The 5 Habits of Successfully Creative Mothers

Motherhood and creativity go hand in hand. Even a mathematically/scientifically minded mother will find herself tapping into an inner creativity when her children are born.

You have to be creative to survive those small people, amen?

As we see the boom in blogging, (particularly in niche blogging), it’s a good idea to observe those mothers who have a specific bent toward creativity, and who are boldly living out their art and life in this online explosion of creativity.

5Hiabits

 The 5 Habits of Successfully Creative Mothers

1.) Joyful Dedication: Creative mothers are dedicated to their creative pursuits. They not only set time aside to accomplish their creative goals, but they actually find joy in this time spent on their crafts. Whether it be sewing, baking, decorating, writing, speaking, acting, photography, or any other creative endeavor, the creative mother finds great joy in the dedicated time spent on her art.

2.) Love of Craft: Creative mothers love what they do as much as they love their children. They live out their art boldly, and confidently  share it with the world, not as a means to brag, but because what’s the point in creating something beautiful if you’re not willing to share it?

3.) Embracing a Life of Imbalance: There’s a lot of talk about a little word called “balance.” This word is often directed at mothers as a means to encourage them to remember their number one priorities (the children), and to find a proper amount of time “balance” life and art.

Successful creatives realize that there is no such thing as balance.

You cannot effectively pour yourself into your art and keep the house clean, the laundry done, dinner on the table, and everyone happy. Worthy goals will always require sacrifice, and creative mothers know this too well.

Sometimes, time spent on the art will need to be sacrificed in order to focus on your family.

Other times, you may need to make a different kind of sacrifice (either through hiring child care, ordering take out, ignoring dirty floors and clothes, staying up late or waking up early, etc…) so that you can focus on your art.

The balance is in knowing that your days will not be fully balanced. It’s give and take – ebb and flow. The mothers who are successfully pursuing their creative endeavors understand and embrace this imbalance.

4.) Refusing to Take On Guilt: Motherhood comes with a side of guilt included. Whether or not we choose to ingest this guilt, or push it away, is entirely up to us. The creative mother who decides to spend a little more time one weekend devoting herself to her craft can quickly get derailed and sidetracked if she bows down to guilt.

Guilt tells us we should be more focused on our family than our art.

Guilt tells us our family is suffering because we are being selfish.

Guilt is wrong.

Creative mothers living in successful pursuit of their craft know that it’s just as important for them to focus on their art as it is to focus on their families. Your creativity is a gift, and it’s part of who you are. To deny it would leave you lost and frustrated. This is a building block to embracing the imbalance.

5.) Confidence: Successful, creative mothers are confident in their abilities. This is not a haughty, proud confidence, but a belief that their skills are necessary and worthy to be pursued. They don’t cower in the shadow of comparison, or bow to the altar of sacrificing dreams. They believe in themselves, embrace how they were made, and share their gifts always to the benefit of others (including their families).

Creative friend, you are worthy and you’re good at what you do. As you can see, each of these habits builds on the other, and stacked together, they form a pyramid on which to steady yourself. Above all else, however, it is imperative that you remember that you are a good mother, and you have a creative bent. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive. You can live life creatively with your little ones at your feet, and you can still prioritize your title as mother above your title of creative.

This is my encouragement to you today.

The Death of Creativity

Once upon a time, early mornings were the fuel to my creative soul. In college, you would rarely find me pulling all-nighters. The only time I did that was if there was a certain amount of fun to be had that made sleep seem an unnecessary task.

And by fun, I mean stupidity, because freedom combined with zero parental supervision made things like visiting the David Koresh compound at 1:00 am and allowing myself to be escorted around by a man claiming to be a journalist who knew where underground passages were still hidden, and showed us bullet holes in the sides of vans SEEMED LIKE AN EXCELLENT IDEA!

Only a handful of times did I pull an all-nighter to accomplish school work. Even then, I knew that when the sun went down at night, so did my brain. (Again, see the aforementioned stupidity that ruled many of my college late nights).

I was the girl who got up in the early hours of the morning, before the sun rose, and tiptoed into the library to study, or write a paper, or to simply read a book. The stillness of the mornings stimulated my mind, and gave me the fuel I needed to get through my daily classes. By my senior year of college, I was well into my English Professional Writing degree, which meant that I had at least one or two papers due every single day.

Most of those words were typed before the sun peeked above the horizon.

Even then, I knew how I worked best. It’s not much different for me today, though I admit that dragging myself from bed in the early mornings is harder than it once was. In college, I had the benefit of knowing I could lay around in the afternoons. Now I know that from 2:00-9:00, I will need to be on my game. I can’t afford to be exhausted.

But I do know when I am my creative best, and when the situation dictates that I tap into that inner creativity, I push myself out of the warm cocoon of my bed while the rest of the world sleeps.

There are so many different ways in which we creatives can tap into the best parts of ourselves. That’s the beauty of living life as a creative:

We don’t have to fit a mold.

As creatives we have an immense amount of freedom to live life as we were designed, each with a unique set of gifts that cannot be molded into a boxed set of rules. Some work better at night, whittling away the slumbering hours behind desks, easels, and sewing machine. Some, like me, feel the ideas most vivid in the mornings, after just enough sleep has given the brain a chance to rejuvenate.

Some creatives work best to music, while others need absolute silence. Some need a structured environment, others need the hustle and bustle of a coffee shop or book store.

The life of a creative cannot be dictated by too much structure, because once life feels predictable, the creative juices quit flowing.

There is one thing, however, that will stifle and kill any creative spirit. This one thing is insidious in nature, often creeping in when we don’t even expect it.

The death of creativity lies firmly in comparison.

deathofcreativity

When you begin to compare your gift to her gift, your structured way of working to hers, you will very slowly choke out your own creativity. You are unique. Your method of working is unique. Your talent is unique. Don’t give in to the beast of comparison that whispers softly, “You’re not good enough. Her talent is bigger. Her platform is better. Her skill is more beautiful. Her method of working is more productive.”

As soon as you start ingesting these lies, your creativity will fade.

The creative life cannot be cut into cookie-cutter shapes. It is beautiful because it is unique. Embrace your creativity, and your method for working. Don’t fall prey to the cruelty of comparison. If it means you have to stay away from Pinterest, from blogs, from certain groups or activities, do so. You are uniquely creative, and your gifts are yours alone.

Guard them and share them in the way that lets you uniquely shine.

Beware the False Inspiration

Several times in the last few weeks, this graphic has shown up in my Facebook feed.

falselewis

 

The first time I saw this, my heart leapt. It fit perfectly into a piece of the message that my friend Wendy and I are sharing in the book we’re writing, so I filed it away as a potential quote to put in the book.

As the graphic continued to appear in my feed, I finally decided to look up this quote so that I could properly site where C.S. Lewis had written or said it. That’s when I hit a little snag.

I don’t think this quote came from C.S. Lewis.

I have searched every way I can think to come up with a credible source for the context in which one of the greatest authors in history might have offered this nugget of wisdom, and the best I can come up with are cutesy little printables like the one above on Pinterest and Etsy. What’s more, I’ve found the same quote written and attributed to another man, a Dr. John Trainer.

childrentrainer

So who said this?

As much as I would love to say it came from C.S. Lewis, I really don’t think that it did. That quote, while beautiful, does not really fit the style of writing or speaking that you so often attribute to Lewis, and the fact that there is zero reference as to where the quote came from gives me reason enough to pause.

But well done Dr. Trainer for saying something so profound that it got pegged as a C.S. Lewis quote. If Dr. Trainer even said it at all…

It’s easy to get swept up in the pretty of the internet, particularly Pinterest and Etsy, but we have to be careful the messages we portray, and the false inspiration we attribute to past leaders and well-known figures. I think this quote by Abraham Lincoln says it best:

Lincoln

Happy Thursday, everyone! Here’s to the final few days leading into the weekend. May they be full of wisdom, free from distraction, and just funny enough to keep us sane.

*wink*

For when there isn’t time to create

waterlogueSummer2

Because I am so near the end of this pregnancy, I am what you might call…um…large. Great with child? My eleven year old says I’m HUGE. He’s learning tact.

Most nights are, to put it bluntly, completely miserable. I fall asleep quickly, and I sleep well until somewhere between 2:00 and 3:30, at which point I might as well just start getting out of bed and calling it day. Instead, I toss and turn, and mumble about the wicked heat, despite the air being turned as low as my husband will allow it, and a fan pointed directly at my face.

When morning finally rolls around, I try to pull myself out of bed with a good attitude, but generally my first thought is, “Well thank God that’s over.”

Then I suck it up, act like a big girl, drink a little coffee, and move on with my day.

Such is life. We don’t always get what we want, and sleep is overrated anyway, really. Who needs it?

(I do. I really do.)

I’ve also got a To-Do list that’s a half mile long, with two-thirds of it probably residing somewhere on the unrealistic side. Nesting is no joke, you guys. Last week, I took out the strongest cleaner I could find and washed my front door.

I WASHED my FRONT DOOR.

Add that to the list of ridiculous things I feel like I need to finish before baby arrives and you get a small picture of the crazy that is surrounding most of my days. Feel free to pray for my family as they deal with me.

The cherry on top of all of it is my desire to keep creating. I was in a creativity groove this summer, and I love it. I poured myself into my creative pursuits, writing and dreaming up ideas. I started new projects, and continued to push forward on completed projects. I published an ebook, sent out countless queries for my novel, started the proposal for a new book, and wrote blog posts for several different sites.

It was so much fun! My writer heart felt very fulfilled.

Now, however, the time to create has begun to taper, and I know that when the baby arrives there will be a period of time when it stops altogether. Fatigue plays a role in this lack of creativity, as do all those other tasks I want to accomplish. I’m still setting aside some time to write, but not as much as before.

And that is okay.

Living this life as a creative is a constant balance of knowing what I need to do and what I want to do. We creatives tend to be our own worst critics, never feeling like what we do is enough, but in the pursuing of our art, we can so quickly forget to live.

A couple of weeks ago, the kids and I watched the movie Hook and I was struck by the last line of the film. Granny Wendy looks gently at Peter after he returns from the grand adventure in Neverland.

“So,” she says. “Your adventures are over.”

“Oh no,” he replies. “To live – to live would be an awfully big adventure.”

In the quest to accomplish and finish and do, it’s really easy to forget to live. Stepping away from the To-Do list long enough to swim with my children is not a waste of time – it’s living.

Putting aside the writing for today so that I can focus on preparing for the arrival of my daughter is not a waste – it’s living.

Enjoying a game night with my family instead of folding and putting away that laundry is not a poor use of time – it’s living. (And let’s face it – who wants to do laundry anyway, Amirite?!)

It’s all part of the adventure.

So this one is for all the creatives who feel like there just isn’t enough time to create. Don’t be afraid to set it all aside for a little while. Don’t be afraid to live, because to live is the grandest adventure of them all.

To sleep would be fun, too, though.

On Nighttime Fears, Peace, and Birthing a Squid

Lee and Kelli-11

Picture by Lulu Photography

As we close in on the due date, sleep is naturally elusive. Thanks to the heat, I am swollen and uncomfortable, and I am apparently carrying a tiny little radiator because I cannot cool off to save my life.

Incidentally, I also told my midwife yesterday that I think I might be carrying an octopus because I swear there are eight legs kicking me from every single angle in there. She was a new midwife. She doesn’t get my humor. She told me I probably wasn’t carrying an octopus.

If I birth a squid she will be sorry she didn’t believe me…

With sleepless nights come some unreasonable emotions. Being that this isn’t my first rodeo, I know what to expect, and I am offering myself a little bit of grace these days as I prepare to bring our baby girl (octopus?) home.

The other night, I woke up at 3:30. This is par for the course, but as I tossed and turned, a nagging worry began rolling through my heart. It bubbled soft at first, then quickly grew until I was in full blown panic.

Usually I wake up because the baby is playing Tetris in my ribs. This time, however, I noticed that I couldn’t feel her moving. She was very still, and that is unusual. Suddenly the silence of the night and the darkness that surrounded got the best of me, and I feared the very worst.

I never worried about losing a child in utero with my other three. Of course I knew it was a possibility, but I didn’t exercise a lot of mind power on thinking about it, because I didn’t really think it could happen to me. I also had never read a blog, nor been on Facebook the first three times I was pregnant.

I birthed my first three children in the dark ages. We were still using film (FILM!) when Sloan was born.

In the six and a half years since I last had a child, I’ve read countless heartbreaking stories of families losing children late in their pregnancies. It’s much more of a reality to me now and, naturally, more of a concern. I know I don’t need to worry, but again, darkness and fatigue are a wily combination.

I finally got up and drank a little orange juice, then pushed on my belly a little until I felt her shift. She’s not moving as much as she used to due to the fact that there is no more room in there. The Inn is full! It’s time to move on, little one. Thankfully, the shifting set my heart at ease long enough to let me go back to sleep. But the fear was waiting for me when I woke back up.

Having already walked with my older kids through a terminated adoption, I feel more emotion than I know how to communicate at the idea of them experiencing another loss. It nags in the back of my mind, and as I wake each morning I have to lay all those fears to rest. Already, before she’s even born, I’m relinquishing the control over her tiny little life. She is not mine, but merely a gift from God. I will trust Him, and I know I will continually have to lay down this fear throughout her entire life.

I know, because I have to do it with the other three.

I know, because I still pray for the little girl sitting in an orphanage in Russia who had a family ready to meet and love her.

Part of being a mother is dealing with the natural worry that comes with the territory, and with the onslaught of stories passed down through social media, we’re faced with the reality of those worries on a daily basis. So each day begins with a prayer for their safety, and with the relinquishing of control, because I am not in control.

I spent a little time in her nursery this morning. It’s peaceful in there. The colors are soothing, and the room is clean (for now), which makes it the only clean place in the house (for now).  As I sat on her bed, I felt her shift and move again, and I was grateful for the reminder that all is well, and I am not in control.

God has been Gracious and Merciful to our family over the last three years. They have been hard years, but He has been faithful. I am trusting in His Grace and Mercy to bring this little girl (squid?) into our family safely (and soon! Oh please, soon!). So when the darkness closes in, and the world becomes still (too still), I will embrace the knowledge that He is Gracious, He is Merciful, and He is in Control.

And I will quit complaining when she jabs me in the ribs, because that feeling is evidence of the blessing.