Creative Spaces

creativespaces

I’m not sure if it was the labour itself, or perhaps the new event of being forced to sit, with little to do for long periods of time, but when I became a mother, I had a new, insatiable creative itch. Stories, ideas, thoughts, concepts, images swam through my mind. I longed to take a net, and capture them.

But between wrapping a baby, carrying a baby, feeding a baby, walking a baby around the town, and rocking a baby to sleep, it seemed I had little to no opportunity to cast a creative net. It was frustrating, because the pool seemed so deep, yet so alive with life. All I needed was five minutes – an hour, to reach in, and catch what I needed.

Around that time, my great and amazing friend Fritha was starting her journey as a life coach, and was looking for someone to test her new skills with. My arm, tired from carrying child, shot into the air, as if coffee hung from a cloud above.

One hour chat with Fritha changed everything. The first thing was identifying what I really wanted. Was it to amble around the lake, admiring the fish? No. It was to lower the net, and start making something happen.

What was stopping me? So much, I asserted. A baby. And all her many needs. I have absolutely no time.

She encouraged me to look at my week, not as a whole, but in fractions.

‘So, when are you having these creative thoughts?’ she asked.

‘Walking the pram.’

‘How often is that, would you say?’

‘Most days. Twenty minutes to town and back.’

‘OK. So that’s seven days. Forty minutes. So at minimum, you are spending two-hundred and eighty minutes being creative a week?’

It sounded like a lot. But it was true. I started to get excited. Where else were these creative pockets?

Hanging clothes. Washing up. Rocking baby to sleep in the dark. The creative minutes piled up before me.

‘And what time does Baby go to sleep at night?’

‘Around seven.’

‘Then?’

Then… well, exactly. Then. Then my creative life really began. All those thoughts accumulated through the day, baskets of creative fish writhing and alive, were waiting. And all I had to do was open my computer, and let them free.

It was a wonderful feeling.

I discovered blogging around that time. I blogged most nights. Not because I felt I had to. Simply because I had to. The need was irrepressible. My husband kindly washed dishes while I wrote short stories and posts. The accumulative effect of being creative was like a snowball, ever growing the more I rolled.

In recent years, I haven’t had a structured nine-to-five job. My work day has been broken over many hours and days, a week fragmented into slices of parenting and shards of work. I worked when I could, and parented around work. But thanks to my early conversations with Fritha, creativity was never far from hand.

I’d sit down to work, and before launching into a project, would quickly tap out a blog post that had been burning within. Between dishes and folding the washing, I squeezed out a status update. Or maybe jotted down the outline of a picture book. Creative ideas were everywhere, as long as I was looking.

As busy as we were, technically, my week was bursting to the seams with creative space.

The richest space of all, ironically, came from what was otherwise the hardest hour of my day.

As a constant do-er, I found lying down with my kids to help them sleep initially lovely and wonderful, but later challenging, the longer it took. Some nights, lying beside my eldest, waiting an hour and a half for the wiggles to cease seemed like a small torture, as lovely as she is. I longed to get on with my night.

But then I let my mind sink into a creative space. The richest, deepest most wonderful creative lake there was in my week. Stories formed, almost in tact. Blog posts too. Entrepreneurial ideas I felt convinced would change the world. My subconscious was in overdrive and having the time of its life.

And as soon as the child’s arms finally became heavy, I lifted them off, and turned my thoughts into words on a page.

My life as a parent is never static. Nor is my husband and my work schedules. Things are forever changing, particularly this year, as we travel Europe with two small children, and no official address, taking life as it comes.

My creative spaces are sometimes elusive, and harder to find. Lately, they’ve appeared in the swimming pool, in the forest, running through the gardens and at seven in the morning, when I am the only one in the house awake.

The important thing about catching fish though is to do it. If I harness that creativity when its there, it grows.

Where are your creative spaces in the week? 

Into darkness :: How the darkness has become my creative mentor

into darkness

The night is quiet. Well, almost.

A little chatter comes from one side of me. A sound – like a twitch, if you can imagine that, comes from the other.

There is tossing. Turning. My arm is in the wrong place, apparently. So is the blanket. More tossing. More turning. This can last for over an hour.

Not long ago, putting two squiggly children to sleep drove me somewhere in the direction of insane. I breathed deeply, trying to keep my cool. But if one squiggly child seemed to be sleeping, then the other slightly more squiggly child squiggled in the wrong direction, and woke the sleeping child up only to begin the hours more of squiggly activity – my temper would crack open.

‘Enough!’ I would yell into the not so quiet night. ‘Enough! You children need to sleep!’  The children would cry. My arms would tense around them. More tears.

I would, of course, feel awful.

From the minute my first child was born {five and a half years ago}, my up and down relationship with the night began. I have been blessed with beautiful, beautiful children who are blessed with squiggly genes.

And because we are the parents we are, and we believe the stuff we do, we’ve decided to lie next to them to guide them into sleep.

One squiggly child is enough. But two is more than twice the work. They keep each other awake. And fuss is contagious, apparently.

Earlier this year, my sanity was in shaky ruins. It was give up altogether, or rope my husband into lying-down duties. My youngest wouldn’t like it, but she would have to learn to, otherwise mummy would flip altogether.

So we started taking turns. After a couple of days of resistance, my youngest accepted that one night was mummy’s turn and one night was daddy’s turn.

My sanity returned. My guilty-mum levels plummeted. And I suddenly had an extra two to three hours a week of time to spend writing.

Now that my lying down responsibilities have halved, I have come to enjoy them. And my creativity needs them. That hour-and-a-half of darkness is essential to opening channels in my mind. I process stuff, and then ideas start to drift across. Stories and characters form.

As a new mum, getting my baby to sleep was probably the challenge I found hardest. Singing Hallelujah on loop as I rocked her incessantly felt like a strange kind of torture.

But what has been most challenging has also been about the best thing for me as a person generally and as a creative person. I have learned patience, yes. And in a busy life, I am forced, in a way, into a kind of creative meditation.

It’s almost magic, what the dark can do to a mind.

Do you have any creative pockets in your day? Are your children good at going to sleep?

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