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Posts tagged ‘opportunity’

Busy? How Technology Can Save Your Creative Life

Marion Dooling is a real-life friend who creates enchanting digital art. After admiring her pieces on Instagram, I asked Marion to share her thoughts on the creative life, along with her wisdom as an empty-nester who has been through the trenches of raising children and has revived her creative life. Enjoy!


2013-02-26 11.48.14I’m sitting at home in the midst of a blizzard in an area that hardly gets snow. The weather forced me to cancel my workout plans. While we still have power, we have no WIFI because of a corporate mishap. I can’t access my art files in the cloud. I’m bored. And I can’t even watch Netflix to assuage my boredom. My laundry is half done, the kitty litter needs changing, and the bills are unpaid—but I’m unmotivated. I get stressed out when I feel like I can’t control my life or am off my routine.

I spent much of my active parenting days feeling this way. Like a blizzard of parenting had buried me and my creativity. How do you get back to creativity when the flow of life carries you through a blizzard of endless chores, appointments, obligations, meals, chauffeuring, and such?

The fact is, you can’t. Any creative life you may have had previous to children is gone. At least gone in the form you may remember. But not gone for good, just changed. It might be in moments, now, as opposed to in hours or days. But don’t despair: In this era, technology can help you fit creativity into those spare moments. A moment may come at 5:53 am, 9:28 pm, or midday naptime, or waiting for an oil change. These moments do exist—we just have to look for them and take advantage when they arrive.

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If you’re a parent, you’re inevitably already creative with your kids on a variety of levels. Don’t forget your own creativity in the mix. As a mother, I learned the hard way that it’s all too easy to forget ourselves and just become “Mom.” But we are more than that. I’m sure that if I had made the time for myself when my kids were young, I wouldn’t have become as depressed and isolated as I did.

Moments of Opportunity

When you find a pocket of time, do what you love. As active parents, we often want to take those free moments to eat popcorn and watch another episode of our latest binge. Especially if the kids are napping and you find a rare moment of solitude. But don’t. Instead, look outside: See the view. There are apps to help you write about it, draw it, edit it, film it, transform it, and then to share it. You will have a much better time doing that than holding the remote in one hand and a handful of popcorn in the other.

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I’m a digital artist, collager, and recent empty nester still trying to find my routine after the advent of some major life changes. I’m coming to realize that as much as I want it, routine is not all it’s cracked up to be. It can become monotonous, dull, and in a word….routine. Creativity is a lot of things for me, but it’s never been routine. Over the years I’ve had to learn to squeeze my creativity into the pockets of my life that remain unclaimed by partner, kids, pets, and life in general.

Technology Is Your Friend

I’m a lifelong photographer, paper and ephemera lover, and inveterate collector of everything from buttons to feathers to boxes to Pokémon. Today, technology allows me to create anywhere and in many different ways.

More and more I use my iPhone for pictures, along with a plethora of photo apps that enable me to do whatever I want to my photos. I have a flatbed scanner at home to digitize my paper collection and I splurged and subscribed to Adobe Suite, which allows me to access Photoshop on my phone and iPad—and more importantly, allows me to access Lightroom and ALL my digital resources stored in the cloud. It’s like having my laptop anywhere I go. I can create in bed, on an airplane, or in a vet’s office waiting for the doctor. It’s all there as long as I have an internet connection.

MATHMOUNTAINSMHSomeday Is Today

I started on this path many years ago as a scrapbooker, well before scrapbooking became what it is today. And if you think I’m going to tell you I scrapbooked my kids’ lives from birth to 18, you would be correct. I did. However, they were 16 and 22 when I started. So don’t be impressed or feel bad. It took determination and commitment and waiting for my kids to be grown.

Back when they were young, I didn’t think I had the time, the resources, or the energy to make good use of my time. I didn’t have today’s game-changing technology. Instead, I saved every scrap of paper from their early years through graduation (remember what I said about collecting?) with the idea that someday, I would have the time to create scrapbooks. Finally, about four years ago, someday arrived. In a way I was glad I’d waited. Scrapbooking had transformed into the magic of stickers, papers, and all sorts of delightful things. I spent a small fortune on these supplies, on top of the considerable cost of photo development.

And it was very slow going. After slogging through 7 months of daily work and effort the old-fashioned way, I discovered digital scrapbooking. I made my oldest daughter’s high school yearbook as a digital scrapbook and had it printed. I loved the process and the outcome.

daydreamMHMy discovery of digital scrapbooking set me on the path of digital collage, photo compositing, and figuring out what to do with all those photos of clouds, trees, and interesting patterns and light and pattern I’d taken over the years.

Digital Tools

Take advantage of the resources available online. Find your people, live in those pockets of time, and relish that nothing goes as planned. Today there are even more there are apps to record our children’s lives in the moment. There are apps to create montages, scrapbooks, days in the life, etc. It’s really only limited by what you want to create: Ali Edwards’s amazing One Little Word, Tangie Baxter’s amazing Art Journal Emporium, and many other great artists out there on YouTube and Vimeo all there to teach you a craft.

As a photographer, I rely primarily on Snapseed to edit my photos. When I create collages, I use Photoshop Mix and Photoshop Fix. To transform pictures into digital paintings, sketches, or distort them into something new, I use Glaze, Decim8, and iColorama. When I draw, I use Procreate.

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During the course of my daily life I keep an ongoing bullet journal (I call it that, but it’s really a Moleskine with to-do lists, ideas, reminders, and thoughts). I also keep pen and paper handy. I also use notes on my iPhone for everything from passwords to prices paid when I’m out thrifting for the Pokémon who have escaped my grips so far. Dropbox and Evernote sync across multiple apps. If you’re are a Mac person, Airdrop is your ally.

Pockets of time are your friend in a busy life full of obligations. Use them to develop or rediscover your innate creativity, whatever that may be, and you’ll find that those pockets of time become universes in and of themselves, opening new realities and discoveries.

Find Marion at Instagram.

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Painting in Between: Kim Rohrs

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Kim Rohrs

Kim Rohrs is a mixed-media artist and mother of two who, when faced with the challenges of raising a family, learned to adjust her working style in order to continue creating. Rather than feeling like she was just making do, Kim’s new process actually facilitated her success and led her to reframe possibility and outcome; skills that are serving her beautifully in the face of a difficult medical diagnosis. If you need a hand on your back — or a motivational kick on the rear — Kim’s story will have you rushing to your creative work, that pile of tired excuses left behind like last week’s dirty laundry.


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“Rock Slide,” by Kim Rohrs (24″x24″ acrylic on canvas)

My story begins fairly typically. In 2014, I was a stay-at-home mom to two incredible girls, ages four and one. We had busy lives full of playdates, errands, housework, and fun. But when my youngest daughter was almost two, I began to feel a sense of loss of my identity as an artist. I had not consistently made art since she was born. I was finding it difficult and frustrating to find any significant amount of time to build up my practice. On the rare occasion when I had over an hour to paint, I’d be frozen with doubt, anxious that this could be the only chance I’d have to make art for weeks. Inevitably, I would make nearly nothing and feel even more frustrated than when I started.

I finally decided that I was done with this cycle. I was done craving time to paint and then feeling too anxious to paint when I did have the time. Instead, I started looking at what I did have. I had small amounts of time here and there, and the times changed from day to day. I had the desire to have a brush in my hand. I had a creative voice that was ready to be heard.

Bursts of Opportunity

And so, I started with these positives and slowly developed a way to let these guide my work. I decided to put away the materials that required long set-up and clean-up times. I got out watercolors and ink pens, even though I never considered myself a watercolor artist, and painting with watercolors was not the end goal for me. I did know, however, that watercolors were the materials I needed to build the habit of painting because they are quick and easy to get out and put away. I usually paint in an abstract style and allow paintings to evolve over time and contemplation. Instead of this usual way of painting, I decided to find microscope slides and use these images as inspiration. That way, I could pick up my work, look at an image and get painting without much thought in deciding what to do next.

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“Enough for Everyone 2,” by Kim Rohrs (24″x24″ acrylic on canvas)

This method began to work well for me, and I was finding five-minute breaks in the day to grab a brush, put down a few colors, and walk away. I tried painting at the dinner table while my children ate snacks or played with Play-Doh. I painted while they were playing on their own. I even grabbed my brush while walking by my materials and just added a few colors while still standing at our cabinet where my materials sat. Sometimes it went great, sometimes it was a huge challenge. I tried waking up early to paint, or staying up late to paint. I learned that all of these habits served good purposes for me at different times. Enjoying the variety was a new skill I was building.

As I persisted, a shift began to happen. I began to see other times in my day when I could be painting, and because I always knew what I was painting next, these chunks of time became very productive for me. With the unwavering support of my husband, I very gradually went from painting for 5 minutes at a time to consistently painting 10-15 hours a week. Once I had the habit of painting, I revisited my acrylics and my traditional way of abstract painting, which I loved. I even felt ready to experiment with new materials. I started applying for shows, and after a handful of rejections, my work began getting accepted. What started as my five-minute habit was becoming my part-time job, and I loved it.

Artist Statement: “I enjoy giving attention to the many parts that make a whole, specifically the way in which cells provide life for all living things and therefore allow for consciousness to occur. I do this by drawing inspiration from cellular forms. These forms flow, oscillate and intersect in my paintings. At times obsessively painted and at other times concealed or muted, the cellular form drives my paintings and allows me to explore themes through this most basic representation.”
—Kim Rohrs

Dealing with the Unexpected

Fast forward to April 2017. On Easter weekend, I began to develop neurological symptoms that grew and developed over the course of weeks. I entered the realm of medical tests, hypothesis, trying not to Google everything, and waiting. Between April and June I struggled with vision loss, numbness, a feeling of pins and needles over my body, and tremors. On some days, my tremors were extreme enough that I could not paint and on other days I could not trust my vision to help me mix the right colors I needed. I did not paint for a full two months.

“Horizon,” by Kim Rohrs (24"x24" acrylic on canvas)

“Horizon,” by Kim Rohrs (24″x24″ acrylic on canvas)

In many ways, this was a difficult two months of my life. I felt as though I did not know my body anymore, and each day presented with something different I needed to adjust to. My paint palettes dried up, canvases remained still and incomplete, and I stopped looking for shows to apply to. I was not sure what was happening to me, or how long it was going to last.

What surprised me the most in these months of sickness was that I was not upset about not being able to paint. Instead, I found myself filled with gratitude that when I was able to paint, I DID paint. I was so glad I did not wait until the circumstances were perfect. I did not wait until I was in the right mood. I did not wait until the entire house was spotless. I painted in small bursts when the opportunity arose, and I found ways to build a regular practice from there. I let my body feel sick without the added weight of guilt that comes with “what if.”

The official diagnosis came in: multiple sclerosis.

"Plant Cell Study One," by Kim Rohrs

“Plant Cell Study One,” by Kim Rohrs (8″x10″ watercolor and ink on paper); The first painting Kim completed after committing to painting for five minutes at a time in bursts.

The Current Condition

By the time I was diagnosed with MS, the episode was calming down and I was able to paint again. I have since had to adjust my expectations and cut back on deadlines until I get to know this new companion in my life. I am still so thankful for and so proud of the body of work I have completed, and it helps me to understand that change takes time. Developing this disease and not being able to paint as much as I used to does not necessarily feel like a step backward in my progress because now I know there isn’t a linear path to being an artist. It’s up, it’s down, it’s cyclical. It’s five minutes here, an hour or so there.

"Glacial Movement 2," by Kim Rohrs

“Glacial Movement 2,” by Kim Rohrs (12″x12″ acrylic suspended in polished resin)

For me, making art is not about waiting for the right time, the right mood, the right state of mind, or the right state of body. It’s about showing up over and over again with the only expectation of putting paint to canvas. I have found when I am focused on this simple goal, I can achieve it repeatedly. And really, isn’t that most artists’ goal anyway? Using tools to make marks and images over and over again.

Having limited time raising young children allowed me to see that building an art practice can be as simple as I need it to be. Developing MS allowed me to value this simplicity. And now, when I have the time but not the physical ability for the long hours in the studio, I am able to remind myself that five minutes at a time is enough, today.

 


About Kim Rohrs

While earning my art therapy degree at Bowling Green State University, I took as many art studio classes I could cram into my schedule, specifically painting and ceramics. Although I wanted to become a professional artist, I felt a stronger calling to help others discover the healing capacity of art making. After graduating, I moved to Colorado to pursue my master’s degree in art therapy at Naropa University. It was there that I learned to meditate, to listen, to be curious, and to open my heart to help others. I practiced as an art therapist and play therapist, focusing my attention on children and families. 

When my husband and I started having children, we felt the Midwest calling us back. We returned to Ohio and at that time I decided to commit my time to raising our children and making art. Today, I am a mixed-media artist. I work with acrylic and resin, encaustic, and watercolors. I am inspired by microscope slides, cycles found in nature, living mindfully, dreams, and art therapy. I paint whenever my kids are asleep. In other words, I am living my dream while my girls dream.

Connect with Kim

Facebook: Kim Rohrs Art
Instagram: @kimrohrsart
Email: kim@kimrohrs.com
Website: www.kimrohrs.com

To follow Kim’s MS journey, connect with her on Instagram: @ms_mindfulsimplicity.

My daughter and I painting together

Instagram: “My daughter and I painting together at the dining room table in 2015. This is when I was painting with watercolors and our dining room was my studio space.”

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How to Start Creating Again After Kids

Emily_Bennett

Emily Bennett

By Emily Bennett

It was about two weeks after my son was born when I said to my husband, or maybe I wailed, “I am going to have to do something because this is SO HARD!”

Two weeks into motherhood and I was a poop-covered, milk-soaked, tear-stained, sleep-deprived mess. And I was losing it.

Before Babies

I always knew I wanted to be a mom someday. I always loved kids. They are pretty much the best humans, as far as I can tell.

I was always an artist as well. At the age of 5, I made the world’s smallest quilt — 3” by 3” in size. As a tween, I painted an ocean mural on my bedroom walls, including a cartoon octopus using each arm for a different beauty tool: comb, brush, lipstick, hair dryer. Just because. You know? In college, I studied art and made these drippy paintings of clothing on lines and hangers. Creativity always came easily.

But then I graduated from college. No more deadlines, no more critique groups, no more assignments to keep me working. That childhood spontaneity to just create was somehow gone. Huddled alone in my freezing garage studio rigged up with clamp lights and space heaters, I couldn’t help but wonder what on Earth I was doing.

Also, life demanded practicality. I needed health insurance. I needed a savings account. I needed to have a “real” job. So, I got busy being practical; I became a teacher. That channeled my love of young children, so it was good. And I had a steady paycheck, and I met my husband and got married and bought a house and had stability and all the things.

And I stopped making art. I gave up my studio. I might have even have told people that I was done with all of that.

Time Plus Suffering

Then I gave birth. I quit my job to be with my son, and faster than you can say, “post-partum depression,” I was in the middle of the darkest time in my life. My son didn’t sleep, or, if he slept, I couldn’t sleep. He had reflux. He wouldn’t nurse. He wasn’t gaining weight. We didn’t know what was wrong. My son and I spent days just bouncing on the yoga ball waiting for my husband to come home. It was mind-numbingly, bone-crushingly hard.

P1020607Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to be with my son. I feel immensely privileged to get to spend time with my children. What emerged in that period was not just an over-abundance of time, but also the deep personal necessity to DO SOMETHING.

An Idea

As the darkness lifted, I started to look around. I was bugged by how baby clothing is so stuck on gender stereotypes. I didn’t want to put my son in the “Mr. Tough Guy” onesie. Sitting around at a moms’ group with my friends, I said, “I want to put a dump truck on a pink onesie. What do you think?” And they said, “YOU SHOULD DO IT!”

That rallying cry fueled my desire to create. I began to draw again — teaching myself how to use drawing software, learning how to screen print from YouTube tutorials. I started to put my hands on fabric and ink and make something new. And it was awesome. It was a deep and rushing joy that I had forgotten existed.

More Than Just Time

Now that I have two children and a growing business, there’s hardly a moment to spare. I look back on my practical, pre-kid life and think, “I had so much time! Why didn’t I spend it creating!!??”

Before children, I had vague ideas of art I wanted to make but nothing I truly felt passionate about. With the dump truck project, I had an idea that brought together my love of children, textiles, and graphic design.

There was one more thing missing, though.

I needed more than just time to explore a project. I needed an avenue for sharing my work with others.

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Within my group of new mom friends was a creator who helped me find my way. She made artisan bath products, and she knew all the things: how to sell at the farmer’s market, open an Etsy shop, and aesthetically arrange her wares in lovely piles on a folding table. She introduced me to a new world: the world of selling your stuff.

In all my time in critique groups and art classes, I was never taught how to bring my artwork to others outside of a school context. In my friend’s example, I saw how it was possible. She taught me the nuts and bolts of being in business (business license, sales tax, etc.) and I’m not sure my nascent creative practice would have taken hold without her help.

Suddenly, I had a critique group again (customers) and I had deadlines (holiday bazaar), and those two motivated me to Go and Do in a way I had not gone and done since college.

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I didn’t set out to create again, it kind of just happened when time met passion plus an outlet for sharing my work with others. This experience has brought me back to a part of myself and an understanding of how to have a creative practice that I hope to never lose again.

Advice to You, Artist Mama Who Wants to Get Back to Making

1)     Make time.

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How do we find time as moms? For me it happened because I chose something I could work on while my son was with me. What can you do while your kids are with you? What other dedicated time can you create? If you have the means, give yourself permission to hire a babysitter regularly. Schedule with your partner 30 minutes every evening. Can you cut back at work? Start looking for the little moments. I almost always work sitting perched on the toilet while my kids are in the bathtub. (At right: Me sitting on top of the couch to work with my son in the room — without him being able to bang on the computer.)

2)     Decide what you’re passionate about.

If you want to get back to creating, then you probably have your passion in mind. What does that look like? What do you want to say to the world? Put it down on paper! Tell someone! Something is there that you want to bring forth. You have a need, and it is such a precious thing! Cradle it in your hands as it begins to grow.

3)     Find a way to share your work with others.

If you don’t have an awesome friend like mine, look up local art festivals in your area. Sign up! Don’t worry, because you will get in and you will sell things. Go visit local maker fairs to get inspired. Create your own free website, and then tell everyone that you did it! Share the link on your personal Facebook page. Check out local entrepreneurial resources. Sign up for a class on business basics. But most importantly, sign up! Go and do it. Once you have done one thing, sign up for another. Incorporate the feedback you get into your work for the next event. Make sure that sharing, scary as it is, becomes part of your regular regimen, so that your awesome creativity is getting out to the world and you have a reason to keep creating.

 


About Emily Bennett

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Emily Bennett is the owner and creator of Baby Blastoff!, a line of baby clothing that honors the spirit and possibility in every child. She grew up in Portland, Oregon, and went to Whitman College, where she studied studio art. After graduating, she moved to New Mexico where she earned a master’s in education at the University of New Mexico. Emily came back to creating and started her business after her son was born in 2011. She lives in Albuquerque with her husband and two kids.

Connect with Emily! Find Emily’s awesome baby clothes at babyblastoff.com. Follow her on Instagram at @babyblastoff and on Facebook at facebook.com/babyblastoff.

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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!

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.

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