For the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying out the online version of Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” program. Despite my slight addiction to social media, I prefer the offline versions of many things: my datebook, my reading material, and my morning pages. So I’ll be sticking with my dog-eared copies of Cameron’s books, pen, and paper, rather than continuing with The Artist’s Way Toolkit , but I’m so glad I was given this nudge to honor my creative self. As a mother it is all too easy to put such things last.
I believe it was Alice Walker who said that we mothers talk about doing their writing in dribs and drabs, only after the laundry is done– and that perhaps we shouldn’t be so proud of that. (If anyone has that quote let me know!) I’m paraphrasing, unfortunately, but her point was that we could (and should) instead take pride in putting the housework last and what inspires us first. That’s easier said than done, especially when you’re in the crazy salt-mine years of three kids under five. But that changes. This morning I put my three kids on a bus to day camp, and had seven glorious hours laid out in front of me to work. But I spent the first two of those hours cleaning the kitchen and doing laundry and organizing all our messy bedrooms. Then I took a shower, then I checked my email. Suddenly it was noon. While I had certainly had a busy and productive morning, I hadn’t yet written a word.
The “work” that Julia Cameron asks artists to do is all about lack of productivity. You’re not supposed to be cleaning your house OR outlining your novel. You’re supposed to be browsing in antique shops, making lists of your secret desires, doing “something that simply delights you for no reason.” I find that last one nearly impossible. My kid-free time is Get Stuff Done time, whether it’s my screenplay or my kids’ soccer camp forms. I would never go out for a stroll or hit a midday matinee. I would never give myself that permission. When Cameron says that’s my “assignment” as a “blocked creative,” I think: nice sentiment. not happening.
But now I’m wondering if–again– maybe I shouldn’t be so proud of that. Sometimes what feels like productivity is really just time wasted. Yes, I typed on my laptop– while visiting Facebook. Repeatedly. Yes, I folded my sons’ t-shirts– just so I can have the pleasure of folding them again next week. Meanwhile, I miss a beautiful summer day- and for what?
From Cameron’s book Walking in this World:
We try to make our creativity linear and goal-oriented. We want our “work” to lead somewhere. We forget that diversions do more than merely divert us…. Artists of all stripe tend to equate difficulty with virtue and ease with slumming. We do not lean into our ease and enjoy the ride of our gift.
I think this is even more true for mothers than it is for artists. We equate difficulty with virtue and ease with slumming. Oh my goodness, do we ever. We think we have to work hard at motherhood in order to be good at it. But just the opposite might be true.
I have ninety minutes until the kids get off the camp bus. I’m going to spend it sitting in the shade, internet turned off, writing Chapter One of something that may never get to Chapter Two. I have no idea if it’s going to be any good. But I’m going to enjoy the ride. When the kids get off the bus, I’ll put the laptop aside until tomorrow– and I hope that I will feel that I have been very productive indeed.
What do you allow yourself to do with your kid-free (job-free) time? Assuming you allow yourself to have any?
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I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.