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On Creativity and Motherhood

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Photo by laura adai on Unsplash

What I posted here last week was a first draft of a post for another blog that was looking for posts on sustaining a writing practice. They didn’t use it, so I posted it here. One of the reasons (I think) that they didn’t use it was because they kept trying to get me to focus on being a writer as opposed to being a mother. And I kept resisting that.

I had mentioned before that becoming a mother has made me more creative. I wanted to sharpen that a bit today and talk about how motherhood made me more creative.

First, motherhood is a different role. You know how I always say that writers who can’t think of a character who isn’t a writer should take a break from writing and go do some living? I think any different role would broaden our perspective, not only parenting. Having a day job (or any kind of job, really), caring for our parents or a relative, and even volunteering in the community are all ways in which we get out of our own heads. It’s essential for all of us, I think, to get out of our own heads, preferably on a regular basis. Writers are particularly prone to be in their own heads, so this is critical for us, for our creativity and sanity. We have to have other roles.

Second, kids are excellent at getting you to be present. You can’t worry about other stuff while trying to figure out why a toddler is crying (hint: most of the time, it doesn’t matter). Whether you’re involved in pretending or being out in the playground, kids’ play tends to be immersive, and if you go along with them, you have little choice but to surrender to it. I mean, sure, you can hang back and be on your phone, but if you choose to be with the kids, you’ll soon be lost in a world of pirates and dinosaurs.

Which brings me to the third point. Before I had kids, I never allowed myself to be one. I had to be responsible rather early in my life, and I didn’t know how to play before I had kids. When I had kids, that was my job, so that was a great excuse to pretend I was a cat along with my daughter or to go on a complete tangent of researching how heavy the moon is with my son. My kids taught me to go with my gut, and I truly believe this skill of listening to your intuition is crucial for artists.

If we let them, our kids put a stark mirror up to our faces. This can be incredibly frightening and exhausting. But it can also be an unprecedented opportunity for growth, for learning things about ourselves that we wouldn’t learn otherwise. And that, ultimately, is why I’m much more interested in creativity AC (after children) than BC (before children). A parent artist, I believe, has had more opportunities to connect to a deeper, younger version of herself and, therefore, to a more powerful kind of creativity.


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