge addict like I am. All I encourage you to do is to be open to it and start creating. Should it appear, follow your twerge!

3 thoughts on “Following the Twerge: Incubator by Katherine McDaniel

  1. Gilles Havik Reply

    So cool! I was googling my name because I’m applying for jobs and then I found you took up the idea : ). And you did it so well! I can totally relate to twerge. And I also like the statement that just because it can be explained by science, that doesn’t mean it isn’t mystical. Somebody else recently told me that in a forest, and I wrote her a followup email today! If that isn’t synchronicity, then what is…?

    • katmcdaniel Reply

      Wow! Thank you! Synchronicity is an amazing force. I needed to hear this today-feeling a bit too “rational” recently. 🙂 Best wishes!!

  2. Pingback: Amoebing | Sailing on Dreams

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