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A Note on Creativity and Motherhood

A Note on Creativity and Motherhood

When people find out I’m a writer, they often say to me, “Wow! I could never do that.”

To me, writing is normal. It’s how I think. It’s often the only way I think. (And I’m sure that, if you’re not a writer, I would say I could never do whatever it is that you do. That’s because all people are supposed to be different. I know that’s an astounding revelation. Honestly, though, I think sometimes we just need to be reminded of basic human truths.)

I understand why writing is intimidating to so many people. Writing is a messy feat. Without a passion for it, it would be treacherous. Like all creative acts, it’s a series of tries, and it’s only in this messy, trying journey that we discover what is best and what is accurate. Writing is not just about writing a bunch of words, but rewriting and editing, until you have finally, actually, miraculously said exactly what you need to say in the exact way that it needs to be said. Anyone who has ever worked on their words knows that to write is to witness miracles.

Writing is frustrating because you can’t plan it. You just have to take your first few words, your first vision, your first inkling at a character or a plot, and you have to mess with it until you find it wholly.

Writing is like motherhood in that way. (And how many times did I say as a very young woman that I could never be a mother?)

When we’re pregnant, we have a tiny vision of what our child will be. Then one day we meet a baby who can’t do anything but express basic bodily functions. Yet these newborns possess power. They provoke us to heights of emotion we never knew existed. When we give birth, we aren’t simply bringing another person into the world, we are creating more life within ourselves. When we meet our new babies, we realize that we had no clue what was in our belly all those months. It wasn’t just a baby, but life itself.

It wasn't just a baby, but life itself


As our children grow, and as we spend time nurturing them and training them, we realize that the fetus (the ultrasound), the newborn, the toddler are each only a clue to the person that is emerging.

kids jumping


Parenting, like writing, is not only messy, but requires consistency. And I’m not talking about consistency in discipline or schedules. (Though I know consistency in these areas are important… but I am also apparently incapable of consistency in those areas. Stay tuned for another post about that.) I’m talking about consistency in being.

Parenting requires that we continue to be a parent. As we continue to show up, to hug, to kiss, to play, to correct, we find that this is what parenting is mostly about. We cannot control our children, but as we continue to be parents, we will figure out the details. Parenting requires that our love remain a consistent factor in our relationships with our children. And if your love has taken a visible break, you’ll know it. You’ll probably feel nervous or angry or just out of sorts. Like you need a hug. It’s okay. It happens to the best of us. We get so turned around in this world sometimes. Just come back. Just give your kid a hug. And keep doing it. Be available. And continue being available. That’s called consistency.

So often as writers, and as mothers (and as people) we don’t start something because we are scared of being rejected or we’re unsure what will happen.

I was recently talking with a friend about a project she hadn’t started yet. I told her a lot of things, but one thing I said was, “Start somewhere. Start now.”

And I’m taking that advice for myself because I struggle with the enormity of a life made from small decisions. I struggle with questions like, “What are we going to eat for breakfast” and “Can we play a video game?” and “What happens next in my novel?”

But we all need to lay these kinds of struggles aside. We know that if we are to go on with our morning, we are going to have to eat something. We know that my son will have to be answered, and no matter what the answer is he’ll probably have a tantrum. I know that if I’m going to ever finish writing a novel, I’m just going to have to think of something to happen next, and if it sucks it’s okay. I’ll just scratch out those words and write some other words. But I have to start somewhere. And I should just start now.

So mom, creative being, friend, wife, woman, what do you want to do with your life? What thing is piercing you in the gut right now?

Do you want to write? Get some paper. Get a pen. Do you want to ride horses? Sign up for lessons! Do you want to teach your kids to bake? Open your cupboard and get out the ingredients for cookies. Do you want to learn to paint? Buy a canvas. And don’t just stare at the white nothingness. Close your eyes and figure out what you see. Not what your neighbor sees. Not what I see. Figure out what you see. Then dip your brush in some paint and get on with it.

Go ahead and paint a line on your cheek, too because you can’t stop the mess anyway.

Start somewhere, friend. Start now.


What Are You Listening To?

What Are You Listening To?

Last weekend I attended the West Virginia Writer’s Conference. It was the first time I’ve been away from my children overnight. And it was actually a two night stay.

Did I miss them?

I thought I would, but no, actually, I didn’t. And I struggled with that.

I know that when we leave our children, we should immediately feel like a piece of us has gone missing. Like we aren’t complete and that if we don’t get home immediately, we might die or at least not be able to sleep or function in some other capacity. (In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m being sarcastic. I don’t think we are “supposed to” do any of that.)

During my stay, I never stopped loving my children. But that brings me to another point. I’ve heard many moms say before that when they first held their newborn babies, they were overcome with love. Maybe they wept or shook or felt like they couldn’t contain their happiness so they burst out in smiles and laughter, surprised when others around them did not.

When my first son was born, I was not immediately in love. I was shocked. I was frightened. I was surprised. Who is this little person? Where did he come from? As if my belly had been growing a hiccuping watermelon.

My husband and I have discussed our initial parenting reaction at length and we think it has something to do with the aloofness of newborns. They can’t smile. They can’t laugh. They can’t do anything really, so it took us a few weeks to feel that immense love that so many people talk about. My second and third babies brought out earlier love, but I think that was due to having seen how lovely babies can be. By then I knew that babies eventually laugh and hug their parents. I knew that babies eventually do silly things like try to grab at mirrors, drink from cup-less straws and look deeply into your eyes as they gurgle on about who knows what.

On my drive to West Virginia, I had a lot of time to think. About 5 hours, actually, which is more time than us mothers ever have alone. I wasn’t really sure what to do with it, especially since I had forgotten to bring my c.d.’s and my knock-off iPod, and it took me almost the entire drive to realize that I wasn’t scrolling through the radio stations, but the rental car’s presets. All I could hear from the speakers was fuzz and I thought that was just because I was in the middle of trees. Beautiful trees, though. The most beautiful trees and lands that I have ever seen. I wish I had photos to share, but because I was driving vertical and horizontal zigzags, I couldn’t manage to capture a single image.

Well, here is one image, but it’s not one that I took. It’s a free one from the internet. Pretty, isn’t it?

Untitled design

At one point, I turned off the radio and silence entered the air. Then, some actual thoughts.

I thought, What are you listening to?

Even in silence, I was listening to something. The noises of tires rotating on asphalt. The whooshing of wind. The occasional swish-swish of my cell phone notifications.

I thought about the sounds of my  daily life.

When I drive around in my minivan, three children chatter on. They ask and they wonder out loud at me. They bring up philosophies of life. They tell me their failures and their successes. “Mom! Did you see that? I jumped so high!” “Mom! I hit that ball so hard!” or, “Mom, I wasn’t really good at that.” That last one comes from my 3-year old son who, today, told me over and over that he “wasn’t really good at” the spray ground, where he was continuously running to our towel to wipe his eyes of water drops. He was just playing in the water, like everyone else, but he apparently kept forgetting to close his eyes when he ran under the showers. “My eyes hurt!” He kept telling me.

What are you listening to?

I usually broadcast K-Love in my van, and it’s not because I like the music. In fact, though I love Jesus and I love worship music and I love hearing stories of God’s faithfulness, it is purely the positivity that I love in this station. There’s enough negativity out there already, and when I have the opportunity to control the words that are coming out of my speakers, I want them to be words of life.

I have started playing worship music in my house, all day every day, and I’ve realized that when I get angry, when I get frustrated, when I get worn out or overwhelmed at the demands of motherhood, the music keeps positivity from leaving. Even if my mind is reeling, I can bring myself back to calm because of the love that pours out through the music around me.

What are you listening to? Do you find that music helps keep you grounded at home, at work, or in your car?