Putting Motherhood on the Front Page with Jenny Welkin
Leading a Creative Life
I am constantly drawn to the bi-line of Laundrylinedivine – ‘seeing and celebrating the sacred in daily life’. It was these few words that attracted me to visit this blog, and sparked my interest in writing something here.
I‘m at a point in my life where I am trying to define what leading a creative life means, and how I can make it happen on a daily basis.
Is it a practical thing? If I get up every morning, write and take photographs, cut flowers from my garden and arrange them artfully in a vase – does that mean I’m leading a creative life?
Or is it more a frame of mind? If I shift my head into creative mode, will I not see art everywhere I look – from the shirts on the washing line blowing like upside-down ghosts to the beautiful curl of a snail’s shell in my vegetable garden?
Who can help inspire me to lead a creative life? When I look around for role models, I see many wonderful men, yet I know that for them a creative life is essentially different from mine. Not better or worse, just different. I tend to turn from them, and instead seek out creative women, knowing that their stories will be more relevant for me.
As a woman, I have given birth to three gorgeous sons – a physical form of creation that has had a profound effect on me and the way I see the world. The subsequent decades after the births, packed as they were with a million little actions and thoughts and words – everything it takes to create three well-rounded personalities – also coloured my creativity, making it even more gender-derived.
I have grappled with the role of being a step-mother too – to a lovely girl (a new one for me) and a boy with special needs who will need care for the rest of his life. A different kind of mothering, a different form of creativity.
But as I get older – in my earlier fifties now – I find that my creative focus has shifted away from the influence of motherhood that moulded it for so long. Now, as four of our five kids are living away from home, I have my nose to the breeze once more.
My creativity is becoming self-centred – it’s all about me and the environment I live in. When I write or take a photograph, it feels like a deliciously selfish act. Is it prudent to admit that? Does it reflect well on me? I don’t know, but I know that it’s a fact. This is my life now – my focus is no longer on my children (although of course, I would drop everything at a moment’s notice if they needed me – the mothering instinct still rules the day and no doubt always will).
What have I done to carve out my newly formed creative life? I have given up paid (and largely uncreative) work in a ‘now or never spirit’ of commitment to my creativity. Brave or foolish? I would argue necessary. These days, I don’t have the time and energy to work a paid job and be creative.
I feel I owe it to myself – this creative life. I know this is partly because my mother died in her early sixties, and I always feel I may not have much time left (no matter how irrational the foundation for that thought). I feel entitled and deeply thrilled at having thrown all the descriptors of my working life up in the air, and I am fascinated and excited to note the changes to my days, and the way I see and think.
I have a few half-formed fears about being too old to make any creative impact or worthwhile contribution to our creative melting pot, but my indignance rears up and I spit on my fears. There’s nothing I can do about my age. I know there will be times when it will work against me – but I’m savvy and I’ll deal with it. My age inspires me to work harder to show my reader the value of it, the spirit that lies within the wrinkles, the fact that age is a state of mind, and all that.
All of these things lead me to the belief that a creative life has to be highly tailored to the individual concerned, a kind of ‘creative life couture’. My new creative life is designed around me, and defined by all the things I am – writer, photographer, poet, mother, member a certain generation and culture, and the product of all the millions of things that life has flung at my feet so far.
Perhaps leading a creative life begins by simply choosing to be true to ourselves – with all the muddle and uncertainty, the graft and the flashes of inspiration, the drive and the passion that involves. And at all times, ‘seeing and celebrating the sacred in daily life’ is a very good practise to keep in mind.
Jenny Welkin was born in England in 1960, gained a BA Hons in English and American Literature, and an MA in Modern Literature. As a student, she volunteered and wrote book reviews for ‘Spare Rib’ magazine in London. She went on to work as a researcher and writer for Henley Management College, before moving to run a successful family business. In 2010, she changed career to become an author. Her first novel caught the attention of several London literary agents but is as yet unpublished. She is currently writing a blog at www.mystripybook.com, and working on a second novel.
Celebrating mothers this month on Laundry Line Divine means we are Putting Motherhood on the Front Page. All month I will be sharing guest blog posts from the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series here on the front page. In this collection of writing, women who are artists, authors, dancers, filmmakers and quilters will be sharing their creative journeys. I am convinced that the stories these women share illuminate the territory of motherhood with a detail and expansiveness that is rarely found elsewhere.
I know very well that some of the readers of Laundry Line Divine don’t have children. For a myriad of complicated and intensely personal reasons, you don’t have kids.
But, you do mother in so many other ways.
Coleen Davidson’s post says it so well. Women, by nature, are ‘madres’ to others. It is in our female DNA to care for others. While I will never stand here and say that one choice or situation is better than another, since I am a mother, this is my perspective. I never, ever want what happens here on Laundry Line Divine to feel like a club, exclusive membership only. I know women who have become stepmothers at 45. I know women who have adopted at 43. I know women who are perfectly happy without children and get immense joy out of showering nieces and nephews with a standard of care and attention no mother could muster. I also know there are some great guys who read these posts. Thank you each! When I welcome the stories of mothers, I am welcoming the stories of all women who own their creative powers, whether you birth babies, books or business. Please let me know if you’d like to contribute to this series by writing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can take some of this goodness home with you.
Consider buying a copy of An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice, which compiles some of the blog posts and writing from the live events I host for the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers called Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others. Mandy Steward of Messy Canvas wrote this review.
Here is the book trailer. I haven’t shared it much yet, but I’d love you to take a peek.
Today’s web wonderment is this article on PsychCentral. Miranda Hersey Helin and I were interviewed for this piece about mothering and the importance of being creative.
I hope spring is springing where you are.