On "Creative Outlets for Mothers"

at a rehearsal

{At a rehearsal earlier this week for an upcoming recording session.}

Thank you all so very much for your well-wishes, tips and advice, and inquiries about my talk last week. I'm so sorry I haven't been able to respond to any of you -- I have to say that it is completely possible to underestimate the importance of having a reliable computer. I know I certainly took it for granted way too much! Our new computer has arrived, but still needs all the software installed and so on, which requires my husband and his brother scheduling a time to do it. Ugh! Who knew that the death of our computer more than a month ago would turn into such a huge hassle?

OK, I'm done venting now. My absence this week has been due in small part to still working with the laptop which I don't have access to every day, and in large part to not one, but two un-charged camera batteries. That I'm too lazy to plug them in says something, I think.

So, the talk. Wow. I was so nervous about it. But it went really smoothly. One of my biggest fears was that I wouldn't have enough material planned for my entire 90-minute time allotment, and to a certain extent, that was true. I had a solid 60 minutes of points that I wanted to address, and then I opened it up for Q&A and input from the group. Fewer people came to my talk than had signed up, but I think that had to do with it being on the first day of the conference when everyone was still getting settled at the conference center.

I had prepared a long handout, formatted into the categories Why?, What?, When?, Where?, and How? The handout was mostly about the nuts-and-bolts of incorporating creative expression into a mother's daily life. I included reasons for having an outlet of any sort, and why creative outlets are specifically helpful; a really long list of ideas for different things to try (many of which came from your helpful responses to this post), as well as things to consider when choosing what to do; different ways to schedule it into the course of the day; the importance of creating a dedicated space for and valuing our creative work (as well as different ways that space could work for us, and ways of making it fit!); and finally tips on getting started, and a resource list of tons and tons of books and websites (and links to some favorite blogs, too!).

My talk itself did not actually follow the handout. I had prepared a slideshow of about 250 of my photos. (They were all taken from my flickr account, so you have all probably seen most, if not all, of them already.) About half of the photos were of objects that I've made, and about half of them were just examples of photography of mine that I like for one reason or another. I had the slide show playing in a loop throughout the entire talk, and began it before anyone arrived, so as to "set a mood". I began the session by playing some Celtic music on my cello, with only a minimal introduction. I didn't want it to seem like I was performing for the group, but rather inviting them to share a creative experience with me. Afterward, I shared with them a poem that had been shared with me by my herbalist and mentor.

Then I introduced myself, talked about my own creative journey -- which began with my mother, as all things seem to do ;) -- and my depression. I feel that my reemergence as a creative soul is so intertwined with the severe depression that I experienced after James was born that the two cannot really be separated. So I talk pretty frankly about it -- to friends and strangers.

And then I talked about inspiration. The definition of the verb to inspire that speaks to me most deeply is "to stimulate or compel to action." I love that something very small -- James's rapt attention to a saxophone player, a pretty little corner in my home, Elisabeth peeling apples, the two of them puddle-jumping -- can compel me to action. A lot of times, that action finds easy fruition in my camera's capable lens. But sometimes, it requires me to seek out a bigger project, something different, something else that I can do or make or create. For me, the biggest part of inspiration is this call to act, to do something with what I see, feel, and experience, rather than allowing the moment to wash over me and be lost. I think that many of you other crafty mamas and bloggers seem to get this at a very core level -- either instinctively, or quite consciously, and this is one reason I love this community so. (Even though my computer dilemma has taken me from your midst for the time being. I do think about all of you so much.)

I also talked a bit about mindfulness/living in the moment, and some household management/parenting tips, such as an early supper and bedtime for little ones (the best advice I have ever received, thanks to my own mama!), and about the importance of being a strong adult presence in our children's lives rather than a playmate. (For those of you who would like to know more about that subject, Jean Liedloff, whose book The Continuum Concept has formed much of the research basis for so much of what has come to be known as "Attachment Parenting", has an article on her website which talks about this in more depth.)

Most of what I talked about can be kind of summarized as "when we nurture ourselves, we nurture our families". I didn't say this in the talk, but I truly believe that when we model living a creative life, we give our children the freedom to grow and learn and experience life all the more fully.