The other day I held a Zoom call with other creative parents. We discussed our art, our passions, and our current Coronavirus home situations. It was an enlightening conversation about what we need as creatives and parents, and the realities around what is possible (or not) for our lives right now.
Mostly I did a lot of listening on this call. I noticed that we were all describing the same struggles with lack of time and space. We also all agreed that as creatives we feel called to make art, regardless of whether we make money or not. It’s an impulse that we can (and do) suppress, but we can’t make it go away.
After asking the question, ‘how do we stay connected to our creative selves during this pandemic and beyond, especially when raising children?’, the following list emerged:
1. decide to prioritize your creative self-care
Right now life is pretty much upside down. We are teaching our children to be creative by setting them up at the table with paints and playdoh. We’re teaching them kid songs and turning on cosmic kids yoga everyday. But have you been affording yourself the same creative time? Chances are, you haven’t been. Chances are, you’re using the time that your kids are occupied to sit down and get some “work” done. Then at the end of the day you still feel unproductive, a bit over your head, and completely disconnected from yourself. Did you even shower today?! DID I?!
Creative self-care is a term meaning, “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being through creative endeavors, particularly during times of stress”. It begins with remembering that YOU are someone who needs to access their creative energies on a regular basis in order to feel whole. For those of us who feel the primal impulse to create, we are most authentic at the intersection between being inspired, creating, and sharing our art, whatever our art may be.
This kind of self-care is NOT bubble baths and face masks. Creative self-care is about paying attention to your creative impulses and acting on them. Been wanting to pull out your guitar and learn a song? Do it. Feel like you want to get back to writing? Grab a fresh notebook. Always loved baking? Try a new recipe and add your own twist. Honor your impulses and put energy into them.
Prioritizing our creative self-care can mean the difference between being present with our families and available to their needs, and being aloof, withdrawn or downright grumpy with those we love.
2. Designate a creative space
As much as you love your family, honoring your creative impulses requires spending time alone. Herein lies the biggest problem that most creative parents face. What exactly is “alone time” when you have a baby and a toddler? And even if you CAN make time for yourself, where do you go so you can actually focus for a little while? Since everyone is home right now this presents an even greater challenge than usual.
My husband is a screenwriter. Over the years we’ve discovered that he does his best writing when his desk is located inside of a walk-in closet. He is most productive when we just stick his desk and computer right in there among all our clothes. The door is closed and he can focus. In my case, I am very self-conscious if I think people can hear me practicing. So I need a room with a guitar, computer, mics, a notebook, and a door to close.
If you don’t already have a space you can retreat to, there a number of things you can do to create a space of your own. First ask yourself, “what kind of environment do I work best in?” Then go about trying to create it. Even a walk-in closet can work, as long as it’s designated for your creative endeavors ONLY. You must honor your space and your time in that space by keeping your focus when you’re there.
Decorate the space with things that inspire you, and make sure you have all your supplies ready. This includes art supplies, instruments, computer, notebooks, graph paper, a mirror, whatever you need. The space should feel inviting so that the moment you sit down you can feel the creative energy sitting there waiting for you with open arms.
3. Communicate to your family what you need and why
We are not 20-something creatives with the ability to control our time and space anymore, we are parents now. We have families and we have to recognize that every choice we make affects the people we love. Prioritizing your creative health is not just about YOU. You will need the support from your family. I was raised by a father who prioritized his art to the detriment of our own togetherness. Music took over his days and nights and most of his thoughts. There was not much energy left for spending time with his daughter at the end of the day. So I know firsthand what happens when you dive so far in that you can’t get out. What we are looking for here as creative parents is balance.
One of the women on our Zoom call the other day described her experience as a single mom. Whenever she needs to she looks her daughters in the eye, tells them that she needs some time to herself, and then she closes herself in her bedroom for an hour or even more. Over time they have learned to give her the space she needs because she has explained how important it is. When she emerges she can be more present for them and THEIR needs.
Your family wants to see you thrive. They want you to show up as your fullest self. In order to be that for your family, you have to first be that for yourself. And you have to communicate what you need to those you love. Learning how to communicate your needs takes time, but it is imperative that you stand up for your creative needs and stand firm. You must be alone sometimes in order to be more fully present when you are together.
4. Seek out resources that will give you inspiration
Books line my studio and living room shelves. I’ve been collecting books for years about music, creativity, travel, family. All the things that I am passionate about. I don’t even read most of them cover to cover. I skim the chapters and process the concepts in my own way on my own time. If I feel drawn to pick up a book, I open to the table of contents and select the chapter that is calling to me. Usually I find a little glimmer or nugget of information that is perfect for what I needed right in that moment.
There are so many resources for creatives. Depending upon your area of interest and expression you can find hundreds of resources if you just started looking for them. Make a list of resources that you go to when you are looking for extra creative support. What podcasts, books, blogs, music, documentaries, etc., call to you? Make the list, then grab the first one that is calling to you and spend some time with it. Sometimes all you need is a glimmer of something to spark a whole new creative idea.
I will be compiling a long list of resources in a later post. Sign up for the newsletter if you want me to send it to you when I’m done.
5. Redefine Success
It’s official, the world has changed. We are sitting at home both with lots to do, and nothing to do at the same time. We are all a bit shell-shocked, and rightfully so. But try your best not to freeze for too long. Try to look at this new life the way our art teachers taught us back in high school – turn the painting upside down and you can see the big picture in a new way. I feel like our collective canvas has been flipped and we need to learn to walk through a new landscape.
The exciting part is that, this is where innovation comes from! Not only will the old paradigms not fit anymore, the new paradigms are being invented as you are reading this! Music venues, theaters, and museums are closed. Getting gigs can no longer be a measure of success. Selling jewelry at flea markets can no longer be a measure of success.
Add the fact that we are at home with children who need constant attention. How are we supposed to do anything productive or creative? We do it by looking at life through a new lens. We must tilt our gaze to new parts of the canvas and pull to the forefront parts of ourselves that may have been sitting in the background. Rearrange colors and shapes and allow a new picture to emerge in your life.
If you’re interested in connecting with other like-minded creative parents join us on the Creative Parenting in the Digital Age facebook group. You can also get access to our monthly Zoom call by joining my monthly newsletter on the sidebar to the right.
Do you have a creative tip for the rest of us? Comment below!