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Posts tagged ‘expectations’

Meme of the Week

If you marry meme....

Happy Friday.

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Meme of the Week

New Year

Happy Friday; Happy New Year.

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Meme of the Week

choices

Happy Friday.

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Meme of the Week

I am an artist

Happy Friday.

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Brittany: Finding Time to Write

Brittany VandeputteBrittany Vandeputte, writer and mother of two young boys, is one of 13 contributors whose wisdom appears in the e-book The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years. Brittany wrote the piece below before her second son was born. If you’re a writer with a wee one, do you resonate with Brittany’s snapshot?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a mother who writes. Ordinarily, when I think of a “writer” I imagine a reclusive character locked behind a door who neither eats nor sleeps for days. I think of this person because that is how I used to write before I had obligations to other people. I still have an “office” but I use the term loosely. An office seems to signify a private place to conduct one’s business and that is hardly how I would describe the place I do most of my writing. As a mother, I fully expect to find toys littering the floor and a strange assortment of other odds and ends that my son finds endlessly amusing. Lately, it has been the remnants of a bag of polyfill stuffing that he excavated from my craft basket.

I don’t get a lot of time to write. I try to jot down ideas while my son is playing, but more times than not, he ends up stealing the pen out of my hand and following that up with a victory dance where he leaps triumphantly on my notebook. For the last 6 months, I have done the bulk of my writing in very short bursts during my son’s naptime — which is unfortunately only once a day. It frustrates me to no end, but the alternative is even more frustrating.

There are times I wish I could push everything outside the door and lock myself in. All I want is one day where I can write and make some real measurable progress. But of course, I can’t do that and I know it. The thing is, other people know it too, and very occasionally, someone will say to me, “Come to my house. Bring the baby. I’ll watch him while you write.” There’s a special place in heaven for these people. And I always take them up on the offer. As a mother, I already know that it takes a village to raise a child, but I’m learning that a village is also essential when you’re a writer. It takes that many offered spaces to get your novel finished!

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If you’re an artist or writer with little ones, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is the essential survival guide written just for you. Concrete strategies for becoming more creative without adding stress and guilt. Filled with the wisdom of 13 insightful creative mothers; written by a certified creativity coach and mother of five. “Highly recommended.” ~Eric Maisel. 35 pages/$11.98. Available for download here.

Creative Imperfection Is Perfect

The following is an excerpt from my e-book short, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years.

Imperfection Is PerfectPerfectionists tend to experience a greater amount of creative resistance than those who are more easy-going. I don’t have scientific data to back up this observation, but reams of anecdotal observation tell me I’m right. Unwilling to sacrifice in any area where someone else is depending on them and unwilling to settle for less, perfectionist creatives often avoid creativity if they can’t have it on their own, ideal terms.

Research does show that perfectionists are more likely to experience burnout, stress, and even depression. If you tend toward perfectionism, you might benefit from trying to readjust that framework, if only in a few areas of your life. The bar may be too high on quality, and it may also be too high on quantity. Or you may be too conditional. For example, if you tell yourself that you can’t write, paint, or create unless you have X hours of uninterrupted solitude — after your house is clean and the laundry’s done — be prepared to wait. If you have children, be prepared to wait for a long time forever.

As time management and productivity guru David Allen puts it, “You can do anything. You just can’t do everything.” The good news is that you don’t have to move mountains or make big sacrifices in order to live a more creatively fulfilling life. Instead of beating yourself up for what you’re not doing, set the stage for success. Your success: feeling creatively satisfied with your ability to “make something” given the constraints and gifts that come with your particular situation. It’s the making part that matters.

Perfectionist standards indicate a focus on outcome, rather than process. Accept that practice is not about perfection. It’s about practice. Is there anything in life that we can knock out of the park on the first try, and thereafter never have to practice, ever? (If there is, please inform me immediately!) Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing. Chalk up those perfectionist voices to the brain noise that prevents us from doing. Forget about perfection. Instead, just do.

And if you end up with a garbage can or recycling bin full of “failures,” so much the better. That basketful of rejects is a lot more useful to your creative journey — and a lot more important to your well-being — than a basketful of nothing.

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More where this came from: If you’re an artist or writer with little ones, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is the essential survival guide written just for you. Concrete strategies for becoming more creative without adding stress and guilt. Filled with the wisdom of 13 insightful creative mothers; written by a certified creativity coach and mother of five. “Highly recommended.” ~Eric Maisel. 35 pages/$11.98. Available for download here.

How to Manage the Loss of Naptime

Losing naptime is a panic-inducing prospect for many work-at-home parents. When it comes to working with a little one at home, you have several other options after naptime has been crossed off the list.

Keep an open mind

The key thing to remember is that “ideal” is not necessarily relevant while you have a small person at home. It’s not uncommon for creative parents—especially those who aren’t earning a living from their creative pursuits—to complain that they “can’t” work without at least three hours of uninterrupted time, or they “can’t” work when others are at home, or they “can’t” work unless all of the household chores are done first. When I hear these objections, I have to ask, “What’s more important: Getting your creative work done on your own terms, or getting your creative work done?”

When you make your art a priority, you’ll find a solution, even if it’s several notches down on your list of preferences. A self-described night owl may find that her only work opportunity is from 5:00 am to 6:30 am before the family wakes up. So she gradually gets up 15 minutes earlier each morning until she adjusts to the schedule change and has a work window she can count on. It’s not ideal given her internal clock, but she can enjoy the rest of each day knowing that she’s already taken care of her creative work. Most importantly, she’s writing every day.

Conversely, an early-bird whose children are very early risers may decide that he needs to rely on an hour every evening right after the kids go to bed, even though his creative mind isn’t at its best at that hour. Sometimes making do is the best you can do.

Your options

Examine your basic routine and look for places where you might be able to juggle things around to give yourself a work window. This may well require giving up something else, like watching television with your spouse or attending a regular evening commitment. You may need to give up an hour of sleep on one end or the other, if you can manage that without deprivation. If you’re a perfectionist, you’ll also benefit from lowering your standards on the domestic front during this preschool period. What’s more important: writing your book, or dusting picture frames? Prioritize and become extremely careful about how you spend your time. In the larger scope, you can have it all—but that doesn’t mean you can have it all right now.

The options below, alone or in combination, are your basic menu for creative work:

  • Get up early and write in the morning
  • Work after your child goes to sleep for the night
  • Enroll your child in part-time preschool or hire a babysitter
  • Barter for regular babysitting or develop a playdate co-op
  • Arrange for your spouse or other family member to take evening or weekend stints
  • Learn how to work with your child around

Regarding this last suggestion, many parents balk at the idea of combining writing with parenting. I strongly suggest developing this capability, however. The more your child enjoys independent play, the more latitude you can enjoy. I know of one mother who wrote most of a novel on a hand-held PDA in 5-minute blocks while her two children were playing on the swing set or occupied with Matchbox cars. This strategy requires a lot of flexibility, as you need to be able to set your work aside when your child needs you—and it’s important to have plenty of time with your child when you aren’t staring at a screen—but the ability to blend your creative life into your parenting life is a huge advantage. As a writer, you have this portability. Potters, for example, are far more tied to their studios, and their work requires a greater investment in setup and cleanup time. It’s also not usually safe for young children to entertain themselves in a studio that might have lots of fascinating (and dangerous) tools and materials lying around.

The best solution will come from you, as you know your child best. While you’re working it out, be sure to take a second look at any option that you immediately write off. Sometimes something that seems implausible at first glance turns out to be quite workable.

Without fail, just when you get into the groove with your new routine, the parameters will turn on end and you’ll end up going through this process all over again.

The plug-in Mary Poppins

If you’re inclined to let your daughter watch television at all, be sure to capitalize on her TV time by writing during that window. Children under the age of 2 should not watch any television whatsoever, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. There are many parents who commendably keep their older preschoolers away from the TV entirely, but others among us rely on the electronic babysitter (preferably free of commercials) for 30-60 minutes of creative productivity on occasion. Don’t abuse this distraction, however, and ensure that your child is getting plenty of physical activity, imaginative play, fresh air, and face time with Mom.

Bend and stretch

The schedule of a work-at-home parent must be fluid by nature. The more flexible and broad you become with your creative paradigm, the better. If you’re working on your project regularly, it will stay fresh in your mind and percolate in the background as you go about your day. Then, when a sudden opportunity strikes—your child becomes engrossed in the dollhouse or takes an unexpected nap—you can grab that opportunity for creative work. When you aren’t in regular contact with your project, the prospect of jumping in can feel like standing at the edge of an icy lake in midwinter. The more frequently you work, the less intimidating that work becomes. In this sense, frequency can actually be more important than duration. A mere 30 minutes every day adds up to 15 hours over the course of a month. That’s significant.

Become a creative opportunist

Live large by reveling in the beauty of small, everyday moments. Allow yourself to follow creative threads that intrigue you, even if you aren’t sure where they’ll lead. By deepening your practice of creativity in other areas of your life, you will enrich the process and output of your primary artistic focus. Your senses will strengthen and you’ll be ever more able to be creative on the fly. Make notes while you sit in your car waiting for a child to emerge from gymnastics class; write a haiku in your head while you’re in the dentist’s chair; use your camera phone to take impromptu photos of anything that strikes your interest during daily life. Record a funny conversation you overheard at the grocery store or a perceptive observation that your child makes. Fill your well.

This too shall pass

It’s also important to remember that whatever is happening right now is not going to last forever. Adopting a less-than-ideal work solution is more palatable when you bear in mind that it’s only temporary. That said, it’s important to be as regular as possible with whatever time slot you’re aiming for in a given time period. Regularity breeds habit, and habit gets the work done.

Be well, and be creative!

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Want more practical tips to support your creativity? If you’re an artist or writer with little ones, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is the essential survival guide written just for you. Concrete strategies for becoming more creative without adding stress and guilt. Filled with the wisdom of 13 insightful creative mothers; written by a certified creativity coach and mother of five. “Highly recommended.” ~Eric Maisel. 35 pages/$11.98. Available for download here.

Pages of Wisdom: Liz Hum

Liz Hum, writer and artist, is one of 13 contributors whose wisdom appears in the e-book The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years. If you’re not already reading Liz’s blog, you’re missing out. Enjoy the following gift of Liz’s words as taken directly from the e-book.

I struggle most with guilt. The guilt of not creating when I try to be a mom. The guilt of not being a mom when I’m trying to create. The guilt of feeling like a crappy artist when I try to rush through a creative project just to get it done. Not to mention the guilt I feel for not being able to be all things at once.

Marketing makes it look easy to “have it all,” doesn’t it? We can wear our babies to the coffee shop after yoga class where we can bang out another chapter on our novel, take them to the park, whip up an optimally nutritious meal, teach our children some brilliant skill or new language and then have them delightfully fingerpaint on the floor next to us as we finish our own masterpiece? Did I mention we’re supposed to be cool and stylish at all times as well?

I’m in awe of creative moms who can crochet a sweater while breastfeeding or create their crafts while rattling off their kid’s math problems, but I don’t know if I have fully forgiven myself for not being one of them.

Give yourself a break. When you find you have free time, go for it! But you know what? If you don’t, don’t sweat it — you will. If you live in the present instead of fretting about all the projects and dinners you’re trying to juggle, you’ll start enjoying your time with your kids more and you’ll be able to recognize and utilize your pockets of free time. Sometimes you have to put your art on the back burner and take care of your kids while they need you. Baby and toddlerhood is a temporary condition, mommas, remember that. They’ll all be in school soon, right? And we’ll have a few hours every day in which to get to know ourselves again. Eyes on the prize, ladies…eyes on the prize.

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If you’re an artist or writer with little ones, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is the essential survival guide written just for you. Concrete strategies for becoming more creative without adding stress and guilt. Filled with the wisdom of 13 insightful creative mothers; written by a certified creativity coach and mother of five. “Highly recommended.” ~Eric Maisel. 35 pages/$11.98. Available for download here.

Annette: Creative Practice is Fertilizer for Your Soul

Editor’s Note: I’m delighted to introduce you to Annette Varoli, a smart and talented creative mother who I connected with during Jennifer Lee’s Right-Brain Business Plan course last year. Annette is the real deal. When Annette recently told me that she had firmly committed to a daily creative practice — and that her practice was life-changing — I asked her to share her journey with Studio Mothers readers. Enjoy.

Annette Varoli: I am the proud momma of 6-year old girl, I’ve been married 11 years to a guy who is a modern day “MacGyver” and I’m in love with my cat, Coco. I’ve lived half my life in New York and recently returned to my birth state of Maryland but I love traveling, having been to over 100 cities in 20 countries. I am the artist of my life. My mission is to live my life in FULL color and inspire others to do the same. This has taken the form of architect, project manager, and holistic health coach to name a few. Currently, I’m a budding entrepreneur, exploring the next best fit for my creative expression. Three themes that have run through the course of my lifetime: making heart-to-heart connections, the creative arts, and abundance. This is what inspired my new blog. Check it out!


Fertilizer for Your Soul

Recently, my six-year-old has been asking me to keep her company in the bathroom, specifically for “number 2’s” — and not just for the wiping part.

Although I don’t particularly enjoy the aroma, I know that this is the time of day where she either imparts deep wisdom or where she philosophizes about life, so I go willingly. I sit on the floor of the bathroom ready to listen to what my little Buddha will teach me each time.

Yesterday, she did not disappoint. She assumed her position on the throne and within a few seconds, she says in a voice that sounds like when you rave about your favorite dessert, “Mommy, why does pooping feel soooo good? It just feels sooooo good. Why is that?” Her angelic face alternating between an inquisitive look and a squinching one, whenever she unloads her bowels.

She’s dead serious so I do my best to contain myself and say, “Well, sweetie, it’s because it’s a great release and a way for your body to get rid of the icky stuff… imagine if you couldn’t poop, then all of it would get STUCK inside you.”

That’s when it dawned on me that doing daily creative practice is like having healthy bowel movements… it just feels soooo good. It helps you get unstuck and feeling like yourself again. Like taking all the crap in your life and turning it into fertilizer for your soul!

I know this for a fact because over the past 15 weeks, I’ve been doing a daily creative practice and it has been life changing. Although most people know me to be a creative person, it feels like it took me a hundred years to arrive at this particular place in my life. One where I finally understand how essential regular creative practice is to my life, my success and personal happiness. But how did I get here one might ask? Allow me to share a bit of my creative journey.

Creativity Controlled

As a toddler, I got spanked for drawing on walls and climbing up on the bench so that I could play the keyboard (not before they took a photo for posterity like the one at right). My parents wanted clean walls and feared for my safety if I sat on the bench unsupervised. They meant well but that marked the beginning of my creativity being controlled.

Later in my early education, elective classes and extracurricular activities fed my creativity. I loved anything music and arts related.

However, I didn’t realize at the time that my creative pursuits were being filtered through my young, naive, brain. The one that bought into the idea that these activities were called extra or elective because they were outside of the normal curriculum, optional… in other words, “not really important.”

At the same time I was an academic, excelling in my normal subjects. Unfortunately, my achievement in what society deemed “serious subjects” led me to pick a major using only my head and not my heart. It was a decision based on this equation, “I’m good at math, science and art. What does that equal? ARCHITECTURE.”

With that decision, I entered my first semester in architectural school and quickly learned that they frowned on extracurricular activities, wanting the students to focus solely on architecture. Thinking I was taking a vow for creativity, I willingly followed the rules, not realizing that I was trading in my 18-year-old creative self for a creatively stifled 50-year-old.

My inner child decided to leave the building, while the school’s climate and a few misguided professors helped grow my inner critic.

Everything became very serious, very quickly. Ironically, all the creative passion that I threw into my portfolio which in fact, got me accepted into the college would be exactly what the school intentionally wanted to strip away. My passion for mixed media, vivid colors and freehand drawing was replaced with ink line drawings and white box models. Color was forbidden.

Once, I was getting a desk critique from a visiting professor, whose teaching style was unlike the majority at my school. He looked at my sketches and looked at me and then said, “You’re a young woman, why don’t you draw like one? Be more young and free in your drawings.”

The school had successfully controlled my creativity. I made drawings that finally fit the mold and yet I didn’t recognize myself in any of my drawings and neither had the visiting critic. I had failed at being myself but my true creative spirit didn’t leave me. She just ended up biding her time in once again “elective” classes, taking every type of dance class offered.

I’ll admit that architecture school allows more individual creativity in the latter part of your education, but by then for me, it felt too late. One of the only places that my authentic self overlapped in the architectural world was when a few students and I formed our own acapella group and sang at architecture events.

My education culminated in me on stage at the graduation ceremony singing “Blackbird.” I had partied a little too much the night before drowning my sorrows in disbelief that my education didn’t feel more fulfilling. The next morning, I actually woke up without my voice and barely squawked out, “Blackbird singing in the dead of night… take these broken wings and learn to fly… You were only waiting for this moment to be free.”

I don’t think the universe could have sent me a clearer sign that my creativity was stifled. Read more

Christine: Creative Frustrations

Oh, look! The kids are busy playing, the chores are done for the moment, and I don’t need to start dinner yet…I think I’ll grab a few minutes and start working on something from my sketchbook. Out I go to the workshop and I get out my tools and my materials and start working away at this idea, the one that’s been burning a hole in my brain for the past week! It’s going to be great! I can see the finished piece already!

It’s all going so well, and then….it’s not. I fumble a piece of copper coated with enamel and drop it on the floor, I smash my thumb with a hammer, and then lose the teeny tiny rivet I was trying to tap into place. I break a saw blade, and realize I cut out the wrong size shape and punched too large of a hole in it.

The errors and injuries increase and are compounded the harder I work. I know the kids are happily playing, but I know it won’t stay that way for hours, and I’m running out of time. I feel like screaming, or throwing something (always a bad idea in the workshop), and I can feel my agitation level rise.

GAH! Why does this happen? For me, any number of reasons. To begin with, one of the things I struggle with from time to time is claiming my “artist-ness”; that is, allowing myself to really believe that I am an artist, that I have talent and skill, and that what I can do really is unique. Whenever I am in a position of feeling less than confident, this old monster rears its ugly head. And I have to firmly shush it. Read more

Kelly: Disappointments and Moving Forward


Those Brave Girls…I tell ya, sometimes they really hit the nail on the head. Remember my Surrendering My Superpowers post? Where I told you I was applying for a full-time faculty position? I was a finalist for that faculty position, and I was really hopeful; I felt really good about my chances. Well, I had my final interview with our campus president on Tuesday. This morning, I learned that I was not her choice. Disappointed? Most certainly. Grateful that I still have a job I enjoy anyway? Definitely. When I got back to my office after meeting with the dean this morning, just trying to wrap my head around the fact that I would still be sitting at the same desk when Fall term starts, I tried to come out of the fog by absentmindedly checking my email. And here was my Daily Truth from the Brave Girls Club:

Dear Fantastic Girl,

Just when you think you have things figured out, even in ONE part of your life….life throws you a curveball.

This is a place where you have a wonderful opportunity…many wonderful opportunities, actually. You get to decide right here, right now…what you will do next. You get to test those amazing skills you’ve been learning about concerning the power of your choice.

You have several choices ahead of you when unexpected things happen. Read more

Kelly: Surrendering My Superpowers

One of the gazillion images I need to edit, this one captured in Virginia last month.

I had to meet with Olivia’s teacher yesterday morning regarding her reading grade. Livvie started out poorly this year, then made the A/B honor roll for the second and third quarters, and now has dropped back down as the school year is winding down. Ever feel completely powerless? Have a conversation with your second-grader’s teacher about her failing reading grade.

We talked through why this might be happening. After all, she did make the A/B honor roll for two quarters! I think with Olivia, it’s all about concentration, or lack thereof (something she, unfortunately, probably gets from me). Ms. G said that lately she’ll race through her reading comprehension quizzes and just circle random answers, seemingly without giving any thought to what the correct answer might be. She’s one of the first to turn in her quizzes. We asked Livvie about this at home, and she said that when she sees other classmates start to turn their quizzes in, she feels like she needs to hurry up and finish and turn hers in, even though these quizzes are not timed. Wow, ever feel like you are trying to keep up with everyone around you when you really don’t need to? I know I could learn from that lesson. Food for thought there… I asked Ms. G to send home several sample quizzes so I could work with Livvie on them over the long holiday weekend and try to get her grade back up. Her reading skills are fine. She’s reading above grade level. It’s just the patience it takes to actually complete the quizzes that she’s struggling with. I also need to help her realize that she is a wonderfully beautiful individual and doesn’t need to compare herself to her twin sister.

I do often feel powerless when it comes to trying to do what’s best for my children. Sounds crazy, maybe, but that’s how it hits me at times. I’m not home for homework time. Most of the academic year, I get home about 6pm Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and 9pm on Tuesdays. Fridays are my only decent days since I can usually get home by 4pm.  DH picks the girls up from school about 4pm and does homework with them when they get home, so by the time I get home, it’s time for dinner, baths, snuggling, a little reading, and bedtime. DH is great with helping them with their math, but he admits he struggles helping them with their reading and writing. And those are my strong points! That’s where I can and really should be helping them! It all comes down to time.

And that’s also where I’ve been feeling powerless lately and am trying to find ways to make some major changes. Overall I think I’m at a point in my life where, though I’d love to be working on my creative endeavors more, there simply isn’t much spare time most of the year. And I have to tell ya, if I hear one more person tell me “Oh, you make time for what’s important to you,” I think my head will pop off. You can’t create more time, so, no, you often can’t make more time for what’s important to you without something that’s just as important suffering. That’s where reality kicks in. “Find some time after the girls go to bed!” others have told me. My girls go to bed between 8:30pm and 9pm. I can’t give up sleep due to my balance disorder. It’s crucial that I get at least eight to nine hours of sleep a night or my spins pick up. My dizzy meds work to reset my balance while I’m sleeping, so that sleep is ultra-important. I have to get up at 5:30am or 6am, so that means my bedtime is typically about 9pm.

But there are changes I can make, and that’s what I’m working on. Read more

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