30 Lessons Learned, #28: Disco, Birthdays and Time

Today is Disco's birthday. (Disco is our 10 year old vizsla.) My eldest daughter's birthday was two days ago. My youngest daughter's birthday was a month ago. Starting in January, we enter our annual "birthday season" where nearly each weekend is punctuated by a birthday party for one of my children's friends. For some reason, they are all bunched up during these months.

When I sat down to write this post, I began to think about all of these events in our lives that require our attention. Our years are broken down into events, our months are broken down into events and our days are broken down into events. On top of that, I tend to categorize my time. As a mom, I have kid time and grown up time. Life can feel so fragmented! It is easy to long for more time of one kind or another. But somewhere along the line, I realized that kid time and work time are not so separate. I will admit that I often want more time for painting or writing. But realizing that I am an artist AND a mom whether I'm changing diapers or hunched over my drawing table makes for a lot less mental anguish. That is a lesson that I learn and re-learn daily. :) I continue to look for ways to bring these worlds together, rather than drawing lines between them.

I recently wrote an article for my Mom's Club about creativity and where it fits into life. I've posted some excerpts below. Obviously it is aimed at parents of small children, but I'd like to think that it behooves us all to find time to be creative in our own way:

As parents, our time is often limited and segmented. Finding opportunities to be creative can be difficult. And with so many demands from all sides, creativity may not be a priority. Still, I've realized that having a creative outlet is essential to my mental health-perhaps even more than it was before I had children.

Why it's important
 Creativity is your own. Time spent creating can balance the hours parents spend providing for and focused on others. The sense of "flow" while creating - much like meditation - is often healing and rejuvenating. And creation is about making something, even if you choose to keep it to yourself. In a society that is very focused on consuming, taking time to produce can be refreshing.

Rethinking creativity
You may be wishing for a creative outlet but uncertain how to fit one into your life. Before kids, I had weekends of uninterrupted time that I could devote to projects. Also before kids, I could easily clear my brain and really sink into creative work. Neither of those is true anymore. But over the months and years since my first daughter was born, I've found new ways to fit creativity into my life. I've learned from other parents doing the same. Here are a few suggestions:

Think small: Consider projects that can be completed in short periods or broken up easily into smaller chunks.

Make it your own: Choose something that you really want to do. Creative projects that others ask you to do can be fulfilling, but for a true escape, choose something without strings or commitments attached.

Take classes or lessons: Choose to learn something new or take a class as a refresher, even if it is simply to reserve a bit of creative time in your schedule. 

Start your own circle: A mom on my street has organized a knitting circle for a few hours every other week. It's been a great learning opportunity for those who didn't know how to knit before. It's creative, it's social and it fits well into busy lives. 

Join an online community: Investigate your interests online. There is a community for everything. I participate in an online group for illustrators (Illustration Friday). We are given a word "prompt" each week. I take an hour or two to make a picture, scan it and upload it. It is a simple, fun way to scratch the creative itch. Plus, it connects me to thousands of illustrators around the world who are doing the same thing. (Like me, many of them are parents who look forward to drawing with crayons even after their kids go to bed.) The online option gives flexibility-you can do it when it's convenient.

Jumpstart your creativity by becoming part of an established group: Often you can find local groups that bring people with similar interests together. For example, our bookstore hosts a variety of salons that focus on specific genres of books and writing. It can be inspiring and motivating to see what others are doing.

Simply take twenty minutes: Writing is a great way to reconnect with your creative self-the self that can easily become hidden underneath a mass of chores and to-do lists. You don't need a lot of time. In The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron suggests writing for roughly 20 minutes each day with no editing and no premeditation-just keep the pen moving to see what comes out. You will find recurring themes and very likely uncover some creative impulses. At the very least, it clears the mind in a most welcome way.