Tag Archives: creativity

5 Reasons Why Stay-At-Home Parenting = Writing Success

I used to think I would have to wait for my children to grow up a bit before thinking about becoming a writer, but now I realize I’m exactly where I need to be. Here’s why:

 

1. You will be desperate for a creative outlet

odd socks

There are only so many lullabies you can sing and pretend cappuccinos you can sip before you start craving a use for your brain.  Harness this hunger and write!

 

2.  It’s the ideal set-up

"The Frenzy": a cartoon depicting chaos surrounding an oblivious Kate who is writing furiously. Annie empties cornflakes onto the table, Harry is watering the television and the other two have kindled a small fire on the table and are roasting marshmallows

If you were trying to write on weekends whilst working full-time, you might struggle to get yourself into the right frame of mind.  If you took time off work to focus on your writing, you would have to face the unbearable pressure of producing something good and printable to validate your choice.  When you’re a stay-at-home-parent, you have the luxury of writing for fun.  If you ever get to the point of writing something print-worthy, that’s a bonus.

 

3. Writing time is precious

Pretty notepad with pen, tea and chocolate

Let’s face it: If I had all day to write, I would probably spend it drinking tea, flipping through Facebook, re-organising my shoe collection and staring at a blank page.  As a stay-at-home-parent, writing time alone is a rare treat for me.  I try to make the most of every second, whether the words are flowing or not.

 

4. There is a never-ending supply of writer’s block cures

fairy dresses on washing line

I find the best antidote for blank-page-syndrome is menial work.  Doing something boring with my hands frees up my brain to explore ideas.  Fortunately, being a stay-at-home-parent provides me with an endless supply of these cures.  I’ve chewed over writing while I’m doing the dishes, shopping for sausages, pegging out washing, changing nappies and buttering piles of sandwiches.

It works wonders.

 

5.  You will be provided with a perfect abundance of material

Hand drawn cartoon. A wild-haired Kate is holding a saucepan and looking disconcerted: her five-year-old daughter has collapsed under the weight of her saucepan costume. Caption reads "Enid Blyton versus Newton's law or universal gravitation"

Can you tell there’s a squashed child under all those saucepans? Can you even tell they’re meant to be saucepans??

We all think we would write better if we could just go off to some cabin in the woods and be a hermit for a while.  But I don’t think it really works that way.  Apart from the obvious homicidal-mania-related side effects (haven’t you ever seen The Shining?), shutting yourself off from daily distraction would also mean shutting yourself off from a wealth of inspiration.  If I didn’t spend the bulk of my time making colossal mistakes as a parent, I would have nothing to write about.

 

So there you have it.  I know you think you don’t have time, but use what small pockets you can set aside.  A lot of this can apply to other creative pursuits as well (just replace the word “writing” with “painting”/ “pottery”/ “international space-station design”)

What do you think?  Have I missed anything?  Am I totally off my rocker?  Tell me your thoughts in the comment section below.

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On Writing

Pretty notepad with pen, tea and chocolate

Disclaimer: I suspect this is going to be an insufferably self-indulgent and introspective post.

Suffer.

I love writing. I get such a rush from words tumbling out and jostling for position on the screen or in my ratty notebook.  There is a delicious agony in searching for the right word or the perfect one-liner. I am filled with glee when I finish a piece and it’s done, it’s definitely done and I can totally publish it.  And knowing that I have readers as lovely as you is pure bliss.  I think I know now what I want to be when I grow up.

And here’s the funny part: I think that my job as a stay-at-home-mum fits perfectly with this plan.

I feel a little nervous saying this – in any other profession, it’s perfectly OK to say you love working and that your job is full of fun perks, but the role of full-time Domestic Engineer is fraught with emotional landmines.

You see, we’re all a little bruised by the idea put about that we’re spoiled rich ladies who spend our days wearing pearls and watching infomercials.  Or that we’re a little bit stupid and child-care (being such an unworthy pursuit) is all our poor intellects are capable of. Or that we’re so insufferably dull, we need to surround ourselves with children as a distraction.

This makes us rather defensive.

As a result, we flood social media with earnest posts about how SAHMs should be earning a CEO’s salary for all the work they do (often accompanied by a Vishnu-like diagram depicting all the roles they play); stories of husbands who try to do the work of their stay-as-home wife and fall apart after Day 1 (“I had no idea!”); and heartwarming video clips that involve evocative piano music, baby’s first steps and advertisements for a South East Asian phone company.

I feel like a traitor to the cause admitting I really like what I do – and not just for the worthy reasons like “being there for my kids” and “hearing Baby’s first words” – the lifestyle really suits me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a proper career as a writer and I see this time at home not as a delay or a roadblock, but as a gift.  Time to practice and develop my skills before I try it on for real.

In fact, I’ve been thinking about it so much, I’m going to write a whole separate blog post about it.

Stay tuned.

Art in August – Week 1

Here (at last) is my first entry for the Art in August challenge.  As you may know, I’m playing along with Naturally Cathy of The Plucky Parent, Selene (セレネ) of Kawaii Kuni, Red Lipstick Mama, Michaela of the mmmmm family, and Allison Profeta of Allison Road.  Make sure you have a peek at their blogs, because there’s lots of good stuff going on there.  Since my last post, we’ve had some more bloggers join the fun (!!!!!!):

  • Katy from Sourdough Lifestyle writes a delightful blog that is so much more than sourdough recipes (although they do look yummy).  I was reading Katy’s latest post before and wanted so much to be actually chatting to her.  It felt like a real conversation and I wanted to say “Oh, yes, I agree!”  and nod.  But I couldn’t, so instead I pressed the “like” button, which is like a virtual nod, I guess.   But it’s not the same.
  • Meghan from Mathair Fiona is about ready to pop with a new baby (due in three days!) but I convinced her that this project would be a good way to while away early labour.  She writes another lovely, lovely blog.  This post caught my attention recently.  I’m almost tempted to write a post or two in response to it.  There is a sensible voice in my head that says “one thing at a time, Kate”, but I can ignore it.  I love talking about home organisation and house keeping.  Much more fun than actually executing the ideas…

It’s not too late to join in!  Just leave me a comment – c’mon!  It’ll be fun!  Also, if you’ve told me you’d like to be involved and I’ve somehow overlooked you, please remind me – I didn’t mean it!

Now, on to the art!

Fifteen

Here’s an abstract piece done in oil pastels.  I call it Fifteen.  I got most of this done last week at the hairdressers.  It was sooooooooo relaxing.  The hairdresser asked me about what I was doing and I tried to tell her the whole story I wrote in Resolution.  It was around the time I was clumsily trying to describe a vision of my twelve-year-old self that I realised that some things are better written down and never spoken of again.  The hairdresser looked vaguely concerned for my mental wellbeing.

And, because it would seem these days I can’t do anything by myself (bathroom time is a spectator sport in this house).  Matilda and Christopher Robin would also like to share their contributions.

Here is Matilda’s:

Heart collage

She even signed it with her blog name!  It’s very important that I point out that the purple texta outline was Christopher Robin’s contribution and the cause of much angst at our kitchen table.

Here is Christopher Robin’s

Rainbow picture

I have a brand-new ‘Fail’ post coming soon.  I forgot to tell Harry to stop giving me such prime material – I have enough to be writing about at the moment!

Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!

artwork

Oh!  I’m so excited I can hardly contain myself!  It’s almost time for Art in August, where we break out our old (or our kids’) art supplies, have a play, and post the results on our blog.  And here’s the really exciting part:  I’ve got some friends in Blog Land to play along with me!  It’s ridiculous the amount of excitement this gives me.

So far, my fellow art-alongers are:

Naturally Cathy of The Plucky Parent.  Cathy is a fellow mummy-blogger  (except she’s a ‘mommy’) who has already STARTED with an amazing coloured-pencil-on-printer-paper piece that took the length of one nap time to create (not her nap, obviously).  It’s called Indigo Violet and you can see it here.

セレネ of 可愛い国.  I will be calling this blog “Kawaii kuni”, which is the Roman alphabet equivalent of the blog’s name.  It translates to “cute country”, in reference to the Netherlands, where the blog is written, but I forgot to ask セレネ for her name (how rude of me!).  Kawaii Kuni is written in Japanese, Dutch and sometimes English too (perfect English, I might add).  The thing I love about this group art project is that it completely transcends language.   I can’t wait to see what セレネ creates!

Red Lipstick Mama is a “schizo-psychotic 30 (something) year old mum  with verbal diarrhea who is in search for cheap therapy” blogging from Harlem, New York.  Red Lipstick Mama has also started creating with an incredible denim and lace headpiece called Emily which you can see here.

M of the mmmmm family.  Actually, her name is Michaela, but I couldn’t resist.  I’m just getting to know this magical blog, but it’s a joy to read.  I suspect Michaela is as terrified as I am about this project, but that’s just why we need to do this!  Michaela signed on just last night and I did a lot of bouncing around in excitement.

and finally,

Allison Profeta of Allison Road.  Allison joined as I was writing this post.  Soooooo exciting!  Allison is so talented that she did a post for this before “Art in August” was even thought of!  In it she documents the struggle and inner turmoil of a militia of GI Joe soldier figurines trying to survive in a world they cannot control.  I hope she shares more of these!

Perhaps you might like to join us?  It’s not too late!  If you are a fellow blogger, leave me a comment at the bottom of this post and I will be sure to link to you.  If you don’t have a blog, perhaps you could share your art on the blog’s Facebook page or perhaps you could email it to me and I’ll post it for you. Matilda has already asked if she can join in and I’ll be posting some of her works as well.

I’ve already started on my first piece, I did the outlines while I was waiting to pick Matilda up from netball practice.  It’s so much fun but I wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t for Art in August!  Hurrah!

Resolution

Pastel Fail

I’m really not enjoying the morning rush before school at the moment.  Today, I returned from my search for Christopher Robin’s grey socks to find Harry sitting in the corner at my little Repressed Creativity table with Mummy’s Special Oil Pastels spread all around him.  He had torn the wrapper off the one in his hand and held it in his two small fists.

“I snap it?”, he enquired animatedly, a mischievous glint in his eye.

“No!  Naughty!”, I exclaimed in horror.

“I snap it.”, the wretched imp asserted decisively and broke the pastel clean in half before tossing it on the table to join its fallen brothers.

I managed to get to Harry before he unwrapped his next victim, made a mess of disciplining him (it was mostly me shouting “how would you like me to break YOUR special toys??!” whilst Harry shook his head solemnly and reasoned “they’re MY toys, Mummy.”) and tried to salvage what was left of my lovely pastels.

As I matched aquamarine with aquamarine and crimson with crimson, it seemed a twelve-year-old version of myself manifested itself before my eyes.  There she stood, an awkward figure in her ill-fitting school uniform, clutching her A3 Spirax cartridge paper sketchbook and tin of 72 Derwent pencils to her chest.

“When was the last time you even USED those pastels?” she glowered at me,  “You haven’t even opened the box for months and months!  I think it’s been a YEAR!”

“Look, now’s really not a good time, Twelve-Year-Old Version Of Myself”, I muttered crossly.  And it wasn’t.  It was 8:25am and Matilda was still searching for her shoes, Christopher Robin’s reader still needed to be signed, Annie’s nappy was emitting a suspicious smell and Harry was off hunting for fresh mayhem.  But the sulky tween manifestation of my subconscious was insistent.

“Mrs Flannery said we were good at art.  She said it was in our soul

It was true.  I had a wonderful art teacher in Year Seven who had been kind and encouraging.  She had looked past my crippling shyness and made me feel like I was special.   And it was also true: I hadn’t used the pastels in at least a year.  My house seems full of empty sketchbooks, untouched paints and blank canvases that my twelve-year-old self would have itched to play with.

I could have argued that I didn’t have the time, that was my usual excuse, but I knew twelve-year-old Kate wouldn’t buy it.  The truth is, I’ve become terrified of Inner Critic.  Inner Critic is another version of myself (it’s very crowded to be me) who usually tells the Twelve Year Old to sit still and be quiet.  She also says things like “what if it turns out you’re no good at art?  Wouldn’t it be better not to try than to find out you’re only average?” and she sighs and sneers and rolls her eyes a lot.  It’s hard work keeping her happy.

Twelve-year-old Kate didn’t have an inner critic.  She just liked to play with colour.

Later, in that beautiful calm after Matilda and Christopher Robin were delivered safely to school, I formed a resolution.  Throughout the month of August, I will create some sort of art once a week, photograph it and post it on my blog.  And if Inner Critic has any comments to make, I’ll just say “quiet, you!”.  I’m a great admirer of proper-artist Ruby Hoppen, she is creating a portrait of her son every week this year.  It’s amazing to behold.  That’s where I got this idea.  But I won’t be doing portraits, and I’m only going for a month, but other than that…

If any other of you lovely bloggers would like to “play along”, please let me know in the comments and I’ll link to you.  You don’t have to be arty, that’s the whole point!  I think I’m going to call it “Art in August”.  Or maybe “Amateur Art in August”

artworkAnd, in celebration of this decision, here is my first piece.  It commemorates the destruction of my oil pastels and the miniature art festival this event inspired.

I call it “Shattered”.

Can’t wait till August!