When I’m running my textile art workshops, I often hear women describe those creative hours as a luxury. There’s a sense that they’ve negotiated an escape from the responsibilities of life, and they treasure every moment.
Women with a partner and children at home seem, in particular, to feel that time for themselves can only be justified if everyone else’s needs are already being met. I have a partner and two children, and really relate to this feeling.
But why should this be the case? Is ‘mum guilt’ hardwired into us? Do we, deep down, feel disapproval if we prioritise our own fulfilment over our families? Does every household chore really have to be done before we can sit down to create?
I’ve learnt that consistently putting others first will soon leave you running on empty, and that eventually your family will suffer too. But I needed help to re-organise my thinking and to feel confident in my need for artistic expression.
I knew I’d found what I needed when I heard about Ali Mapletoft, a business mentor who guides and supports women as they build creative businesses. Signing up to work with her was the best investment I could have made. Ali helped me clarify what’s important to me and let go of thoughts that hold me back, including what she calls ‘the devil in the dishwasher’. If ever I fall back into old ways of thinking, with my work slipping down my priority list, she picks me up on it and urges me forward.
Another source of inspiration has been a book called ‘Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear’. Elizabeth Gilbert argues that by living a creative life, and following our dreams, we teach those around us, particularly our children, to do the same. She asks the question, ‘Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say YES’.
All this has helped me to value my art, and to see my creativity as a gift to my family, rather than something I need to justify. Being creative has enriched and healed me, and friends and family benefit from a happier, calmer and more fulfilled me. I found balance in my life.
And then came lockdown. Agh!
Like most other parents, I wondered how on earth I would manage to work with two children at home. All day. Every day. And it wasn’t easy! I had to accept that the house would get messy, and that the kids might have more screen-time than I’d like. But I was determined that it wouldn’t be my art that would suffer.
I came across the book ‘The Miracle Morning’ by Hal Elrod. To a night owl like me, his suggestion of getting up early to make time for yourself was not an attractive one. But, needing to find time from somewhere, I gave it a go, and set my alarm for 5.30am. And I loved it! Painting in a quiet house, with everyone else asleep, and hearing only the birds outside, was utter bliss.
The added benefit was that I was calmer for the rest of the day because I had begun by achieving what was most important to me.
And the result was that I managed to continue my creative business throughout lockdown. In fact it was busier than ever!
Fellow creatives asked how I could be working so much. The answer was that I simply couldn’t live without art, and had to find a way to fit it in.
If you find yourself saying that you don’t have time for creativity – or indeed for anything else that you love – then my advice is to be brave. Know that your fulfilment is important. Work out what your deep-rooted assumptions, fears or excuses are, and challenge them.
If you can shift your mindset, and make simple changes to your routine, it’s amazing what becomes possible.