You Have to Get Creative to Be Creative as an Artist-Parent

This one took to visual art early. And she sometimes still draws on herself, now a teen.

It takes a tremendous amount of energy to be a practicing artist and mother of young kids in the most expansive of times. But throw a global pandemic on us that keeps our little ones at home or away from regular childcare and tosses our creative processes and rituals out the window… well, life could get messy fast. Or leave artists without practicing their skills for months on end, feeling adrift without production.

I speak first hand! Having a baby at home and wanting to reboot this website with regular weekly content has been harder than I anticipated! I figured I wasn’t the only one who was both struggling with their creative work AND could use a little inspiration. Here are five different get-art-done tactics and some wisdom from other local Fayetteville artist-mamas.

1. Constantly Be Planning
Jason Feifer, dad and editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine, recently posted a great series about how he likes to spend a lot of time pulling topics together, considering questions and options, letting ideas simmer as he takes care of his kids or home tasks, and then planning his work before sitting down to write. After all this mental cogitation, the actual writing is fast and focused. I love this process for creating original work. I often find myself ruminating while rocking the baby to sleep or picking up ideas while we’re out riding around.

Muralist and mama of four (9, 7, 3, and a new baby!), Lacey Crime has become masterful at planning: “Since the pandemic I have become more motivated and driven. I have actually landed more commissions during this time than any other. I am realizing the importance of being consistent with my work and trying to set goals that take me out of my comfort zone. Mainly by getting word out there that people could use a custom mural they just don’t realize it yet.”

2. Play Over Perfect
Incorporate playtime with the kids into your creative process. Kids want to do what you’re doing! Why fight it. Instead, use their natural curiosity to increase your own playtime and output.

Mixed media Artist & Mama of three (13, 9, 8), Jen Hancock found inspiration this way. “My creation process became a little tricky to manage during the onset of the pandemic. Routine and my normal means of gathering inspiration were thrown out the window, and my focus shifted to managing online crisis-schooling and keeping everyone from losing their mind. Honestly, it was so overwhelming at first I fell into a complete creative funk. There was so much going on, I had a tough time focusing, and my creation space had turned into a classroom. So I did what I love to do and got creative! I stopped thinking about developing my business and dug back in to why I love to create. My youngest is my art buddy, so I snatched her up and we started working on small projects together, and drew inspiration from everything going on in the world. We created art together as a family to stand up against racism, and to ease our minds and escape from the reality of being stuck at home. Slowly, but surely we’re finding our way back into a routine, and I’ve become truly inspired by stepping back and refocusing.”

3. Change Your Goals
We all had different goals, both personal and professional, for 2020 at the start of the year. But with the novel coronavirus acting like an 8 month old tossing all her toys around the room with our lives, resetting goals is probably something we’ve all done at least once this year.

That reset could be shifting into smaller chunks. In Off The Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, Laura Vanderkam writes about doing the smallest possible step that will allow your brain to recognize forward momentum. Maybe that’s writing one hundred words or doing a single sketch or putting together a single staff of notes or dance moves.

Or you could go the other direction, and work towards one large outcome or project rather than several you may have identified back in January (aka another lifetime).

Graphic Designer and mama of two (6, 8), Betsy McElwee has learned a lot about the work goals she wants for the future. “I’m focusing on bigger picture projects that require more thought process and less fast paced turnaround on small jobs. I’m fortunate in that I haven’t seen a huge decrease in work, as I have steady client base and agency work at a local company. But these strange times have definitely provided insight to the type of work that I want to be doing, and find fulfilling and worthwhile.

4. Nurture Rituals
Find your best work time (if you can). In the book The Artistic Mother: A Practical Guide for Fitting Creativity into Your Life, Shona Cole writes: “Are you a morning or evening person? If morning, consider getting up a little earlier to complete a specific item on your art to-do list. If evening, get your evening chores out of the way and stay up an extra thirty minutes.”

Also, have a dedicated space (no matter how small). Again from The Artistic Mother: “It is important to have an art table, desk, or craft room. It does not need to be huge or fabulous at the start, but it needs to be functional.”

Visual Artist & Mama of two adorable girls (5, 7) Katlin McFadden is grateful for this time and space: “I have a studio in my apartment where I work on my art daily. Sometimes I get up at 5 am to paint until my kids get up for school and I also paint in the evening hours when they’re watching a movie or in bed. My output has improved because I spend a lot more time at home in my studio producing work. I wasn’t really sure how I would be impacted but this time of focus has been a wonderful growing period for me and artist and I’ve produced some of my best work.

5. Find Accountability
Partner up! Have weekly creative sessions with another artist parent. Use deadlines to your advantage (preferably imposed by someone else, real or fake) to get moving on making. And don’t be ashamed to ask for help! From your parenting partner or other quaren-team adult, if you need help with the kids in order to have creative time, or help from your fellow creatives in getting motivated or finishing your work.

Graphic Designer & Mama of three littles (1, 5, 7), Chanai “Genie” Winborn has a great accountability team at the creative co-working space she runs with her husband! “I connect with creative supporters both new and old everyday on social media, mainly Facebook and those that are members at Creative Space Station and people that may come by the station looking for creative help.”

If you’re an artist-parent, how has your own creative process changed in 2020? Drop a comment and let me know!

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