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Brittany: The Artiste at Work

I am finished with my novel.

I wrote down the words, but it hardly seems real. Probably because my critique group hasn’t had the chance to sink its teeth into my novel yet. Some revisions will still need to be made. But beyond that, I also feel a deep sense of melancholy about its completion. It, and Sam, were both conceived in November 2005. I have centered my life around them. They were my soul reason for being these last two, now almost three, years.

But now Sam is two, and going to preschool. The book is finished. John is here. Could I have a better reminder that time marches on?

I feel like, as a writer, I have been a neglectful mother. While I am holed away with my laptop searching for comma splices, my boys are growing bigger every day. I really should go live in the world I’m writing about, and bring them with me. Sometimes I feel such enormous guilt. Have I done what I set out to do? Do my boys love language, and reading, and art? Are they creative and open to possibilities? Do they see the world as magical and everyday objects as things to explore? I often wonder…

Yesterday, I got a yes.

I was nursing John. Just one side. Just for a minute. I knew I shouldn’t leave Sam to play unattended, but the baby did need to eat. I figured, what can he get into in just a couple of minutes?


I hear the word coming from the bathroom. I go to investigate. And this is what I found:

Sam had channeled Jackson Pollock and taken a half-full bottle of liquid soap and created a fabulous art display all over the bathroom vinyl. Then, he brought out his cars and furthered his artistic endeavors all over himself, the bathtub, and the bath mat. It was marvelous. It was horrifying. Like there are really enough hours in the day to clean up a mess of that magnitude?

I had to step back and look at it through his two-year-old eyes. What a thing of beauty is a bottle of soap? How easily it moves. How pretty it shines. You’ve got to hand it to the kid. He doesn’t lack for creativity.

And then I had an ephiphany. Maybe all that time I was fretting about being neglectful, it wasn’t really neglect at all. I was giving him space, and room to just be. What if I was actually a good role model, plugging away on my computer, creating my world of words, and leaving him to his exploration? Would Jackson Pollock have gotten anywhere if he wasn’t given time to experiment? Would I? Would anyone? Who knows, Sam may become an artist one day too, and for that I would gladly sacrifice a bath mat.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Cathy #

    very cool! artiste, indeed. i had a similar incident with K at about the same age with wood glue, on inset dining hutch in old boston (somerville) apt. ABSOLUTLEY, ALLOW HIM TO EXPLORE, BUT MAYBE PUT THE SOAP ON A HIGHER SHELF. 😉

    hhmmm.. those caps were unintentional, but appropriate.

    now my 2 guys are older, neither stops drawing or writing or combining the 2 for comics. 13yr old has several novels in progress on the pc. with better page counts than mine! and they both have excellent vocab and giant imaginations, i believe partially due to the similar neglect/example of creativity at work. so yes! you are doing well by example, i know the guilt, but don’t let it get to you. it does work out well later.

    September 15, 2008
  2. Cathy #

    i see too much of my face over on the right, but i wanted to add congratulations on finishing the novel!!!!

    it must be a bit bittersweet. but maybe you have a new’baby’ brewing to go along with john?

    i hope this doesn’t say something about your work process, and what it would mean for prolific output! (many years from now, there’s brittany, 10 award winning novels and as many kids, possibly covered in mud and glue)

    September 15, 2008
  3. *lol* Cathy, bite your tongue!

    September 15, 2008
  4. I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to say “I am finished with my novel.”

    Standing O, Brittany.

    And while your Sam scenario doesn’t quite compare with the Story of Doot (comment #3 here: it is wonderful to once again hear how centered you are when faced with creative “challenges” 🙂

    September 15, 2008
  5. Kristine #

    A Big Congratulations on finishing your novel, Brittany. That’s wonderful. I’m jealous!

    I found your story about Sam very funny. He does have that creative streak.

    The guilt is tough, but just think about what you are showing him by followiing your passion. Watching you create your art will no doubt encourage him to do the same, and that’s one of the best lessons we can teach our children.


    September 15, 2008
  6. Cathy #

    yay on the avatar, too! i was wondering what ever happened after your inquiry…

    September 15, 2008
  7. congrats on finishing your novel, brittany! and i love your perspective on the guilt/neglect and that very same neglect allowing for creative exploration! i hope the same for my girls…that simply by watching, and sometimes participating with me, they are learning and developing creatively little minds and ideas of their own. thanks for that reminder.

    September 15, 2008
  8. First things first… congrats on the novel. Having finished my first when my son turned 18 months (novel taking just as long to create), it is a feat to be able to write those words. And have paper to prove it! Take a bath, drink wine, do whatever it is you do to celebrate… you deserve it. A job well done!

    Now secondly… as much as you like the creative aspect, admit it, cleaning up that mess made you want to cringe right? 🙂 Believe me, I’ve been there. And I’ve also done the step back thing and it is much better. Especially when there is toothpaste all over the bathroom wall. And your son’s face. And lipstick on the…. oh you get the idea. We’ve been there.

    Congrats for the novel, AND for keeping your cook with the kiddos. No job is easy! 😉

    September 21, 2008

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