I went to art school. Then I joined The Real World and thought I needed to pursue a career. So I set aside my personal work and hand-made a profession out of Arts Management at first and then academia. Then, at 28, I had my first baby. My PhD made me miserable. I couldn’t juggle its demands and the baby. When my second baby was born I quit. I felt free.
My children gave me the courage to pursue my own, unique creative practice. But the paradox is I no longer have the uninterrupted time to do it. Austin Kleon recently spoke about this on the radio. He said “Motherhood is about being constantly interrupted. Making art is about having uninterrupted time.” At the same time I am so much more organized about getting my work done. I schedule time - even if it’s just 10 minutes - to write something every day. I make deadlines. My previous way of scheduling my time would look like: Wednesday. Write. Now it’s 7-7:30AM write.
But I feel like I’m riding a tricycle to China when I need to be on a jumbo jet. It just feels like it’s going to take so long to get to where I’m going. But there’s a flip side too because I feel like I have this really full life. An actual life. Not just an artistic practice. Cheryl Strayed wrote - as Sugar on her advice column - in a letter to her 20 year old self, “Stop worrying about your career. You don’t have a career. You have a life.” That pretty much sums up the difference between who I was at 27 before my daughter was born and who I became after her birth. It’s so much richer and it’s so much harder.
Paradoxically, all the time I spent making a career in art, came at the cost of making my own, personal art. Now I need to learn so much. I need to learn about watercolors and drawing, about social media and tribe-building, about writing for an audience, about making e-books. The list could go on and on.
Every day is an act of hope since I still get to the page however I can. But my work is always on my mind. It’s like a TV channel that’s always on in the background. That, combined with the noise of two kids under four, can be overwhelming. I’ve gotten used to it. And I haven’t. I can’t wallow in what was before. And in any case I would not want to be career-driven again and I could not have been so organized and passionate about my work without the constraints of motherhood.
But I’m frustrated. And I’m especially frustrated because I don’t see many voices out there of mothers who are artists, writers, designers, photographers telling their stories. I see craft blogs, blogs about how to make animal-shaped snacks for kids, how to get them organized for school. That bores me. I’m delighted for those moms for whom it creates a community. But it’s not my cup of tea. I want to know how YOU make it work. I want to know what frustrates you. I want to know how you overcome the distraction. I want to know how you balance sleep-deprivation with the need to make that thing that’s been on your mind for God knows how long. Are you out there?