I have been grumpy and ineffectual for days which means no writing and very little reading. It’s no coincidence that this mood has coincided with early starts. Too many early starts. I am not writing what time I have been woken, nor what time he went to bed because the first rule of parenthood is that there’s always someone who will tell you how much worse their child sleeps!
Sleep deprivation is common in our life. As is grumpy me at the moment. So how can I still be creative and be a parent?
There is no happiness without creativity. That is such a dramatic thing to say. But over the years I have realised that is true for me. I think that suppressing creativity for a long time was a major factor in my unhappiness in my twenties. I suppressed it because I wanted to write but didn’t have any confidence in my ability. I also had lots of writing to do in the name of academia and voluntary journalism. Honestly, I also suppressed my creativity because it takes time and effort and I just wanted to be out.
And that’s fine, I must come to terms with what I uncharitably think of as “wasted years”. I could have chosen to overcome my fear sooner maybe; I could have made time maybe. So many maybes but there is only really what I do now. But the now that I have comes with this little person in tow who tires me out a lot of the time.
It took becoming a parent to even pick up a pen. I can’t explain why, but I think that becoming responsible for another person makes you think about being responsible for yourself. It took time and therapy, but I re-evaluated my life. Building in creativity in snatches became a way to be me as well as Mum.
Parenting gives me built in deadlines, whether it is using naptime or now being ready for school pick up . I have yet to successfully give myself a deadline for when work on the work-in-progress is finished (probably should do that, huh?) In terms of writing a scene, having these deadlines means I have to work fast, on the hop. And I work so much better with a time limit.
A recent addition to my creativity is trying to build our Minecraft world together. He is teaching me much more than I can show him. And although I am not very good, the nature of a sandbox game is that there is no limit to imagination. Although rather like writing a draft, I thought my buildings would look like palaces and they are rather more like sheds. Playing in this way is a small way we can use our imagination together.
Playing is so important for creativity. To see my child’s imagination develop, even though it is completely different from mine, has been a brilliant reminder of my innate. I used to make up stories all the time. And now I make up stories with him all the time. It’s what we naturally do with children, but I don’t see why it shouldn’t be part of grown-up life too.
I also notice my child sees the world in minute detail and it makes me look again. The way a child sees the world can also tell us how to write the world. You know that quotation from Chekov about “don’t tell me the moon is shining?” I recently learnt this is what he said:
“In descriptions of Nature one must seize on small details, grouping them so that when the reader closes his eyes he gets a picture. For instance, you’ll have a moonlit night if you write that on the mill dam a piece of glass from a broken bottle glittered like a bright little star, and that the black shadow of a dog or a wolf rolled past like a ball.”
Seeing the world in details is so interesting. I am writing a short story at the moment about rubbish piled up outside a woman’s house. This is inspired by life where there is a pile of fly-tipping near our road-end but it is also inspired by my son’s fascination with what lurks there. He was the one who spotted a creepy doll’s face pressed up against a bin bag and that is an irresistible image for me.
Although finding the time and energy for a creative life is challenging as a parent, it is also become easier in a way. I value play so much more these days. Playing again may even be why we have children? I think our children can teach us so much about how we are supposed to live our lives.