Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘kids’

How She Does It: Meet Jane Gilheaney Barry

Jane Gilheaney Barry is a writer, creativist, and curator of the lifestyle and creativity blog That Curious Love of Green. She is seeking representation for her first novel, a modern gothic tale, Cailleach, and editing her creativity book, A Complete Coming Out Guide For Creatives In Hiding, due for publication this year. Jane lives in Co. Leitrim in the North West of Ireland with her husband and children. You’re going to enjoy this bolt of inspiration from Ireland.


At Home with Jane Barry

SM: Please introduce yourself and your family, Jane!
JB: I’m a writer, creativist, and curator of the lifestyle and creativity blog That Curious Love of Green. I live in the North West of Ireland with my husband Adrian, our children Shaylyn, Saoirse, and Sadhbh, and our cat Ernest Hemingway.

SM: Tell us about your artwork/creative endeavors.
JB: I’ve always been what you’d call highly creative but a few years ago I became deliberate with it and that changed everything.

creativity book cover

I started the blog and within a year started writing my first novel, a modern gothic tale Cailleach, meaning witch, hag, or goddess. Since then I’ve taught myself to paint and written the first in a series of e-books on themes of creativity, food, and home. That Curious Love of Green: A Complete Coming Out Guide for Creatives in Hiding will be available for pre-order on Amazon in October.

SM: What goals do you have for your art? How would you define your “life’s work”?
JB: My goal is to be the best writer I can be and right now, to bring my books to publication. I’m trying the traditional route first with my novel and self-publishing my creativity e-book in October. My life’s work is to create, write, challenge, and inspire.

SM: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
JB: I don’t think it has. What I will say is I have an opportunity to impart a certain spirit to my children which might have been lost had I not embraced my own creativity. I’m certainly conscious of and grateful for that.

SM: Where do you do your creative work?
JB: It used to be wherever was cool, or warm, convenient, or quiet. For a short time I had a room of my own; that’s now a child’s bedroom. My current mode is wanderess. I create a space — right now it’s in the eaves of our bedroom — that moves according to the season. I find it helpful to have a dedicated space, but the stimulation of change is also important to me.

SM: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
JB: Yes. I’d never have finished the books otherwise. It’s too hard, even when you love it. You have to create a habit. Since our youngest started school I spend two to six hours a day, five days a week. It was more difficult when they were babies. While writing the first draft of my novel I was getting up daily at 5:00 am to get the hours in before Adrian left for work. But I’m always creating, thinking, or talking projects to myself, the children, and Adrian. All day, every day of my life.

SM: What does creative success mean to you?
JB: For 39 years I dreamed of a writing life, a freer, more creative life. I only had one thing on my bucket list, and that was to write a book. And I knew I wanted to paint. At the point when I started the blog I felt blocked from all these things, from even the most basic of creative writing. I had no background, no training, no frame of reference. I thought this kind of life belonged to other people, “artist types.” I could not have been more wrong. That this is my life now, that I had the power to create it, I believe everyone does, and the democracy of it all. That is creative, is life success, for me. Plus I’ve learned how to slay creative blocks, that’s a success in itself.

Jane_Gilheany_Barry

SM: What makes you feel successful as a mother?
JB:
My eldest girl will be 22 this December. And when I look at her I feel successful, so, fingers crossed for the next two. We had an art day yesterday with everyone sitting around the table writing, painting, and working on various projects. At different times both small girls headed outside, “for inspiration,” they told me. That felt good. I think I will feel successful enough if they can be themselves, think for themselves, and do what they want to do.

SM: What do you struggle with most?
JB: Protecting myself has been a learning curve; my time and energy. And rest. My tendency is to not rest or take care of myself, because I’d rather just work. Which is a way of taking care of myself. But not enough. I’ve improved, but I need to do more for my physical self.

SM: What inspires you?
JB: Everything inspires me, nothing is wasted, nothing is lost. High on my list is colour, nature, beauty, women, houses, weather, wild landscapes, creativity, thinking, and sibling relationships.

SM: What do you want your life to look like in 10 years?
JB: Not very different to how it looks now. More books I should think. And when my ship comes in to winter abroad; now that would be nice.

SM: What are you reading right now?
JB: My novel writing style has been compared to Daphne du Maurier. In my shock and delight I’m currently reading everything by her. Next on my list is Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner because I love witches, women, rebels, and irreverence.

SM: What are your top 5 favorite blogs/online resources?

SM: What do you wish you’d known a decade ago?
JB: How wonderful life was going to be.

SM: What advice would you offer to other artists/writers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
JB: Look at your day critically and see what, even small changes, you can make to support your creativity. We get so caught up in habits, routine, and with a set script for our days that we don’t make improvements. You have to become really conscious and solutions focused. Also, when planning your day schedule your creativity first. Everything else gets done anyway. Trust the process and put your faith in the work. All the answers are there. The answers to fear, doubt, worry, frustration. Just prioritise and do the work. The tendency is to focus on problems, on outcomes, and what people think, but the joy of your life is the work itself. It’s hard when children are small but every little bit you do adds up. So don’t wait. If it’s important to you you’ll find a way.

::::::

Connect with Jane here:

Ingrid: When Sugar and Creativity Collide

Editor’s note: Ingrid Kirkegaard is a writer and independent consultant specializing in education. The mother of two, she lives in North London and blogs at Dutch Courage. Try not to be intimidated by the fact that Ingrid studied French and Dutch literature at Cambridge University, graduating with a First, and then wrote her doctorate at Oxford University, among other academic accomplishments. Some weeks ago, Ingrid shared a few interesting tidbits on a Monday Post, and I asked her to expand on her ideas. Don’t miss the free template of Ingrid’s log that you can download and adapt to your own needs at the end of this post!


Ingrid Kirkegaard“I will get up at 6:00 am and do one task towards my book.” This sounds like detention, but in fact it’s setting an intention.

I am a writer. Here’s the record. There’s stuff I published as an academic. Then there’s an abandoned academic book; an abandoned novel; and now the attempt to finish another nonfiction book. I have been working on it for four and a half years.

I can give all the usual reasons for my failure to complete — mortgage, children, day job(s), international relocation. They’re pretty big, and there’s no question they soak up my time — but they are not the real reasons I have struggled for so long with writing.

Unfortunately for me, I am a perfectionist and a procrastinator. There is little to be proud of in these qualities. The public manifestation of them is that, unless there is a deadline, I cannot produce. The private hell is that I believe that what I produce is worthless.

It’s like standing up in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, confessing that out loud. So I might as well go the whole hog.

For me, there is a third dimension. The amount of sugar I consume is a direct index of my perfectionism and procrastination. I eat sugar, even though I know it’s bad for me, because I know it’s bad for me, when I do not know what to do next. Giving up sugar would mean… having to be honest with myself, facing the pain, and doing something about it.

Work space

Work area #1: My desk belonged to my mother and father, and was one of the first items they bought when they got together in Holland in the 1960s. It doesn’t fit into our small house, but I cannot bear to part with it!

But this feels impossible, so I have found another, kinder, way. Enter — The Sugar Log.

When I went on holiday this summer, I decided to aim for three things: to go cold turkey on sugar for that week; to write for an hour early every morning; and to maintain a log.

To my absolute amazement, I managed to do the writing and stay off the sugar — even though the family wafted ice cream and biscuits under my nose. Keeping that log really helped me. It had several columns: I set out a writing task; the date; what went well/what didn’t and why; next steps; writing notes; and a sugar confessional. When I’d finished writing for the day, I set the task for the next day.

The idea of keeping a reflections log wasn’t new to me, but what made me try it for myself was seeing someone elses. It was the amazing intimacy of reading another person’s very rough thoughts about her own work, all neatly compartmentalized in spreadsheet columns, that I found inspiring. I could see at a glance the way her thinking had progressed over time; it really helped me to see that she kept her daily goals very small; and it really, really helped me to see that her doubts and confusions were the same as mine — but contained.

Since coming back from holiday, I’ve kept the log and the cold turkey going. I can see now that it’s possible to stay (mainly) off the sweet stuff, and not to panic, even if I can’t work for that crucial hour first thing. If I fall off the wagon and munch on chocolate, it is also not the end of the world. Because I can still set my intention and try again.

Work space

Work space #2: Our lovely dining table, with its very sensible oilcloth covering. I love that tablecloth!

The log is different from my to do list and my online calendar, which sustain the grind of domestic life. The log is about my working process, and holding myself to account.

And even taking a little pleasure in the process.

I’ve noticed I am calmer, even though I’m hugely busy at the moment. Spelling out what’s going on defuses all the pressure. Keeping it to myself means I deal with that pressure without leaning on others. The log is like a daily postcard to myself — not too detailed, but a little bit of kindly attention being paid to my mental processes.

This is a little turning point on the long road I’ve been on since becoming a mother and stopping being a professional academic. It is a road that has involved working to excess, falling into depression, learning how to dance, falling in love with yoga, and gradually, gradually understanding Marcel Proust’s crucial insight, that we are embodied creatures caught in time. What we get done is what we get done in time. Perfection has nothing to do with it.

A screen shot of Ingrid’s Work Log appears below (click on the image for a more readable view). For a free Excel template of her log that you can adapt to your own preferences download this file: The Sugar Log. Many thanks, Ingrid!

How about you? Do you find a connection between your consumption of sugar and your creative output? Share with us in the comments!

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 00.36.08

Think you don’t have time for a daily creative practice? Think again

Rick DaddarioEditor’s note: Last December, we received a thought-provoking set of comments on a Monday Post from reader Rick Daddario. Rick, an artist based in Hawaii, had a lot of useful and inspiring things to say about maintaining a daily creative practice. With Rick’s permission, I’m reposting his remarks here. I think you’ll find several gems among these wise words; recommended reading.

timeI agree enthusiastically with the idea of creating daily. I know personally for me when I do not create for a day or two I begin to feel quite “off” in many ways. That can lead to a downward spiral for me. So I find a way to create every day. Writing, taking photographs, working with digital technology or traditional materials — it all counts for me.

I’ve also learned that my day works best if I follow patterns. I’m not die-hard about my patterns, though. It’s easy to shift them on one day when needed and they evolve over time too allow me to fit in the things I need to do around my creating rather than my creating around what I need to do.

As a pattern, I find a way to work with my digital technology each day even though I do not post every day necessarily.

When I decide to get into the traditional materials I find that daily practice is extremely important as well. Sometimes I need to start out slow: 5-minute drawings; 15- to 30-minute paintings. After a few days to a week of this it’s hard to stop at 5 minutes or half an hour and I let my times increase as needed.

Scheduling time is a good way to commit yourself to a practice. Although I’ve found I’m quite contrary and tend to push my times around as needed. I know if I say I will do something to myself I often do the opposite. The doing is what is important however, and I find a way to do my art even if I have to stay up an extra half hour to an hour before sleeping. Yes, I will work tired if that is how I have to get my time in.

Some other ways I’ve heard that work for people and I’ve tried and found fun:

  • When I’m clearing the table after breakfast say, as one of my jobs, I will daily do a sketch of the breakfast table (or one item on it or any part of it) just as I’ve left it before clearing it. It’s a way for me to allow myself the time to draw. I have to draw before I do the dishes or I lose my visual. I may set a timer if I need to limit my time but the commitment to drawing that table or any part of it gives me the permission to sit and draw BEFORE I do the dishes. Way fun on that. This kind of practice can be used with any task, per the bullets below.
  • Shopping: Draw/photograph the shopping bags before you put everything away (maybe the milk and frozen items can go in the fridge and then I draw). You can take an item or two out to draw too. Still life with packages, bottles, cans, or fresh veggies/fruits.
  • Weeding: Draw/photograph the tools before you weed (after, I’m usually a bit dusty mucky).
  • Gardening, as in watering and general: A bouquet of flowers or the veggies/fruit etc. that you pick are great subjects.
  • Laundry: The pile of clothes. Or clothes hug up to dry. Or folded.
  • Kids’ toys: One a day. Or as they lay. Or as they look put away.
  • Seasonal: Gift wrapping: before, during, or after wrapping a present.

When it’s writing rather than drawing/painting/photos that I’m after the same practice can work. Write from the moments the items suggest themselves or the thoughts that come up while you were working. Write of that moment or something those items bring up in a memory, or fantasize. . . .

I’m sure you get the idea.

Once I make creating part of my daily life it’s like any other job or chore I have to do. My day is not done until I do it. And if it’s fun, I’ll want to do it again. So I do what is fun for me. I play with line, or light, or shapes, or color etc. If it’s writing, I may play with writing forms, or shotgun writings, or 55-word short stories, etc. Way fun on that. And seasonal fun on all too.

I am passionate about creating daily. Even 5 minutes count — writing, drawing, or painting. 10 or 15 minutes even better. Just do it, though. That’s what what is important. Start. Just start and do it.

Don’t think you can draw/write something in 5 minutes?? Try this: Set a timer for 1 minute. See how much you can draw (or write on) something in 1 minute. When the timer goes off, click it and start on a new page again on the same thing. Again when the timer goes off, click it and repeat the process until you have 5 drawings (or 5 sentences or observations in words). Try to push yourself to get more down each time. The light, the shape edges, the lines. Now set the timer for 5 minutes and see how much you can get down. That’s a total of 10 minutes — but once you understand that you actually can get the entire thing down in some way in 5 minutes you can do this with anything and take only 5 minutes (or 10 when you have it).

We all have hurry-up-and-wait times. The doctor’s office, picking up a child from school or play time, the bus stop (local and long distance), car pool, train and plane ports. Bring your pencil and pad (hard back, double wired, small like 6 x 6 is my preference — or my iPad with drawing apps) and sketch/draw/write for 5 minutes.

Sit in the car and draw before you go in to shop, a hair appointment, the dentist, the visit with a friend. Or even on your way to work.

At one time I got so I’d leave 5 minutes early just so I could flip my pad open and draw. Then it was 15 minutes early to any activity and half an hour to 45 minutes early to work (at a photo lab). I could stop along the way or in the parking lot finding different views even there each day. Or sit on a bench or low wall on the walk to work.

Eventually I had to set a time when I stopped like this or I’d end up running over time and become late for my appointment or work — that happened once and I started the timer idea. Even then I’d push the timing, though.

It made my day to get a drawing in before work and then one after work that could be untimed. After work the drawing times were often shorter because I was tired. However, I felt a lot better for sitting and letting go in a drawing (or writing) for those few minutes.

Yeah, get me rambling along these lines and I reel out the things that are fun fun for me.

Aloha.

— Rick

Check out Rick’s work at his blog and his website. Thank you, Rick!

Meme of the Week

If you marry meme....

Happy Friday.

:::::

Making Creative Hay Outside

Enjoy this seasonal reprint from the archives!

If it’s summertime in your part of the world — or if you live in a mild climate and enjoy fair weather more often than not — think about using outside resources to your creative advantage. When younger kids are out of school, making outdoor time a regular part of your routine can yield many benefits. We often end up spending time indoors just because it seems easier than setting up camp outside. But don’t let the force of habit inhibit your summertime fun and creativity.

If you have a yard of your own, make the most of this bonus. If you have a fenced-off space — even a small one — so much the better. Many mothers are able to sit on a lawn chair and write, read, or sketch while their kids play safely nearby. You can peruse that stack of magazines you haven’t read yet — any reading material that is easy to put down as needed. Outdoor time is also a great opportunity to take photographs of your kids or the world around you.

To stack the odds in your favor, use this four-pronged approach to outdoor (and indoor) downtime:

  1. Make sure everyone is well fed, watered, and toileted.
  2. Spend some time totally focused on the kids.
  3. When the kids seem engaged or playing independently after having some Mommy face time, turn to your creative work.
  4. Try to remain flexible. There will be days when the kids don’t want you staring at a notebook for even 30 seconds, and there will be other days when they’re happily immersed in their own worlds for 30 minutes. Go with the flow.

If your inventory of outdoor toys seems insufficient, yard sales and consignment shops are great places to pick up a few more. You might also send an e-mail to friends with older children to ask if they have anything hiding in their garages or attics that they no longer want.

Many toddlers and young children love to play with water. Consider filling a small kiddie pool with a few inches of water and a bunch of bath or beach toys — often good for at least 30 minutes of interest. For other outdoor play activities, do a bit of google searching and jot down the ideas you like best.

Food always seems to be more fun outdoors, too. Whether it’s just a snack in the backyard or a full-on picnic basket in the middle of a field, eating outside makes everyone happy.

When you’re headed to the park and your kids are old enough to play safely without constant supervision and won’t walk in front of the swings, don’t forget to bring a notepad, sketchbook, or something else to spend time with while you keep one eye on the children. You may find that it’s worth going out of your way to visit a playground that is fully enclosed and is equipped with a good amount of safe climbing structures to keep your kids entertained.

While you don’t want your kids to feel like you’re constantly on standby, waiting to bolt off to your own thing, you do want to be prepared to squeeze in some creative work when the opportunity arises. Over time, you’ll find the middle way that feels best for your and your family.

What works for you? Share your experience!

The Artist at Work: Do You Welcome the Family, or Bar the Door?

The Daily WriterI enjoy starting my daily morning writing practice by reading a page in Fred White’s daybook The Daily Writer: 366 Meditations to Cultivate a Productive and Meaningful Writing Life. Today’s entry was particularly relevant to our scope here at Studio Mothers, whatever your medium. Here’s the excerpt:

August 30: Dealing with Family Interference

Writers mostly work at home, and that can pose a problem, especially if the writer has children. To ensure against quarrels or having the kids or the spouse feel neglected, the writer in the family needs to negotiate (not mandate like some dictator) ground rules. Another approach is to open your study to the kids. Introduce them to your work, explain your project to them in ways they’ll both understand and appreciate. You might even invite them to hang around and watch you working (about as unexciting as can be imagined for most children); it makes them feel more a part of you and gain more of an internal understanding of why you need to work uninterrupted. The opposite approach, making your study off limits, giving it the impression of being The Forbidden Zone, might prove just as effective superficially, but doesn’t do much to foster family togetherness.

Perhaps the best way to handle family interference is to let them interfere in the sense of making them feel welcome in your inner sanctum. There’s a memorable photograph of JFK at work in the Oval Office with four-year-old John-John frolicking at his feet. Children can better intuit how best to behave around a working parent once they feel that they’re included rather than excluded.

How about you? Do you include your children and/or your spouse in your creative work? What’s best for you and your family?

Making Creative Hay Outside

During August, I’ll be sharing a few choice tidbits from the archives. Enjoy!

If it’s summertime in your part of the world — or if you live in a mild climate and enjoy fair weather more often than not — think about using outside resources to your creative advantage. When younger kids are out of school, making outdoor time a regular part of your routine can yield many benefits. We often end up spending time indoors just because it seems easier than setting up camp outside. But don’t let the force of habit inhibit your summertime fun and creativity.

If you have a yard of your own, make the most of this bonus. If you have a fenced-off space — even a small one — so much the better. Many mothers are able to sit on a lawn chair and write, read, or sketch while their kids play safely nearby. You can peruse that stack of magazines you haven’t read yet — any reading material that is easy to put down as needed. Outdoor time is also a great opportunity to take photographs of your kids or the world around you.

To stack the odds in your favor, use this four-pronged approach to outdoor (and indoor) downtime:

  1. Make sure everyone is well fed, watered, and toileted.
  2. Spend some time totally focused on the kids.
  3. When the kids seem engaged or playing independently after having some Mommy face time, turn to your creative work.
  4. Try to remain flexible. There will be days when the kids don’t want you staring at a notebook for even 30 seconds, and there will be other days when they’re happily immersed in their own worlds for 30 minutes. Go with the flow.

If your inventory of outdoor toys seems insufficient, yard sales and consignment shops are great places to pick up a few more. You might also send an e-mail to friends with older children to ask if they have anything hiding in their garages or attics that they no longer want.

Many toddlers and young children love to play with water. Consider filling a small kiddie pool with a few inches of water and a bunch of bath or beach toys ~ often good for at least 30 minutes of interest. For other outdoor play activities, do a bit of google searching and jot down the ideas you like best.

Food always seems to be more fun outdoors, too. Whether it’s just a snack in the backyard or a full-on picknick basket in the middle of a field, eating outside makes everyone happy.

When you’re headed to the park and your kids are old enough to play safely without constant supervision and won’t walk in front of the swings, don’t forget to bring a notepad, sketchbook, or something else to spend time with while you keep one eye on the children. You may find that it’s worth going out of your way to visit a playground that is fully enclosed and is equipped with a good amount of safe climbing structures to keep your kids entertained.

While you don’t want your kids to feel like you’re constantly on standby, waiting to bolt off to your own thing, you do want to be prepared to squeeze in some creative work when the opportunity arises. Over time, you’ll find the middle way that feels best for your and your family.

What works for you? Share your experience!

%d bloggers like this: