The trenches of motherhood aren’t always conducive to creativity. But only if you think of creativity in the traditional sense.
This morning I had an enlightening conversation with my friend Olugbemisola. She’s an author and a writer who teaches a class about Mothering As A Creative Act. I also learned that she enjoys crafting and cooking. We’re totally internet twins. We discussed how mothering someone (and vice versa) affects our creative energy.
Most people think of visual and performing arts or music when they think of creativity. I know that’s how I used to view creativity. It turns out I was thinking about creativity as a end product, not the process of being creative. That big revelation changed how I looked at my own creativity.
My definition of creativity has changed too:
Creativity is how we combine our experiences, knowledge, and opinions into something new or different.
My new definition of creativity focuses on the process of creating, not the end result. Of course I enjoy bathing in accolades of how amazing my recipes are or how one of my stories changed someone’s viewpoint. Once I focused more on enjoying the process, creativity felt less like a burden. Less like a zit waiting to be popped. (Sorry for the gross imagery.)
Being a mother takes an extreme amount of physical and mental energy, especially when our children are young and (mostly) helpless. Here’s what I’ve learned in my 10 years of being a mother who tries to make time for creativity.
5 Things I’ve Learned About Creativity and Motherhood
1. Creativity is ever evolving. Rather the way it manifests in us changes as we change. As we learn new ideas and experience new things, our creativity bank expands.
Before I became a mother, I loved to draw, sew, and make jewelry. Motherhood opened my eyes even further to race and culture. I wanted the work I made to reflect my thoughts on it. Now I my main creative outlet is writing, but I still pull out my beads or sketchbook a few times a year.
2. Enjoy the process. How many times have I talked myself out of writing a story because I didn’t think it would be good enough? Too many. Focus on the act of creating–the process–and enjoy yourself.
For me, the desire to be creative constantly pulses inside me. It wants to be free. I feel its allure under my skin, itching to be born into the world. When I give myself permission to sit down and write, the itching turns into joy. Pleasure of turning my ideas into something different, something I can share (if I choose).
The act of creating shouldn’t be the foreplay, but your fireworks. Sharing your work is the afterglow.
3. Make creativity a family activity. I can hear my non-crafty friends groaning. Remember #1? Creativity takes many different forms.
While my kids can’t join me in writing my blog posts, they join me in the kitchen. I’ll ask them for their opinions about a new recipe I’m developing. We debate about different ingredients and how much to use. Then they come into the kitchen with me (if time allows) and we make it together. The kids lick the bowl while it bakes and become taste testers once the food is ready.
4. Better done than perfect. I am a recovering perfectionist. This directly correlates to #2, how we worry too much about the end result. Just sit in my chair and write. Just go into the kitchen and mix those spices together. Once I’m deep into the project, I worry less about the end result. So just start and let your creativity lead you.
Over the holidays, my kids created paintings and collages as Christmas gifts for their grandparents and aunt. My kids had so much fun. My son slapped his paintbrush on the canvas while my daughter carefully outlined each part of her masterpiece. Still with both kids, I wanted to say, “Maybe you could make the rabbit’s tail way,” or “I’m not sure those two colors work together.” But I didn’t. Criticizing them would have taken all the joy from them.
5. Be gracious to yourself. These four words have been prominent in my life recently. I can never hear it enough. We are our harshest critic. Silencing that inner critic can be tough. However, we cannot grow without missteps, and we cannot learn from our mistakes if we never make them.
Being a mother is hard. Really hard. I would never give up being a mother. Sometimes the drudgery of chores and paid work deplete us. The weeklong snow days last week plus two massive deadlines took all my energy. I had nothing left in me to work on my fiction or draw. My kids ate lots of boxed mac’n’cheese and frozen chicken fingers last week. I don’t feel guilty about it at all.
I’ve burned out before, and I could see the signs. I needed some self care. While my husband spent the weekend playing video games with the kids, I rooted myself in my favorite chair and read an entire book from beginning to end. I picked up a second book, this time reading it in bed. It felt good and just the mental break I needed.
Everyday is an opportunity to be creative
I truly believe everyone is creative in their own ways. Don’t let the traditional viewpoint of it stop you from expressing yourself. Don’t knock yourself if you’re unable to check off “be creative” from your list today. There’s always tomorrow. As long as you’re not making excuses to not make something (see #2), dust yourself off and try again tomorrow.
How does creativity express itself in your life?