“[B]eing regularly creative correlates with being a better you, a happier mother, a lighter self with an easier laugh,” writes creativity coach Miranda Hersey in her excellent e-book The Creative Mother’s Guide: Six Practices for the Early Years. (You can read a sample page here.)
But, not surprisingly, expressing your creativity, whether through penning poetry, painting or opening up an Etsy shop, can be incredibly challenging during the early years of motherhood. Your days fly by, a blur of feedings, fatigue, mood fluctuations, swelling to-do lists and profound love for your little one.
In The Creative Mother’s Guide, Hersey, who has five kids herself, shares a variety of valuable tips and other mothers’ stories on living a creative life when your kids are young.
For instance, Hersey encourages moms to experiment with a multitude of creative pursuits. She defines creativity as “using your body and mind to make something that wouldn’t otherwise exist—something that in some way speaks to who you are, and perhaps speaks to other people as well.”
If your main medium is writing, consider other activities that you enjoy doing as well, writes Hersey, also host of the blog Studio Mothers. This gives moms additional opportunities for expressing their creativity – and helps them strengthen their creativity muscles in general.
Hersey also suggests moms have a portable creativity kit so you can create anywhere. For instance, when you’re sitting on a park bench and your baby slumbers in his or her stroller, you can sketch your surroundings or jot down your thoughts in a journal. When you’re waiting for a doctor’s appointment, you can read your favorite book of poetry, and write a few lines of your own.
Your kit might include anything from a sketchbook to pencils to needlepoint to a digital audio recorder for talking or singing. An iPhone camera also counts.
When gathering your supplies, Hersey recommends considering these questions: “What kinds of things do you like to do that lend themselves to going on the road? What media are easy to take out and easy to put away? Are there things that you like to do on a large scale that can be broken into portable elements? What can you ‘practice’ on short notice?”
Another important tip is to stop waiting to create. Don’t put off your creative practices until you have a long period of time. It’s rare that you’ll have a stretch of several hours to paint a big piece or play the piano.
But you will have pockets of time. Hersey suggests “creating in the middle of things.” So you might have a few minutes to jot down ideas for your painting or to listen to your favorite classical works.
Consider what creative activities you can do in five to 30 minutes. Write your list on an index card, and keep it in a visible spot. According to Hersey, this can include anything from practicing several yoga poses to spending 15 minutes in the garden to free-writing.
The other key is to avoid beating yourself up, according to Hersey. Don’t criticize your progress or the quality of your current work. Take it easy. Celebrate what you are able to do.
Hersey likened creating during the early years of motherhood to being an elite runner sidelined by an injury. She writes:
Maybe you can’t go out and run a 20-mile loop right now, but you can do calisthenics, practice yoga, and swim. None of those things will satisfy you as much as running, but they will keep you in shape enough that you won’t be starting from scratch when you get the doctor’s green light to run again. Staying in shape helps you to remember who you are: a runner. You haven’t given up on running; you’re just taking a break right now because you have to. It’s pointless to beat yourself up about it. Wishing things were different won’t hasten the healing process, so the best thing you can do is focus on keeping up your fitness level as well as you can.
Creating when your kids are very young is tough. But it is possible. Lace up your shoes, and take the first step.
Learn more about living a creative life as a mom in this piece.
If you’re a mom, what’s helped you in living a creative life? What are your favorite ways to express your creativity?