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Pages of Wisdom: Suzi Banks Baum

Suzi Banks Baum, 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 Suzi’s blog, Laundry Line Divine, add it to your roster of regular reading, pronto. What follows is the gift of Suzi’s words as taken directly from the e-book. Enjoy!

When our son Ben was born, I was ready to simply focus on having a child. Prior to my pregnancy, I was pursuing my acting career and running a custom-made clothing business from our studio apartment. I would swipe away the fabric scraps to write every morning, then polish a monologue in the same space where we ate, lived, and carried on our married life. Adding Ben to the mix in that small space made it nearly impossible for me to do anything but care for him. I left off auditioning and doing readings completely. I wrote every morning. And, happily, had not much attention for anything else.

My husband Jonathan, from the first days of Ben’s life, made sure I took time to write. Journal keeping was my lifeline through the early years of mothering. If I did nothing else for myself, I wrote for 45 minutes. Jonathan’s support made it possible for me to keep those thin tethers to my private thoughts supple and alive. Without him, I might have grown resentful of the time I devoted to mothering.

I kept sewing small projects I knew I could do with a long deadline. And the most important thing I did was learn to knit. My best friend teases me to this day about her first visit to us when Ben was 5 months old. She would hold Ben and play with him and I would keep telling her, “Just let me finish this row.” Up to that point, knitting was one fiber art I had not studied. I leapt in fully and became an accomplished knitter. And I learned other creative things I could do with a child around me, like preserving, gardening, and other needlework.

The most specific mindset is to find things you can do in stages. Try projects — and this may be a new way of working as an artist — but do things that you can put down and pick up again a day or a week later. The newborn and baby years are not the time to start your master’s degree or commit to an engagement with immoveable deadlines.

My biggest piece of advice is this (and I know how hard this is to accept): During the early years of your kids’ lives, let yourself off the hook. Don’t try to accomplish so much that you make yourself nuts. As a new mom, you are susceptible to massive self-doubt. You will double your grief by holding yourself to standards you kept pre-baby. Just take a break. Nap. Dream. Navigate these waters of motherhood knowing that things will change.

As kindly and well as you care for your child’s needs, turn that same attention on yourself. Nap, feed, and clothe yourself with the same amount of care. Schedule art dates for yourself just as you schedule play times for your children. Choose your friends wisely. Spend time with mothers who are living as you’d like to live. Find common ground and dwell with them there.

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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/$5.99. Available for download here.

Suzi: What Was I Thinking? The Birth of an Anthology of Motherhood

I’m thrilled and honored to be the first blog to publish this piece! Suzi Banks Baum, writer, artist, and blogger, recently released a book that belongs in the hands of every creative mother: An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. (Suzi’s wisdom also appears in my e-book The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years, so you may have already met her in those pages — or here at Studio Mothers.) In the piece below, Suzi shares the journey that resulted in her book, addressing the doubts, obstacles, and beauty that accompany the creation of anything worthwhile. Savor Suzi’s words, and please consider supporting her work by acquiring a copy of the book.


An Anthology of Babes

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. To put our art, our writing, our photographs, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation — that’s also vulnerability.”
—Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

Vulnerable is exactly how I felt when I invited 35 women to jump into the freezing-cold waters of public opinion and share themselves and their perspectives on living lives pumped full with creativity in Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice. At that point I knew wanted to put my words and images out in to the world, but publishing a book? Being that public terrified me. So, I figured I’d rather have some co-conspirators.

Years before, I had started writing my own stories about how I spent my days as a mother, what caught my attention internally, and how I righted the boat of my serenity over and over again with small creative acts. I wrote never thinking anyone but a few close friends would read these stories. I was just writing. But in April 2009, I dared to title the writing Laundry Line Divine: A Wild Soul Book for Mothers. At a writing conference, I spoke to a literary agent about the work, wondering if there was interest in the world beyond my sphere for a book about how I raised myself as I raised my children. (Please note elevator pitch in the last sentence. “Can I describe my book in 10 words or fewer?”)

Standing before a literary agent is much like any other moment in life when you are Dorothy at the feet of the Wizard. “Is there anything in your bag for me?” “Could there be another human aside from my best friends who might be interested in my writing?” Standing there, knees clattering (and go ahead, tell me I was supposed to own my brilliance, stand for all mothers, flirt with the agent, shine shine shine), palms slick with sweat, lips dry, eyes blurring, I learned I was to go home and build my author platform. “Come back when you’ve built that,” said the agent.

An author platform is not something you need wood for. For an author platform you need a website and something to say. Then, just like the newsboys out on the corner hawking the latest headlines, hopefully someone will stop and read your words. Perhaps they will follow your blog and become part of what I have come to understand is my “tribe.”

With help, I built the website. I studied social media, which until that point I barely knew. Read more

The True Genius of Mothers

The piece below originally appeared in this month’s Creative Times newsletter.

By Suzi Banks Baum

frost doodleI strive for One Thing Only. But I was not doing one thing only last week at my 18-year-old’s ski race. I’m not sure exactly what I was doing when I left the sidelines and accepted my son’s invitation to step onto the back of his skis for a “little ride” down the mountain. He’d just fallen during his ski race — not badly, but a fall that disqualified him. I wanted to be near him, just to make sure he was okay. That was one thing.

The other thing, the idea of a “little ride,” is what gave me a black eye.

That ride on the slick skis of a slalom racer landed me face-first in the icy snow on the downward slope of a small mountain in the frigid evening air, where I never would have ended up if I’d listened to my inner guidance and stayed home to make soup, but I did not heed that thought, no, there I was on the slopes to cheer. (Something of the crowd’s response told me that cheering is just not done at races. Maybe that is why my boy fell?)

Well. I yelled anyway. I believe in my kids knowing they are being seen.

But I did not yell when I fell.

8452838039_db8de2fe8b_mNo, headfirst in the snow, then sitting up with my cold hand pressed to my hot cheek, I silently beheld the egg blooming under my skin. Now, doing one simple thing, but holding about 10 other thoughts in my mind. “Is anything broken? Why did I listen to my kid? Argh, he makes me nuts! Oh, but he fell too. How is he? Hurt? Embarrassed? Do I need an EMT? What about dinner now? I hate dinner! Will I be able to teach this weekend?”

This morning, I read: “True genius is the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts simultaneously without losing your mind.” Charles Baudelaire wrote that. I’d say he was describing the genius of mother-thoughts entirely.

Some days, I ace thinking one thing at a time. Quiet prevails, the phone is ignored, the Wi-Fi is off, and the laundry dries peacefully on the line, no one needs me, no one is hollering my name from another part of the house, no meal awaits creation, no ski race demands my yelling, just me. Here. With you, the little black tendrils that I coax into letters that make these words that give form to my thoughts.

It is a simple as that.

8348911559_0c808ed79c_mWhen I have been multi-tasking too much, I doodle to settle myself. Then, with my concentration engaged, I can write.

One little black thread of a line leads to another.

And of those thoughts, those layers and layers of mother-thoughts, I work around them, never truly shedding them, but today, I can see they are part of my genius.

Merci, Monsieur Baudelaire. Now please pass the ice pack.

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suzi_banks_baumGrowing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan made author, blogger, artist, and fulltime mom Suzi Banks Baum a lover of winter. Not afraid of the blank page, blank canvas, or wide expanse of snow, she makes patterns and trails, worlds and visions with her work. Suzi is about to launch an anthology of writings by women on mothering and creativity entitled An Anthology of Babes: Thirty-six Women Give Motherhood a Voice. The book will be sold at her March 1, 2013 event for the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers called Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others. You can find Suzi at  Laundry Line Divine or at the 10X10on10 Arts Festival in Pittsfield, MA, this month or better yet, out ice-skating.

New e-book short! The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years

I’m just a wee bit excited to unveil my new e-book short, The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years. This e-book is the culmination of many years of work, research, and personal interviews. I am so pleased to share this project with you!

When a creative woman has a child, her universe shifts. How to maintain — or begin — a creative practice while caring for a little one? Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is your indispensable guide to navigating the early years of motherhood.

  • Written by a certified creativity coach and mother of five
  • Filled with the first-hand experience and wisdom of 13 artists and writers
  • Specific, concrete strategies for being more creative without adding more guilt and “shoulds” to your already overflowing plate

When you have young children, what you don’t have is time. This 35-page e-book short gives you the information and tools that you need, quickly. Six Creative Practices for the Early Years is a resource that you’ll refer to for inspiration and support again and again. It might be the best tool you download this year! It will certainly the best value you’ll get out of $11.98. Click here to order and download. You can also check out a free sample page here.

Thirteen generous, talented creative mothers share their experience and tested strategies:

A few words of praise:

“Miranda Hersey explains how you can keep your creative life vibrant while you parent your young children. Your creativity doesn’t have to be sacrificed while you parent! Miranda tells you exactly what you need to know to keep your creative life alive. Highly recommended.” ~Eric Maisel, Author of Coaching the Artist Within and Fearless Creating

“Becoming a mother can feel as if you have lost yourself deep under nurturing others and meeting their needs. If you’ve also lost view of the way to creative expression, the place you were most yourself, real grief may temper the joy of falling in love with a baby and raising children. When Miranda Hersey encountered that particular reality of motherhood, she asked other writers and artists, women for whom creativity is food, how they managed. She distilled their wise and practical answers into six do-able practices that restore your creative life and make space amid the toys and laundry for you. Those conversations and Miranda’s own experience as a writer and mother of five reveal the best secret of all: when creativity can be merged with mothering, they enhance and expand each other in wonderful, unexpected ways.” ~Gale Pryor, Author, Nursing Mother, Working Mother: The Essential Guide for Staying Close to Your Baby After Returning to Work

“In Six Creative Practices for the Early Years, Miranda Herseyrallies her readers into a band of sisters, united by the challenges we share. Drawing on her own experiences, and the wisdom of 13 practicing artists and writers, Hersey invites us to embrace motherhood and creativity as related, cross-pollinating endeavors. Simple, proven practices lay out a formula for success, encouraging us to reexamine our creativity with openness and generosity. With engaging, frequently humorous, narration, Hersey is the voice in our ear, the friend by our side, nudging us to discover those hidden pockets of time and inspiration and the courage to use them to sustain our creative lives. The lessons in this marvelous volume will be with me for years to come!”  ~Susan Edwards Richmond, Poet

“When my twins were babies, I relied on a stack of dog-eared parenting books, flipping through them whenever I needed encouragement, and concrete advice. As a mother who needed to create in order to feel truly alive, I would have added The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Creative Practices for the Early Years to that library in a heartbeat. Miranda Hersey understands the realities of parenting young children, but gently challenges the reader to tap into the rich creative possibility that exists nonetheless. This is a book that creative mothers will return to again and again for reassurance, inspiration, and genuinely helpful practices.”  ~Ellen Olson-Brown, Author

Click here for a free sample page, and to order and download! And of course, if you like what you read, I’d be delighted if you could let your friends know about Six Creative Practices for the Early Years. Thank you!

What are we doing, anyway?

Inspired beauty from Suzi Banks Baum of Laundry Line Divine. Thank you, Suzi!

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