1. As a wife and mother of young children, how do you make space to create when there are so many things vying for your attention?
I wake up at 2 a.m.! (Don’t worry; I go to bed by 7 p.m.) It’s always been important to me to allow a ton of margin for those still, small, quiet moments, and I’ve found that if I’m fighting to sneak them into my day when the kids are awake, I can quickly become resentful and impatient. My littles are up super early (and the baby, super often), so 2 a.m. is the only way I can truly guarantee an hour or two of uninterrupted silence.
It’s a trade-off for sure. I don’t watch Netflix. I don’t connect with my husband in the evenings (granted, he works from home so we see each other all afternoon long). I don’t have girls’ night on a weeknight, and I don’t sign my kids up for extracurricular activities during evening hours. There are always exceptions to make, of course. Last night, we hosted out-of-town friends, passing around pizza and babies until the fireflies came out. So this morning, 2 a.m. arrived and I stayed sound asleep.
I don’t mention this ritual often because I think there’s a tendency to believe you have to be a morning person to be creative, or productive, or effective. My husband is the best exception to this: he’s all these things, and yet, he’s a total night-owl. So we do what works—he gets the night hours for creating; I get the morning hours for creating. (Of note: whoever is creating is also on pacifier duty, so interruptions can and do happen.)
2. How are you seeing the fruit of your creative work blooming now from seeds that you planted long ago?
Hearing that others have been encouraged by my book or blog or various writing is a gift, yes, but I’ve found the true benefit—the greatest fruit—has been for my soul alone.
Through the self-discipline and the hurdles and the carving of space, my writing has helped me to process so much of life—to form my own conclusions about cultural truth vs my own beliefs. To allow that processing to shape my values, my actions, my choices. To hold myself accountable for living in the proper context of each—that’s the fruit.
This might sound selfish, but it’s almost as if I’ve grown this lovely little apple tree, and sure, many a passerby can enjoy its beauty, its provision, its shade. But I’ve plucked the prized apple and there it sits, singular on my nightstand, for me and me alone.
3. Do you have a scripture, word, or mantra that guides your work?
This changes often for me, generally based on whatever memory verse Bee and I are practicing at the time. I find it funny that so many modern mantras we repeat are dressed-up versions of scripture, so I tend to go straight to the source if I’m particularly low in the inspiration department.
Currently, this one’s been rattling around for a bit:
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
Sufficiency is something I never quite feel. But we’ve been given it. All of it! It still makes my head spin to think about.
4. How do motherhood and your creative work complement one another?
Well, they’re not always complementary, I will say that. There are some days in which they are, where I’ve spent the morning wading through a muddied river and I get to the other side where I can shower off and tidy up afterward. On those days, I come away having learned something new and understanding something spectacular that adds value to my day, my mothering, my life.
But then there are other days where I’ve spent the morning wading through a muddied river and my kids wake before I reach the other side, and then I’m walking around all day in muck and mire, leaving distracted dirt tracks through the kitchen. And on those days, there’s nothing complementary about it.
5. We love your “small step” posts on Design For Mankind. Do you have any small steps to recommend for women who struggle to make space for creativity?
Thank you! Making space for creativity is important, sure, but I think we can also hold it too tightly. We can attach rules and boundaries for it, and we can fight so hard to compartmentalize it, reducing its mystery to science or a twisted form of logic.
But it’s none of those things.
My girlfriend writes songs while she chops vegetables for dinner. The moment she picks up the knife, her brain hears melodies. I have another girlfriend who shows up for school pick-up an hour early and sits in her car practicing calligraphy or illustrations while the baby naps in the backseat. She keeps micro pens in her glove compartment.
We all have a tiny bit of space in our days to practice making something lovely. The trick is to find it and to protect it as much as we’re able.
And here’s the surprising thing: It’s not much of a trick. The time is available to us, but we’re filling it elsewhere, on sometimes lesser things. Making space sometimes means shoving all else to the corners.
Find out what you can shove to the corners. Maybe it’s checking Instagram. Maybe it’s last night’s Target run. Maybe it’s a calendar filled with someone else’s expectations for you.
Shove, shove, shove.
You can still keep those things, if you’d like. But they no longer get priority seating, you know?
6. One of our creative exercises this month is to re-arrange a space in our homes to be more beautiful, functional, and inspiring. This could be as small as a bookshelf or tabletop, or as large as an entire room. As a professional designer, do you have any tips for us?
Oh, rearranging is my favorite thing to do! What a fun exercise!
I’ve found that we all have this odd tendency to move furniture to the walls to create a more open center of the room. But sometimes, this can make a room feel far less inviting, especially when conversation areas feature seating arrangements that are pushed back into corners.
If you’re working with a small space, consider bringing furniture in and away from the walls just a few inches. And if you’re working with a larger space, consider “zoning,” which is creating different areas of the room for different functions.
7. This month we’re also talking about the way our personalities influence our creativity and the way we view space (both internal and external). How do you think your personality type (Myers Briggs, Enneagram, etc) affects your creativity? How does it help or hinder your ability to create?
I’m an Enneagram 9 (this is the most obvious statement to everyone who knows me), and I’ve never taken the Myers Briggs. But, I think there are helps and hindrances to everything, in every work, for everyone.
9s are odd in that they embody every other personality type on the spectrum, so we’re often very empathetic and able to see a wide variety of perspectives. We often neglect our own needs. We are patient and agreeable; we are calm. We often resist self-promotion and controversy, preferring a quiet life of simplicity and peace.
I’m sure you can see how this helps my career and how this hinders my career.
But, career and creativity are very different things. And in terms of creativity, I’d argue that it’s a moot point, because the very definition of creativity is rooted in imagination, in our ability to perceive a hindrance as help or help as a hindrance.
So as a typical 9, I just don’t give much weight to the hindrances.
8. What or who inspires you: as a wife, mother, human and artist? Who are your favorite writers and designers?
I’m always inspired by the no-nonsense artists. The ones who make a case for a complex life, who avoid platitudes entirely. The ones who present life as it is, never airbrushed but never underexamined. The ones who can peer at a raw, unedited circumstance that feels so utterly senseless and yet, still be able to find the one glint of beauty.
The Kurt Vonneguts and Iris Apfels and Joan Didions and Maya Angelous and David Foster Wallaces of this world.