I recently read an online article from Amanda Palmer talking about her creative life and her impending motherhood. My life has been so different from hers. I dove into parenting while still in college, so adulthood and motherhood were all tangled up together. For a long time all my creativity was absorbed into my parenting and homemaking efforts. It was only later that I began to create in ways that were shareable outside the walls of my house. Palmer’s fears about the impact of motherhood on her life are valid. All anyone can say for certain is that what comes afterward will be different than what came before.
I’m thinking much about the impact of parenting on creativity. I think about it often as I contemplate the novel I’m still writing years after I began it. I spiraled down into depression thinking about this over the past year or more as the needs of my children loomed and my creative spaces vanished. I thought about it now during the second week of school where we’d not yet had any emotional crises and I’d had several good work days in a row. I thought about it again after the third week of school where I did not have any good work days and emotional stuff spilled all over the place. I’m not fully able to judge if teens with mental health crises is more problematic for a creative life than infants or toddlers, (I wasn’t trying to maintain a separate creative existence during those hands-on early years) but I can attest the the toll that mental health during the teen years has taken. Though truthfully it was likely my own depression and anxiety which impacted my creativity more than the time taken by my children. Of course, my depression and anxiety were triggered by my children, so it comes to the same thing really.
I wish I had answers for this. Perhaps someday I’ll be able to look back and see how it all went together. From a distance I’ll be able to explain how all the things affected each other and maybe I’ll be able to draw a useful conclusion from it. Or maybe I won’t. Maybe being creative is always messy and complicated by the details of living. Either way, summarizing is not my job now. My job now is to make sure that I don’t hide from my creative work merely because I’m tired. I have to remember that creative time gives energy back to me in a way that down time does not. I have take time each day to pause and listen deep into my soul and ask the question “What is the work I should be doing today?” The answer to that question matters.