Your creativity is waiting for you.

This post first appeared online at Happy Mama

My fingers move over the piano keys, more awkwardly than before. I remember the notes but I can tell I have lost skill. It has been so long since I identified as a musician, as a creative. I wondered if it was possible to reclaim that space. I missed it. Suddenly, a little one plonked alongside me, her small sticky hands pounding the keys “Mama, I play too! Old MacDonald had a…farm!”

Strumming the guitar, singing a song I used to know…a little one climbs up on the bed, “MOOSIC!” she chortles and clamps her hand over the fretboard. Suddenly my song doesn’t sound like the one I used to know.

Turning up the Saturday morning playlist loud (Boy and Bear, it goes well with coffee), feeling excited at the promise of a weekend – belting out “Lordy May” when suddenly Bieber is urging “Let Me Love You.” The little ones laugh in conspiracy – they know how to operate Spotify now.

Sketching a floral design with an inky black pen, feeling expressive and satisfied. I notice my shoulders drop and I breathe a little more deeply and slowly. It’s quiet here at the table. Suddenly, a small voice calls “Hey Mum! Can you draw a Ninja Turtle eating a pizza, but with no pineapple on it?”

Painting an abstract canvas at the kitchen table. I have just enrolled in an online painting course. It’s 10pm and the little ones are asleep. I spread out all the paints and brushes. I listen to music on my headphones as I paint. I feel free and creative. Soon though, I tire and need to pack away the materials before another huge day of mothering. I am impatient and don’t let the glaze dry in time. The painting smudges and my careful marks disappear under the wet glaze.

***

Claiming my creative space and nurturing my creative spirit, especially as a mother, feels essential but at times, barely possible.

When I look at how I would traditionally claim space for creative expression – it’s centred on a pre-motherhood life. A life that is spacious, rested and independent.

I’ve learned that I can no longer use my old references and definitions of what a creative life means to me – because now, as a Mama of three little ones – it simply does not fit in the same way.

But, when I am standing in truth, and honouring the true sacredness of mothering and what it means to me – then I can fully access a creative wisdom and knowledge that was not known to me before.

Georgie James Photography

Georgie James Photography

***

Walking home from the park, we slow to halt. Reaching down, we notice the smooth texture of discarded bark sheafs. They will make the perfect canvases for our watercolours. We throw as much as we can into the bottom of the pram. This is noticing.

Zooming around in the art gallery, they stop and giggle at the nude paintings. I chuckle along. This is art appreciation.

Lining up the chairs for a home grown dance and comedy show in the backyard. This is theatre.

Colouring in and out of the lines.  This is freedom.

Turning our sketching ‘mistakes’ into something new. This is resilience.

Singing to Ed Sheeran in the car on the way to school. This is harmony.

Hanging our projects on the wall. This is pride.

Ninja kicking from the lounge room sofa. This is imagination.

Dancing in the kitchen while Dad makes pancakes.  This is fun.

Gazing at the sky and seeing elephants in the clouds. This is peaceful.

Playing the wrong note at the piano. This is process.

Guessing the instruments in the orchestral piece. This is listening.

Scribbling, then colouring in the gaps. This is creating beauty amidst chaos.

Sharing our favourite songs. This is understanding.

Describing the events from our days. This is storytelling.

Crafting a thank you card. This is connection.

***

Georgie James Photography 

Georgie James Photography 

As a mama, I see the gift and responsibility that is bestowed to me. I can choose to role model a creative life to my little ones. They are watching me.

I let them see me daydream. I let them see me choose creative pursuits, to wonder at beauty in nature, in an art gallery, in their own creations and projects. I let them see me try. I let them see me trust the process and detach from the outcome.

But I know it is they who are teaching me. They are my creative role models.

Together we learn, that creativity is our birth right. We learn that creativity can be expressed freely and without judgement. We learn that it is a portal to deeper connections, within ourselves, our relationships and our communities. We learn that creativity offers us a sense of magic, wonder and mystery – in both the sacred and ordinary. We learn that creativity means taking risks, being brave and innovative in thought, imagination and action. We learn that being immersed in creative expression enters us into a state of ‘flow’ which relaxes us, reduces anxiety, boosts self-esteem and happiness.

Creativity is not waiting for us, in our rare moments of mama solitude.

It is within us, and our children. Shared together, creativity is ignited to be both real and magical.

©Naomi Morrow, 2017.

Why ‘mistakes’ are good for us: Lessons from my 'ruined' painting.

I’ve been yearning to make space again in my life for creativity. Being a mother of three young ones, studying and establishing my own business it’s been difficult to find the time where I can be creative as a solo pursuit. (I definitely enjoy my creative time with children, but now I’m talking about myself…where I can be alone with my thoughts and ideas and experimentation).

So I signed up to do Nicola Newman's online painting course. I was super excited. It probably wasn’t the best time for me, signing up in the week leading up to launching my business – but I couldn’t shake the call to be creative any longer. I enthusiastically visited the art shop with toddler and pre-schooler in tow to buy the requisite materials. I chose my paint colours, palette knife, palette and the special glaze wash. I recall checking a few times with the young assistant that the last product was exactly what I needed – having never used it before. I was doubtful that she had given me the right one, but she insisted and so I bought it.

About a week later, I decided it was time to create my painting. The children were in bed. I laid everything out on the kitchen table and got to work. I watched the teaching video as I painted my abstract work, learning about layering and texture and techniques. I felt excited to be honouring my creativity in this way. I loved the way Nicola made it seem so easy, I loved the process and I was having fun. As I was painting, what was emerging was really pleasing to my eye. My inner critic would normally be chattering away about the relative skill or not in my painting, but this time she was silenced. I felt creatively alive!

When I had decided my painting was finished, I left it to dry after admiring my work briefly. When I was sure it was dry, I mixed up the glaze wash. It did not look like the product in the video, and I felt a little niggle of concern, but in my haste to finish the painting – I applied it. My painting disappeared. Under a layer of colour. It smooshed all the paint together into a wobbly, blurred, I-don’t-care-how-long-you-took-to-create-that-special-art giant blergh. I felt myself become angry, sad, frustrated as my inner critic rose up to give her unwelcome commentary.

“That’s what you get for trying something new! You’re not expert enough to do this! You can’t get all your hard work back now – it’s gone! What a waste!”
Image © Naomi Morrow, 2016. 

Image © Naomi Morrow, 2016. 

I packed up sadly, sullenly. Defeated.
I sat with these feelings.

Eventually, I began to notice other thoughts.

What had I learned here? Remember the Tibetan monks creating beautiful, painstaking mandala works from sand that are only temporary? To be washed away? Didn’t I love the process though, wasn’t I really in flow? Why did I need ‘proof’ of how I spent my time? Did I need validation that I could ‘do’ art? When did product become more important to me than process? Couldn’t I simply try again another day?

Yes, it stings when we try new or difficult things and it doesn’t work. We feel disappointed. Disheartened. Tempted to return to that place of safety, where we don’t extend, challenge, try or risk. But there’s no richness or growth there. It’s a barren and boring land.

I’m so passionate about bringing more self-compassion, joy and creativity into the world that I realised I had better keep trying with myself. Work in progress. The canvas can be painted again.

And I had to be honest with myself. Instead of looking outside myself for explaining the problem (“the shop assistant sold me the wrong product”), I owned up: “I put the glaze on before the paint had dried completely”.

What I learned is that my ‘mistake’ (AKA my impatience or more positively reframed ‘enthusiasm’)…ended up forming an interesting, beautiful and rich foundation for my new painting.

If we stop to review what we feel are our imperfections, flaws and mistakes and consider them with more patience and compassion – we can then begin to see how they are providing an interesting, beautiful and rich foundation for our life. A life we where can be open to new learning, building upon past experiences, being creative and experimental.

The end product! © Naomi Morrow, 2016

The end product! © Naomi Morrow, 2016

© Naomi Morrow, 2016.