Monday, August 4, 2014

Taking Time For You: The Creative Process for Mom (or Dad, Grandma, Aunt, Babysitter, etc.)

This post was first published on my blog in February of 2011 and it is just as relevant today as it was then. Please enjoy and take it to heart. Take time for yourself, you are important. 

Circle Book by MaryLea Harris (2005)

I know that you think we're pretty artsy around here,and we are. We make crafts and create little fun games and "lands" daily, but I considered myself to be an "artist" before mommyhood and sometimes feel like I don't get that creative studio time anymore to make my "own" art.

MaryLea at her Graduate Art Exhibit (2006)

Creating art is not something that I am able to do everyday but I do spend a lot of time in my own head thinking through ideas; so that when I do get the chance, I can use my studio time productively. 

For me, making art requires self-discipline. After graduation, once I didn't have "scheduled" blocks of time for art making, I've struggled to balance the demands of daily life, motherhood, a household to run, and content for this blog with my own needs and desires to create.

E and MaryLea painting together (November, 2004)

"All children are artists
The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."
-Pablo Picasso

As a child, I didn't need a scheduled block of time to make art. Why do I need it now? 

Because now I have this inner critic;
the mean voice inside my head that tears apart every idea that enters it...
You know that voice, right? 

The one that says things like:

"That's already been done before" 
"That was made better than whatever you'll come up with" and my usual suspect,
"Shouldn't you be doing constructive things with your time?"

Keeping a visual journal or sketchbook to jot down ideas, sketch, collage,
or make lists is very helpful for my process. 

Star Book by MaryLea Harris (2005)

I do a lot of brainstorming in the shower or while I'm driving --
Please Note: I don't jot down ideas or sketch while I'm doing either of these activities! 

A book that I have found to be very useful over the years
is "The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity" by Julia Cameron.
I turn to this book whenever I have artist's block or feel as though the creative well has run dry. Some of her exercises may seem too self-help/touchy-feely but I do find her main points to be quite helpful. Her second book, "The Vein of Gold" is nice but it is essentially just a rewritten version of her first book with more quotations. 

Here's my summary in case you don't want to buy the book: Julia Cameron suggests the following activities to bring about the artistic muse for any form of art e.g. writing, music, or the visual arts (I would add crafts to that as well!)

* Morning Pages *

3 pages written longhand of whatever comes to mind every morning when you first wake up. This can be challenging for mothers of young children especially if you're co-sleeping (I used to journal while nursing my babies and my handwriting looks like a serial killer's in those posts!)

If you are not a morning person and more of a night owl (like me), I suggest doing this in the evening (or whatever time of day feels right for you -- naptime?). It can be anything; I use it to empty out my head, to get ideas down on paper, 
and to work stuff out. I call it my "brain dump."

Sallie (BFF) and Darbs (SIL) (2010)

* Artist Dates *

"1 hour or longer block of time spent weekly on yourself and with yourself doing something festive to engender release and inspiration." This can be a field trip to Walmart or JoAnne's or the local quilt shop to look at fabric, a visit to an art gallery, listening to music at a coffee shop, attending a poetry reading, browsing the library, or whatever gets you going.

I would add, as a mother of young children, that date nights with the hubby (and some with girlfriends - your "tribe") are pretty darn important too!

(my real life tribe 2010)

* Form a Creative Cluster *

I call this my "tribe" A group that you meet with face-to-face, or on-line, or on the phone to serve as your creative support group. I have my "real life" tribe (support network) of girlfriends and my "on-line" tribe of bloggy girlfriends -- both groups are critical to my emotional and creative well-being.

This can just be two people,  it does not have to be a large group.
Think: book club, knitting group, craft night, coffee dates, walking partners, etc. 
This group will serve as your cheering section or the people you bounce ideas off of.

C and E, Oregon (2013)

* Walk (or Run) Daily - Get Outside *

A friend of mine once called this "walking your dog." Even if you don't have one, you should get outside and "walk your dog" everyday to clear out your head and get some fresh air (this is also great for fighting the blues).  
2014 Update: Now I have a real dog to walk - bonus! 
2020 Update: Our dog passed away so now I walk with her memory and it's still just as comforting.

This was easier to do when I was still in college and had to walk outside to get meals three times a day but now I find that I can go several days without leaving my home, office, studio, or car. If you can take a 1-hour walk at least once a week, that's great - as a busy mom I do mine on the weekend while hubby plays with our girls.

Julia Cameron suggests taking a "prayerful" walk once a week. I call it a gratitude walk where you conscientiously list and vocalize your gratitude for everything about your life that you enjoy. I also find that simple stretching (Yoga is great) and deep breathing or meditation can be very restorative.

I also enjoy gardening and doing this with my hands in the dirt when the weather cooperates!

Here are my own additions to the list:

Sunrise, Outer Banks North Carolina (2010)

*Get Enough Sleep* 

I aim for 7 hours a night and am a better mother for it. It means less time spent in the evenings online and watching shows in the DVR, but by shutting down and going upstairs by 10pm, I'm actually a pretty nice person during the day and I get a lot fewer colds than I used to!

Outer Banks, NC (2010)

* Decompress and Communicate *

Being home with small children is very isolating. 
It's rewarding but also very. hard. work.
It's strange to go all day without talking to anyone over two feet tall -- talking to your spouse
(or a friend, other mom, etc) is something that can easily be pushed to the back of the priority list.

If I don't unload my brain and talk to another grown-up regularly, my brain gets too full and overwhelmed then I have a mini mental breakdown where I'm crying and snapping at my kids. Nothing creative is going to happen when I'm like that.

Hubby and I try to skip turning on the TV a few nights a week (we can't give it up completely) and just sit and talk to each other  (Shocking! I know!) Frequently, we'll have a glass of our favorite red wine and just turn on some classical music. 

Denver (2010)

* Drink Enough Water * 

I really don't feel well when I skip this one... As a girl who has a special gift for growing kidney stones, I can't stress this one enough. I'll get through a day and realize the only thing I drank was my cup of coffee and one sip of milk at dinner...If you drink water daily your skin will be clearer, you'll have more energy, and you'll get fewer colds. I'm also a fan of taking daily Probiotics and Vitamin D and essential oils. (Florastor for me, Jarrow Formulas: Yum-Yum dophilus chewables from Whole Foods for the girls) If you don't stay hydrated and rested, your brain doesn't work at full speed and that inhibits your inner artist.

Painting by MaryLea (2006)

"The road to authentic art is through the discovery of yourself"
- Julia Cameron


 Pink and Green Mama, MaryLea

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