This week we’re exploring how the experience of being a parent inspires art and creativity. The impetus for this week’s topic came when I was listening to a few writer interviews on the Pen on Fire podcast by Barabra DeMarco-Barrett (here). She was hosting a memoir panel with Lisa Catherine Harper the author of A Double Life: Discovering Motherhood and Katherine Ellison author of BUZZ: A Year of Paying Attention. Both women are mothers and used key points of their motherhood journeys as the bases for their memoirs. Harper was so wonder-struck by her own pregnancy and the birth of her child that she was motivated to chronicle it right down to the scientific nitty-gritties. Ellison wrote the story of how she learned to live with ADHD—her son’s and her own.
Motherhood and the myriad experiences that come with it are more than just a new set of topics. I would suggest that the experience of motherhood actually opens a new way of seeing and being in the world. For many women it opens a door to a creative spirit they didn’t know they had in them.
As Colleen and I have been co-writing for It’s My Baby Blog, I’ve had a chance to reflect on her work in relation to my own. I’ve noticed that her journey of being a mother, and the profound pain and joy that has been a part of that journey has given her writing an “opened-up” quality that I can’t claim for myself. Colleen said that the creating act of conception, birth, and parenting leads to a desire to create in the other realms of life as well—for her that’s writing.
The birth of a child and the concurrent birth of a mother is also the birth of an artist, a creative agent. The topic of your art might be motherhood, children, and family life, but it certainly wouldn’t have to be. The act of becoming a mother ignites a creative sensibility about the world and life in general.
But now that you have a newfound muse and thousands of daily experiences from which to draw, it does not mean that being an artist will be an easier road. Nothing is an easier road for you as a mother! You now battle the constraints of time, energy, and children that need your constant attention. You don’t have the freedom to decide when you feel inspired. What you have are exactly one-and-a-half hours while your toddler is napping to clean the house, get dinner ready, and write the essay or poem that’s been percolating in your head. Your energies wane, your brain feels like a fried egg, there’s no sitting in the park musing with a notebook and pen, and no doodling on your sketchpad while catching the sunset. Life isn’t structured that way anymore. So many women ditch it, hoping they’ll be able to come back to it one day when the kids are grown.
I think this is why we don’t see more mom art. The constraints are valid, but the world needs your work. Many moms have learned to adapt to the reality that being a mom means making art in a different way. It means maximizing the minutes and learning to think on your feet. One mom would sit in her minivan outside of her kids’ soccer practice and write furiously on her legal pad. She has now published several novels because she learned to be ready to work within the minutes that she had, and she accepted the schedule as it came to her.
I stumbled upon the book Writing Motherhood by Lisa Garrigues. Check out her website here. If you’ve wanted to try writing the experience of motherhood, she teaches you how.
Anne LaMott always talks about writing as a gift you give to your reader. Your experience of motherhood and the new way you are now able process the world is a gift—share it with us.
Follow It’s My Baby Blog throughout the week as we talk about moms and art and share some great stories and resources to inspire you and get you started.
How has motherhood sparked your creativity?