Rachel Power’s book, Motherhood & Creativity, struck a real chord with me. The book is a compilation of interviews with successful artists on how being a mother affects their creative practice. These women are all leaders in their various fields, well known and incredibly talented. Yet, I could identify with every chapter. The experience of motherhood is both unique and universal. Some truths stretch wide.
The creative people in the book agreed that having children changed their approach to their work. But it was far from universally negative. There is a common thread that children inspire, they focus attention on what is important, they necessitate a different way of working. They also change their mother. Suddenly, time with children becomes the most important thing, and whatever draws you away better be pretty damn wonderful. There is also the desire to be a good role model. To show your children how just how important creativity is.
Throughout the book there is a theme of snatching at time, collecting it up in small batches and doing as best you can with those snippets. Composing paragraphs of prose in your head and trying desperately to hold it there until a chance to pin it all down to a piece of paper arrives. Or having to let the beginnings of a song go because the demands of children are louder than inspiration.
When you are used to stretches of time, reducing your practice to the narrow confines of a child’s nap is difficult. Then there are dishes to do, the house to clean, the meals to prepare. Industrious tasks that come with a definite sense of completion (even if you will do it all again tomorrow). An hour spent writing may yield nothing but a few words. There is a certain guilt attached to that. Kate at One Small Life wrote a beautiful post on just that.
I loved each and every chapter but the one that really resonated was Cate Kennedy’s. I found myself dog-earing nearly every one of her pages, nodding my head in fierce agreement as I read. Her poem, the Zen Master (both in the book and on Rachel’s blog), is well worth a read. I think anyone who creates and has small children will relate.
I underlined Cate’s words. They rang so true for me.
“You have to justify each minute you’ve organised to do anything other than take care of them. That’s how it can feel to me, anyway, sitting mired in the middle of it, with the end of neither job anywhere in site. … Whenever I bought myself that time … I’d be fretting with a feeling akin to trying to write while there was a taxi waiting outside with its meter on”
And isn’t that the truth?
I loved the honesty and warmth in this book. The recognition that no matter how talented a person is or how amazing their career looks, motherhood is still hard. Wonderful and beautiful and amazing and inspiring and hard. But it also proves that a creative career is completely possible within motherhood. That there are aspects of motherhood that lend themselves to creativity. Cate (yes I really did love her chapter) talked about how motherhood reconnects you with the joy and compromise of what you’re being creative for. There is something about having children that simplifies everything else. Parenthood comes with the gift of perspective.
For many women, I think motherhood also offers the space to think about creativity. Not so much the time, that contracts in a way I never thought possible. But I think your life is altered so drastically that it enables you to look at all things in a new light. There is space in your mind to explore things in a different way.
Motherhood & Creativity is one of those books that you can dip in and out of. Which is quite handy when you have little ones demanding your attention. If you are a mother searching for inspiration, solace or a sense of creative camaraderie, I think you would enjoy this book.
Have you read Motherhood & Creativity? What did you get out of it?