Sunday, February 27, 2011

* Take Time For You: Nurturing The Creative Process For Moms

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
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 and Darbs - two of my BFFs (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 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, Outer Banks, North Carolina (2010)

* 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).

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/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!

E's sandy toes 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 wine
(Bogle Cabernet)
and just turn on some classical music. 

Hillwood House Gardens (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
(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.

I know this is a departure from my regular posts,
but this one has been rattling around in my brain for months!
Thanks for sticking with me and I'll
get back to my regular crafty goodness this week. : )

Painting by MaryLea (2006)

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


pink and green mama


Suzy Q said...

What a fantastic post! So many wonderful suggestions.
I'm bookmarking it for future reference.
I am osmebody who needs to create in one way or another every day, it keeps my energy levels up and helps me keep my perspective positive no matter what!

Jeanne said...

What a great post! It is so easy as a mom to forget that you an artist when you are knee deep in the trials of every day life. Taking time to really focus on you (or your art) I think is one of the most important thing a mother can do. I look at my own mother who just recently retired and she has nothing. All of her kids are grown up and gone and she has nothing that feeds her soul. I never what to end up like that. And, I don't want my kids to only know me as "Mom".

So, I guess what I am saying, is thank you! This is such a great post to keep the artist inspired inside of me. THANKS!

k. said...

I laughed when I read that you didn't write anything down while brainstorming in the shower or driving.....I can't recommend it while driving, but what about getting some of those Kids bath crayons?!?! heheh We have time to get our brains started because we sometimes get to be "private" in the shower....(As a fellow mom I appreciate the solitude, even if I still have to leave the door open the listen for crashes and weeping.)
Do some art in the shower. ;)
k.(I find it difficult to sew in the shower.)

Darby Harris said...

Thank you for this fantastic post. I love understanding the creative process and am working hard to nurture my creative side (she's in there somewhere I swear!). The book the Artist's Way is one I turn to often, and to this day morning pages have been my sanity. Thanks for all of your support and love! And thank you for posting your own fabulous work. You are truly a wonderful artist.


willow and moo said...

Excellent post MaryLea!
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'm new to your blog - about a week or so. I love your inspiring ideas and dream to be organized enough, creative enough, etc. After reading today's post, I realized that even though I'm not an art major - there were many things that I needed to nurture the creative inspiration within me. I tend to think, process, need similarly. I'll be bookmarking this too :) Thank you! Liz

Lisa said...

"Shouldn't you be doing constructive things with your time?"

This is the killer for me, all the time.

I love this post, and am bookmarking it for future reference. On a related note, I took time from two afternoons last week to devote to creation. On the first afternoon, I cleared off my craft desk (why is that place such a magnet for junk?!), and in the second afternoon I actually scrapbooked, something I have not done in ages. Hopefully, there is more creativity in my future!

pink and green mama MaryLea said...

@ Lisa -- I should have (and meant to) put that in the post too .... I can't work or make anything if my art studio is messy. I have to clean up my art table FIRST before I can focus on making any new messes!

: )

pink and green mama MaryLea said...

@ Jeanne --

Thank you for sharing that. I really do need to remember that my kids will be grown before I know it and I still need to have my own hobbies and activities beyond being their full time mamma.

: ) MaryLea

Ivana Clay said...

As an artsy mommy myself I can totally relate to this post! I think it is so important to keep this side of ourselves alive even after kids. Afterall, in this day and age if we don't pass down a love of the arts to them it is likely that no one else will!

pink and green mama MaryLea said...

I agree 100% Ivana!!

With arts programs getting cut left and right from our schools, we really are our children's first teachers and what better teacher to be than an art teacher?! ; )


pc said...

love to read this, i see this not only on the creativity of a mum, but a balance life style of a mum.

mum can really be so isolated, so much as i tend to diverted and lost contact/socialise with people around me... my mind is really overwhelm with household and kids! time to scrapbook again!

thanks for sharing!

Anne said...

The inner critic is a killer. More than no time and a bucket full of other excuses, I think the critic is by far the worst thief of creativity.

I find the book "Bird by Bird" by Anne LaMott an inspiring read. It is focused on writing but it would translate well to any kind of creativity.

rachelle @ tinkerlab said...

What a lovely diversion from kid activities and crafts! You're so right that it's important to remember who we are as moms/people/friends/wives/artists once we have children. I was also a big fan of Julia Cameron back in the day, and you've reminded me how much I enjoyed keeping my morning pages. The best part about them is looking back to see how my dreams and ideas had become a reality. It really works!!

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