I am not waiting for the laundry to be done or the floor of the bathroom to dry out from the deluge of a passing 16 year old, nor am I waiting for inspiration to strike or this malaise to pass. I am not waiting for the garage to be organized or the pollen to get washed out of the air. I am not waiting for a clear idea of what to write, for acceptance or comment by my writing peers or for the squirrels that are chasing each other’s very flouncy late summer tails up and around the oak to settle down. Neither sink nor washer, refrigerator shelf nor unfinished projects on the dining room table can dissuade me from my primary spiritual aim today, which is to write.
I was just about to skip it.
I was done with my daily writing in my journal.
The wash waits folding.
The project I am sitting on is pressed and ready for the next steps.
I got up and as I walked in to the house there was this little laptop.
Sitting on the counter, getting juiced up, the red-sleeved metal box said nothing. But I have a Pavlovian enough response built in to my body that I knew to pick it up. Pick it up. Open it. Pause in Facebook long enough to see Holly’s invitation for daily writing prompts, which I hoard and use, usually, but do I really need another when this phrase does it for me?
“Many writers wait to begin writing until the laundry’s done, children are in bed, or their day job is less stressful. Don’t be one whose life passes while you harbor a secret wish to see what happens when you really apply yourself to your art.”
I have been really applying myself to my life, which includes my artwork, for seven years. Before that, I lived my life as a full time mom, managing community projects, and teaching gardening at my kid’s school and maintaining this home front while my husband worked in his office in the attic. I had spent years studying and then teaching yoga. I had clocked hours of service work. I attended a regular Al-Anon meeting and had to tame my urge to do more in every one of the situations I was engaged in. I went from helping with the parent education program at my kids’ school to running it. I went from being on the Strategic Planning Committee at that same school to co-leading the Parent’s Association and clearing a few years of backed up resentment that had collected around that organization. I was hungry and appetitious.
But these community efforts, while immediately rewarding for the direct human impact, did not satisfy me deeply. They were temporal offerings in a grand cycle of re-inventing the wheel that spins within many organizations. I was useful and purposeful, but others had done it before me. Others would see the need and follow after me.
I longed to have a more singular purpose that could be executed within the boundaries of motherhood, but that I hoped would bring more of me forward, more of what I know to be true.
I increased the time I spent writing. My daily journal keeping was a steady feature in my life. I added more writing by taking a class that met one Saturday a month. Like Holly suggests, I made writing a priority before phone calls and meetings. I began to organize my days so that I had a few chunks of writing time a week. Eventually, my husband agreed to cover the home front one day a week so that the fluctuating needs of parenting, which are so immediate and necessary and unquestioningly important would be covered by him that day. On quiet days, that meant he worked in the car while waiting for the guitar lesson to be done. On busier days, that meant he was the one making lunch for the sick child or waiting in the doctors office or attending a school meeting. Something had to give so that I could clear my day and focus. And what gave was my husband.
Truly, there were Thursdays he could not cover. There were snow days when I got an unexpected gift of a few hours alone while they went off to ski. There were Saturdays when I stayed home and wrote instead of doing the myriad things families do on weekends together. I began to make space for my writing. My family survived.
This habit, as Holly includes in her invitation for her daily prompts in September, does what Twyla Tharp says, “Skill gets imprinted through action.” By making my writing a habit, my skills began to change. I started attending workshops and classes and went to conferences. I am still in the soup of this skill building today.
I don’t wait anymore. I don’t wait for all the right conditions to be met for me to work. I just work. I teach. I lead workshops. I give talks on the creative lives of women, mothers in particular. I lead this blog series. I produce events. I study. I mentor. I have colleagues and sisters. I have found, built and participated in a growing community of creative women.
Ultimately, I am writing my first book, which offers a magnetic invitation into the life of a woman who rescued her voice while mothering. My current blurb is: “Discover the wild treasures of daily life in Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers.”
What waits for you?
What do you choose to do daily?
In those pockets of time in between, do you feed your appetite or squelch it?
What would change in your life if you made time for your creative spirit to play?
I believe that mothers are the most creative folks around, the unsung heroines of creative thinking. Just listen to one tired mother sing a homespun lullaby to her babe, while another part of her brain dreams up a solution to the story she is mulling over. We play at the portal of creative life all day long while raising our children. But in my experience we fail to value this play as important action. The very base activities that mothers engage in are springboards. But, for generations, mother’s voices have not been considered of interest to our greater culture. This is changing, but it is not changed entirely. For every woman I speak to who has begun to engage her own voice to express from inside motherhood- however that takes form, there are five women who cannot even contemplate how they’d spend an hour off from their regular routine of child-raising, career building, and home tending. There is shyness in many women, branded with this question, “What could I have to say? I am just a housewife. I am just a social worker juggling two part time jobs and picking my kids up at the day care center. What does the world want to know of my existence?”
Waiting for confirmation that the world is interested is akin to waiting for the house to be clean enough for you to sit down and write. You might as well just plop in front of the TV and let the people who come for your dead carcass turn it off as they carry you off to the mortuary.
Louise Erdrich’s poem Advice to Myself is a call to action that I answer every single day. I write permission slips for myself on the days when I need an extra boost.
… Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button. …
I am not saying that we are all going to be the next Beyoncé or Elizabeth Gilbert by prioritizing time for creative play. I am not suggesting that the very next thing that flies off your knitting needles will be placed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I am saying that by engaging your creative voice in whatever way calls you, you will begin to lead a happier, more fulfilling life. You will feel more engaged with what inspires you because you will be able to hear what your inner appetite craves. Ideas will bubble up because you have made room for them. Stories will spin from your pen because you have told yourself that this action is necessary to your joy. Your life will gain an authenticity of which you did not know you were capable. And, you will be a better person, parent, sister, daughter, son, husband, brother, aunt, uncle, unicorn, because you have decided that what you have to say is worth saying.
You are worth the time it takes.
Here, a permission slip just for you.
Download this image, print it out, frame it and hang it by the kitchen sink or glue it in your journal. Prioritize time for yourself. Subscribe to Holly’s September prompts if that calls to you.
Now I shall step off this soapbox and get to that laundry.
All my best,
PS I will tell you that this malaise has passed since writing these 1470 words, give or take. And the guilt about the hours spent lurks like a hungry woodchuck, pressing forward even when I have successfully kept it off the lusty cabbages for a few hours. It exists. And in this world, I write.
PPS I would be remiss if I did not say all this and not invite you to my Wednesday evening Powder Keg Ramsdell Sessions from 6:30 to 7:45 PM. We meet at the Ramsdell Public Library in Housatonic, MA. The Sessions are free. The library has a lovely children’s room so that if you need to bring your kids, they can be engaged for that period of time. My Powder Keg Sunday Sessions begin on September 28 here in Great Barrington. I charge $30. for a three hour monthly Session. Email below if you are interested. And if you are far-away from the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, then please subscribe to this site. It is my hope that you find nourishment for your creative life here.