Sara: You do a lot of creative stuff. How/when do you get it done with two little kids around?
Hope's Mama: How do you find the time and motivation to keep up with all you do, especially online. You maintain a handful of blogs, all very well, and you post very frequently. And when you are posting, you're often talking about all the things you're doing when you're not online - crafting, cooking etc etc! Just wonder how on earth you fit it all in, and do you ever get any time just for you? How does Angie unwind and rejuvenate herself?
Great questions, Sara and Sally. Thank you for asking them.
The most basic answer I can give is that I just do it. One thing I have learned in the last few years is to simply prioritize creativity. I have woven art and writing into the fabric of our daily life. I prioritize it with my kids and I prioritize it alone. So when I start making commitments for our family, I definitely think art or writing as part of our schedule. And I have to say that art and writing also means that I prioritize me and my mental health, because I also unwind and rejuvenate with art and writing. That is something that used to feel selfish, but now I see as a vital part of my mental well-being. That is a huge change in who I was--to do something solely for the sake of doing it without regard for being paid--I used to judge my worth on how much money I made.
I am incredibly fortunate to be married to someone who supports my art and writing habits in any way he can. He also works forty-four hours a week in three days--one twenty-four hour shift and two ten hour shifts. It affords us lots of time together as a family and gives me the space to do art and writing. In those forty-four hours of him being at work, I try to be really present with the kids. But when my husband gets home, he also wants to spend time with them, bonding and doing the stuff he loves with them --wrestling, building forts, running, climbing high things, hanging from the ceiling and flipping around. So, he likes the hour or two alone with them if I work where I am not freaking out and telling him they are going to break their necks.
Less formal, more personal art, craft or cooking for our home, I tend to do with the kids--either I set the kids up with a creative project of their own, or get them involved in some way. That took a lot of discipline for me, because I am impatient. But now, I am used to kid-pace and I like it. They slow me down and that is good. When I have jizos and do meditation paintings or something from my Etsy shop, I wait for Sam to be home and take the time to close the door and not answer the phone. I cannot do meditation paintings with the kids coming in every few minutes. In general, I would say that it is a mix between formal, set-aside art time and just doing art and writing whenever I can. When I add it up at the end of the week, generally, it is quite a bit of time.
I always want to be writing or painting. Usually both. It is a constant gnawing at me. If I could sit at the computer and write from the time I wake until I go to bed, I would. I write sentences, ideas, phrases, paragraphs throughout the day. I
am always thinking about art and writing, so I have about fifteen
windows open on my computer at any given time. When something hits me, I
go back into the office, wake the computer and just add those lines to the file I am working on. I
also have a few files on my smart phone and write ideas on there. So, I
have a ton of three line pieces in my "In Progress" file that may or may
not become something some day.
Creativity--art and writing--brought me a peace. It was a way of being right in the moment in a way that was absolutely impossible for me after Lucy died. It was like meditation. Hell, it was meditation. It still is meditation for me. Meditation for the addled, grief-fried brain who cannot sit still. Others find their thing--knitting, baking, running...that is why I set up still life 365, because I knew other grief-stricken parents were doing something too, something for a moment of peace, and I found their moment beautiful.
That was probably too much information, but suffice to say, I have alone time to do art, blogging, writing, crafts, which is important. I am motivated to do it, because it brings me such a sense of wholeness and calm. When the kids go to sleep, I write. I don't always want to, but I know if I start, I will get into a zone. I believe in my writing in a way that I never did before. Not that I am a great writer, but that something will be discovered if I write. The best thing I did for my creativity was the Creative Every Day
project and still life 365, which I did through 2010. It gave me the
discipline for writing and art that I was lacking. It transformed my
thinking about virtually every aspect my life. And kept me accountable
every day. Now, I don't need that project to do something creative every
day. It just is part of my schedule and my life and my children's
lives. Last year, I also did NaNoWriMo, and wrote a novel in a month. That experience was difficult some days, but mostly, it was like every other day of my life. I write, write, write.
Anyway, you asked me HOW I do it. How I did it was firstly by setting up a daily art time with Beezus after Lucia died. I wrote it down on a piece of paper. It was part of a whole day schedule after Lucy died, because I had no idea what the fuck I was going to do with Beezus when Sam went back to work. I was a wreck. How am I going to take care of a little twenty-one month old baby when I can't stop crying? I tell this story a lot, because it changed my life. I just penciled in a time every day that we painted. Actually, I made a whole schedule for my day, that is how I thought I would survive. It said:
8:15am-Get dressed. (Then fill in lots of daily chores.)
Then, I bought a book on how to paint still life with watercolor, and did the lessons. Because I thought maybe taking a painting class would be good, even though I didn't want to be around people. I had been painting since I was a kid, but I had wanted to pick it up again for years. I gave Bea washable paints, and just didn't correct her work, or if she painted on the wall. I just let her paint, and I just painted. We listened to Tegan and Sara or Bjork. It took almost no time for me to begin painting about my grief. Now, I have integrated art and writing into my life more or less daily.
Sally asked me what other things I do to unwind and rejuvenate. I play guitar. I read. I like to read books with other people and talk about them, or just read them. I would join a book club in a heartbeat. I like literary fiction, mostly and memoirs. This summer, I have read the Paris Wife, State of Wonder, the Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Fearless, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Mummy Knew, Dead Reckoning, Mommy Doesn't Drink Here Anymore and I am currently reading the Magician King. I also love playing Scrabble, or doing crossword puzzles. When I get a free fifteen minutes, I do a crossword while sitting in the really hot bath. I also am really dedicated to my sobriety right now, so I hit meetings most days of the week, call other women in recovery. I sponsor a woman. This weekend, I am going on a spiritual retreat for other women in recovery.
In general, I just be. Part of what I love about being a stay-at-home mother is the freedom to do all of this. I don't take it for granted, so I really try to utilize my time in creative, soul-satisfying ways. I will have to do back to work soon, so I am trying to get all the writing I want done before that point, because I just don't think I will have time to do it. I also love just being with my kids. We paint for a little. We talk. I play guitar and they sing. They draw. I write a blog post. We color. (I love coloring.) It feels busy and very relaxed. Relaxed is the crux of it. Basically, I find my life to be extraordinary in its ordinariness. Art and writing have a lot to do with that.