On Valuing the Creativity of Mothers.
(this post is from October 2011, but it bears repeating today while I am on WAMC at 11:35 am which you could livestream if you like. I will be talking about the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers with Dr. Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez and Joe Donohue!)
Do you ache to be valued?
Do you yearn to do something with your hours that expresses more of your soul?
Have you closeted an early passion that is crying to be let out in to the world?
Do you have piles of notes for a book you have not yet written?
I am of the firm conviction that we are born artistic. We are born delighted with what our senses report to us. We begin to organize those impressions in a myriad of ways. Our fascination grows in to passion, which, for some becomes a career or for others a hobby. Many times that creativity falls away after we outgrow our finger painting aprons. Whatever happens along the route to adulthood that squelched our creativity is part of what makes us unique.
I sought success in a career as an actor, which kicked my self-esteem to the curb many times. However, my foundered acting career did not kill my creative spirit.
In the writing of my first book, Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers, I have come to value my creativity in all it’s faces. And I have come to see its catalyzing power to improve the quality of my life, how it has built in me a resilience in adversity and has led me to find meaningful self-expression that I can manage while raising my children with my husband.
My creative spirit has allowed me joy I could not have accessed otherwise.
I don’t think you have to be a woman or a mother to be creative. Every human being has the capacity for wonder and expression. Each of our days are speckled with choices that emerge from that delightful sense that is uniquely ours. I write about motherhood, because, as you know, I am a mother. And, motherhood provides a certain set of conditions that severely impact a woman’s overt acts of creativity.
For the past few weeks, I have worked feverishly on the non-fiction book proposal for LLD with my writing coach, Stephanie Gunning. I am honing my proposal in preparation for sending it out to literary agents. This has caused a stirring of thought in me about my mission in life, my own personal manifesto, if you will.
I am a full-time mother of two teenaged kids, a boy, 17 and a girl about to 14. I live with my husband in the mountains of western Massachusetts. I have been an artist my whole life. I am thinking you have been too. Truly we are all born creative. We just seal that zone of our life off sometimes, to find meaningful employment or to please the expectations of others. There are scads of reasons why hoisting a paintbrush on a canvas is impractical and a waste of precious time. Sure. I can see how it happens. I have lived my version of that story. For whatever reason, I have continually found a way to create, no matter what the conditions of my life are.
I started life as a collagist at the age of four, cutting out images I loved and gluing them in to this giant scrapbook that sits on my shelf now, 47 years later. When I was about 7, I discovered that theatre was to be my life. I played a boy who turned in to a rat in an after school program production of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. What could ever be better than disappearing behind khaki boy shorts and knee highs in to a rat costume, shoving my fuzzy hair under rat ears while standing jammed in a bathroom stall at Potawatomi Park in Chicago. In that moment, I felt my passion ignite.
Left to my own devices, which I was from the moment I considered where to go to college, I pursued theatre until I was 30 years old. I had some success. I became a theatre artist, marked forever with discerning taste in new plays and a loathing of bad lighting. I love plays. I love the stage. I love seeing good plays, which I will see over and over, like some people ride a roller coaster. The ride of an artfully created production captures every human sense and transforms our daily reality in to something quite magnificent. Many years have passed since I have played a role in a scripted play. I have done readings, studied singing, and read my kids hours and hours of stories with all my training at the tip of my tongue.
All my life, before, during and since doing theatre, I have been a fiber artist. I learned to sew from my Grandma Mimi when I was ten. The skills she taught me enabled me to sew costumes in high school, got me a good job in college in the costume shop of my theatre department and kept me from having to waitress during my years in New York City. I worked for the Martha Graham Dance Company, re-creating costumes from Martha’s early solos for her company of stunning dancers. I sewed clothing for the Cabbage Patch Kids magazine sets, under the direction and design of a woman who was a costumer to Miss Piggy herself.
Along the way, I met my husband. By that time, I had segued from costumes in to fine women’s clothing, custom created in my apartment. I enjoyed having my business, but could not keep this up once I gave birth to our son. We eventually moved to the Berkshires and my creativity flowed in to running our household, developing my fiber art skills by learning to knit and felt, and into gardening.
I don’t do things lightly. I jump in full throttle. I learn to do things until I have a certain level of mastery over them or decide they are not for me. There are things I have tried and put aside. I like to do things well. For this reason, I have studied and can capably brew compost tea for my tomato plants, save seeds for next years’ crop of nicotiana. I have learned to grow and preserve quince. I love to bead, make ribbon embroidery and french braid my daughter’s hair. I even won a ribbon for skillet tossing, but that is another story.
None of this is that extraordinary you know. I bet there are things you have learned in the recent past that you never thought you could do. All these things I do are just different faces of my creativity pouring forth. I guess those early collages or playing at boy who turns in to a rat opened the gates of my creativity and they have never completely closed. In the process of writing my book, I have begun to see and celebrate the value my creativity has brought to my becoming the happy, excited, authentic mature woman who I am today. Yes, I can say that with full authority. I thank all the glue sticks, morning-glory seeds and embroidery floss that I have ever touched for leading me to this moment of recognition.
What is this all about? It is about taking ownership of your own exquisite creative forces. I don’t want you to quit your job or anything. I just want you to let yourself play a bit. The things I have learned to do have found a spot in my daily life as a mother at home with kids. Picking strawberries led me to making jam. Needing to cover bare baby heads led me to knitting. Loving textiles, textures and color has led me to becoming a mixed media collage artist. Being passionate about communicating has led me to a five-year postal art collaboration which has now become a way for me to lead others to discover their own expression in their daily lives.
Over the next weeks on this Laundry Line, I will be writing about creative women. There are so many people who inspire me, making art with their days. However humble an expression may be, the will to create beauty is ceaseless and essential to our human spirit.
Here is what I found on a very cool website:
There is something very moving about the way these humble women are driven to be creative, in lived, everyday sense. It gives us much to reflect on what we take for granted as the provenance of art: for one, their painting is not the unique creation of any single individual but a tradition grown in a community. The work is not produced for a market, but for themselves, as well as the community at large. And viewed in the context of their lives, art doesn’t seem to be a luxury that has to be bought by opportunities and free time.” ~ Gita Wolf
This quote is from Nurturing Walls: Indian Women’s Animal Art by Meena Women. Read the article here.
Even doodling has value. Chalk drawings on the sidewalk too. If you let yourself make one origami crane out of the free newspaper you picked up yesterday, you might discover something new about yourself.
I dare you.
Tell me what you created this week.
Here are my doodles in my collage-a-day journal.
More to come,