So it has been a real long time between posts. Time and time again I read some amazing articles, and have amazing ideas about what I’m reading, but I never seem to find the space and time to have more than a brief mental play with my thoughts (or at best scribbling down some seeds of ideas). I guess that is to be expected with the addition of our fourth child in late 2014 (hey I struggle to get time for a shower!)
There are so many wonderful things about being a parent (I’ll make this the subject of a different post at some stage) but I think one of the most challenging parts is getting time for yourself to pursue your own needs and interests. When doing anything requires organising someone else to be looking after the kids most things get put in the too hard basket.
More and more I have come to realise that there are three things that sustain me beyond the precious relationships I have with my family and friends. Those things are exercise, getting into nature, and writing. For me writing is my main creative and intellectual outlet. It allows me to crystallize thoughts and ideas on a wide variety of issues I’m passionate about (and share the expression of them with others). Exercise helps maintain both my mental and physical wellbeing and it is also essential to my creativity – it gives me both the time and meditative state to zone out from the everyday (not to mention providing a nice endorphin hit). Being in nature recharges my soul – without which I’m not inspired to be creative. These three elements have all been a bit too absent from my life of late. I’ll certainly accept that when I have this to snuggle and look at:
But I’m conscious of the importance of, little-by-little, trying to reclaim them in my life.
Many writers have commented on the close relationship between reading and writing; that you can’t write if you don’t read. Reading has always been something that prompts my writing – sparking the seeds of ideas. With these ideas sparked I’d then sit down and write – researching the issues further as I went, referencing other interesting bits I’d find – opening a gazillion tabs of interesting things to look at (and frustrating my partner in the process when the computer would be running slowly). But you need a dedicated hour or more to write like that. I don’t have that luxury at the moment.
I’ve probably only read 20 or so books in the last couple of intensive kid wrangling years. But they have been well chosen, life influencing books (How to be Free, How to be Idle, Radical Homemakers, The Ethics of What We Eat, The Life You Can Save, The Bitch in the House, The Meaning of Wife, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination – just to name a few). I used to read fiction but it has been a very long time since I’ve done that. Now I (mainly) read non-fiction. But it is a certain kind of non-fiction book that I crave – intellectual yet accessible discussion on the issues I’m passionate about (like feminism and equity, sustainability and ethics, parenting, connecting with nature, finding purpose and meaning, and dealing with grief and loss). I also lap up shorter pieces online. The collected blog posts on Greenleftyidealist are really a testimony to the exploration of ideas in all my areas of passion.
I keep saying when #4 sleeps through the night that I will start getting up early or going to bed late to make time for writing but I’ve realized that I’m not going to get dedicated space and time for a long while yet and that to sustain me I need to start writing blog posts jiggling babies up and down on my lap and snatching time here and there (though perhaps the results may be somewhat disconnected and not as satisfying as the well-crafted piece). I have to settle for a morsel when I’d really like a feast. But morsels can still help sustain us.
One of the frustrations with the lack of time to write is that I come across some amazing articles and then lose them in the ebb and flow of time passing and sleep deprivation. Many months ago I read a great piece on the implications for society when people don’t have enough time to be creative. A study showed something like 4/5 people feel they don’t have the time to be creative in their life. The study was all about what the loss to society is when we don’t value creativity. For a long time I’ve pondered this. I know personally I have so much I want to say and do in me but not the time to unleash it. The article talked about inventions and things that just would not have happened if people hadn’t been given the luxury of time and space.
Workplaces often value bums on seats and rarely appreciate the value of time and space to mull things over. This can really deaden creativity (and spirit!). Though perhaps it is changing a little with recent trends like corporations allowing employees time to colour in to de-stress (clearly every colouring minute isn’t billable!). Colouring allows the mind to wander and release which is an important step to fostering creativity, yet for my mind it is still a long way from it. Work forms such a large part of our lives I strongly believe it would lead to far more workplace satisfaction (and probably productive output too) if we were supported to unleash our creativity at work.
But if we can’t get creativity in our workplace how can we get more creativity in our lives? When you walk in the door from work or kid wrangle all day only to step up to a second shift of meal preparation, homework supervision, bathing and bedtime stories how can we make space and time for creativity (and indeed exercise!) when there doesn’t seem to be a spare hour in the day?
Over Lent I gave up Facebook. I also started to use Instagram more but not in the same way as I used Facebook (religiously checking in multiple times a day). I participated in the #fmsphotoaday challenge for a few weeks. It was interesting how it gave me a little bit of creativity for a few moments every day – focusing on unique and beautiful ways to depict the “prompt for the day” in an image.
Social media is an interesting one because it has the potential to foster creativity like this and yet it also has its addictive side. If you can free yourself from the need to pursue likes and followers and just use it as an art form it can be great. I need to free myself more from Facebook (but not abandon it as it is an important social outlet for me) to use those cumulative snatches of time during the day to be more creative or to snatch 5 minutes of exercise instead. To choose the life affirming stuff, instead of the addictive and habitual time wasting stuff.
Exercise is also really important for creativity. The writer Haruki Murakami in, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, looks at the intersections between writing and running and how the one depends on the other for him. I’m a bit the same way. Right now I’m pretty unfit (and perhaps not so coincidentally pretty writing unfit!). Dodgy knees don’t allow me to run and a crazy kid wrangling schedule doesn’t allow me to put the time in to fixing my knees.
Thankfully (at least before the cold weather hit) I’ve been able to occasionally seek out exercise through swimming and welcomed the same zen-like meditative time out I can get in a long swim as I can in a long run. It allows me a kind of mental zone out which gives my thoughts precious time and space (often a writing idea gets work-shopped or a life direction mulled) whilst physically working my body and getting the amazing sensation of the “well oiled machine”. So I know I have to make space and time for this in my life just as I have to make the space and time to be in the places which inspire me and refresh my being.
Creativity for me is about living life fully. Embracing the detail of what I see around me and writing about it, or bringing out the beauty in it by capturing a moment in a photo, or helping my body move in a way that exercise becomes a thing of beauty and creativity in itself – my body working as it was meant to. Bit by bit I’m determined to try and bring a bit more creativity into my life.