Monday, January 19, 2009

Stop Everything!

I have a picture in my mind of how it's supposed to be. Sunbeams, hardwood floors, books everywhere, artistic materials, paper, paintbrushes, fabric, glue, computer wedged among the other creative accessories. Hours stretching out endlessly for thinking, making and writing. Kids busy with their own inventions around the house or perched in a tree. Abundant garden, homemade meals that take hours to eat, company dropping in whenever they wish....

But here's my reality:

See that calendar? What's the first thing you notice? That's right - there isn't a single day without something written on it. Not. One. Single. Day. And that's how it's going to be for the next six months.

I can't be angry about it (although I am) - I'm the one who put all those things there. I'm the one who encouraged each of my four children to sign up for an activity - heck, how about two! I'm the one who signed up for more activities for myself, nagged my husband until he did the same and then threw in a bunch of lunch dates, to boot.

Here's the kicker - they're almost all fun things. Music lessons, karate, dance classes, archery, band practice...all the good stuff in life, right? So how come every time I see the calendar I feel like I'm about to turn into the Incredible Hulk? Well, because only a fraction of those activities are my activities, and yet I have to interrupt my day in some fashion or another for just about every single one of them. I'm the mom, after all.

There's a great explanation for why this drives me crazy in The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron:

"An artist must have downtime, time to do nothing. Defending our right to such time takes courage, conviction, and resiliancy. Such time, space, and quiet will strike our family and friends as a withdrawal from them. It is.

For an artist, withdrawal is necessary. Without it, the artist in us feels vexed, angry, out of sorts. If such deprivation continues, our artist becomes sullen, depressed, hostile. We eventually become like cornered animals, snarling at our family and friends to leave us alone and stop making unreasonable demands.

We are the ones making unreasonable demands. We expect our artist to be able to function without giving it what it needs to do so. An artist requires the upkeep of creative solitude. An artist requires the healing of time alone. Without this period of recharging, our artist becomes depleted. Over time, it becomes something worse than out of sorts. Death threats are issued.

In the early stages, these death threats are issued to our intimates. ("I could kill you when you interrupt me...") Woe to the spouse who doesn't take the hint."

It's kind of funny to read about, but it's not funny at all when you're experiencing it. Last night my darling daughter wanted to sew a shirt for her stuffed bear. High on her own creative juices she was oblivious to my growing frustration as she interrupted my writing every two minutes so that I could thread her needle or tie it off. This after I spent the rest of the day participating in one family activity or another. I'm happy to report that at no time did I raise my voice or throw something across the room and she completed her project before I entirely lost my mind, but oh, there were moments when I wanted to scream.

I know I'm not alone. Several days ago a thread appeared on a homeschooling board I frequent that asked wistfully, "What do you think Stay At Home Moms do while their kids are at school?"

The answers were pretty accurate: they fill up their time with enough busywork and activities to stave off their guilt for having time alone until they're busier than those of us who homeschool. I know. I've been there.

I'm determined that I will sign up for nothing this summer. My goal is boredom - the boredom that is the precursor to flights of wild creativity. I wonder what on earth that would feel like?


DebMc said...

I hear ya! I love the Julia Cameron quote you used. So very true...and something I had to learn the hard way. I'm NOT being anti-social, I'm healing. Or at the very least, surviving.

Carve out a hour or two every day or so just for some creative pursuit. You'll need to refresh your creative soul.

Teach your children to drive...they can do some of the ferrying around. It helps, it really does.

Here's to some happy hibernation time for you.

DebMc aka Happy from WTM

Jennifer said...

One place I've messed up is by making my "creative" pursuit need to make money. I really enjoy the process of writing novels, but since I'm not published yet I am putting more and more pressure on myself and enjoying it less.

I'm currently trying to figure out how to shift that, either by needing less money or by making some in a different way.