I have been following Carrie on twitter for a while now and a few weeks ago I finally downloaded some of her stories at The Story Forest. Well, she is amazing! I love that many of her stories incorporate homeschooled characters that my kids can relate to. I have to make sure to download some more for our move across the country.
Her description of creativity stands out the most for me and is so spot on, "For me, creative expression is as tantalizing as a new lover, as mind blowing and addictive as any drug, and as deeply satisfying as an exquisite meal. It can also be as frustrating as unrequited love, as confusing and brain-muddling as any drug, and as harmful as a poisoned feast. "
I often feel being creative can be a love/hate relationship and it does have a way of it's own sometimes. Even if creativity isn't really a person, it can definitely feel like it, and balancing a relationship with it can be challenging.
Thank you so much Carrie for sharing your creativity and insights into being a creative mama!
writer + artist + storyteller
My earliest memory IS of creating. I remember lying in bed at night and spinning elaborate tales involving my teddy bear, and then trying to make them into books and being intensely unhappy with the result. That's come in handy now when I watch my eldest struggle with her ideas about creativity and perfection. I can relate. I still struggle with that.
2. When did you realize you were an artist, writer, creative etc.?
I've always been a creative person. I wanted to be a writer from about the age of four or five, and that was always entwined with drawing and illustrating too. I wanted to make stories, in as many forms as possible; written, spoken, illustrated, imagined.
3. Why do you create? How would you feel if you could not create anymore?
I need to be creative. It's not an option in the least. If my creativity was taken away from me, I would surely perish. And I'm not exaggerating. For me, creative expression is as tantalizing as a new lover, as mind blowing and addictive as any drug, and as deeply satisfying as an exquisite meal. It can also be as frustrating as unrequited love, as confusing and brain-muddling as any drug, and as harmful as a poisoned feast. Yet, if I couldn't write or make art, I'd go crazy. The kind you don't come back from, or which would forever darken one's soul.
4. Did you create before you had children? After? How has becoming a mother changed or enhanced the way you create?
I've been a professional writer for about twenty years now. It was much easier before becoming a parent. I had more time, more money, and more energy, and no one made any demands on me at all. I've never had a 9-5 job, or any full time 'real' job of any kind, so until my mid-30's I could dedicate as much time and money and energy to making art and writing and daydreaming as I wanted.
Since becoming a mama, I've become much better about using whatever slice of time is available to me, and to create 'on demand.' I've become much more economical when I'm creating new content, or when I need to devote my complete attention a task, like manuscript evaluations from other writers.
I'm constantly triaging my projects so that I can dive into the ones that need urgent care first whenever my mom, sister or partner have the kids and I have time alone in my office. Things like emails, author appearance bookings, replying to fan mail, submissions, selected research, some copyediting, and almost all my illustration work I do when the kids are around. Now that they are 2.5 and 5 years old, they're much better at busying themselves while I work. This did not come naturally though; I've been encouraging the kids to do their own thing ever since they were old enough to not be in a carrier nearly 24/7 and/or constantly nursing.
5. What is the most challenging thing about being a mother and an artist? How do you handle those challenges?
Focus. When I have time to myself, I need to be able to apply myself almost immediately, which goes against my nature. I love being alone; I like to read, daydream, wonder, draw, have a bath, listen to music and podcasts, clean the house, do laundry ... but all of those things have to plunge to the bottom of my priority list when I have time to myself. If I have uninterrupted studio time, I have work on original material, or heavy edits., or I won't meet publisher deadlines. When the kids are with me, I try to keep the focus on them, but I am a daydreamer and genuine flake by nature, and so my head is often in the clouds, thinking about my creative projects This results in forgotten appointments, unpaid bills, dirty kids, neglected chores, and the fact that if my partner didn't do all the grocery shopping and cooking from scratch, we'd all starve.
6. Do you ever involve your children in your art? Do they inspire, help, mimic your projects, ask to learn, or be involved in your art?
All the time. We work alongside each other. When I sit down to work on an illustration, the kids almost always get their sketchbooks or a piece of paper or a mess of art supplies and flit to and from the table while I stay put. When I'm not in my office, I work at the kitchen table. That's our family 'atelier,' where all of the kids' project resources and art supplies are, all at kid-level and readily accessible. We doproject-based home learning, so the kids always have something that they're working on or interested in, along with the freedom and time to dig deep into their interests.
7. What have you sacrificed in order to make art?
I don't feel like I've sacrificed anything.
8. What have you gained from creating art?
A life fully lived. Truly, anything less would be truly unbearable.
9. Where do you want your art to go over the next few years? Goals?
I launched The Story Forest last fall, which is a website that sells quality, original audio stories for children, with a focus on homeschooled or unschooled characters and stories from an attachment-focused family perspective. I'd love to be able to dedicate some marketing money to that project and see it gain popularity and traffic. I'd like to get a few of my picture book projects published. I have an eleventh and twelfth YA novel at their respective publishers. I have a collection of short stories that I'm shopping for a home for. I'd like to figure out a way to sell my original prints as nursery art more easily.
10. At this time, what could you sacrifice, change, or simplify to help reach your artistic goals?
I've spent many years honing our lifestyle to suit my creative needs, and my family's needs as a whole. We have no debt, live extremely frugally in a small condo in co-op housing in a vibrant, diverse, walkable neighbourhood. We don't have a lot of stuff, and we stay out of stores as much as possible, so we don't acquire much. We make do with what we have, or we make do without, for the most part. This frees up money, time, energy and both physical and mental space for us to focus on what gets us excited; being together as a family, learning, making, playing, doing, dreaming, traveling.
11. Do you homeschool? Do the kids go to school? How does this affect your creativity and art making?
We homeschool. When I was doing all my reading about homeschooling, I found Lori Pickert's book "Project-Based Homeschooling; Mentoring Self-Directed Learners". So much of what she writes about rang true for what we were doing already. My partner and I both follow our own passions as parents and individuals, so it makes sense that we'd encourage our children to do the same. I've set up our family studio in our tiny kitchen, with quality art supplies and resources at the ready. As for time alone to write, my mom and my sister both take the kids regularly, and I have the most supportive partner, which makes all the difference.
12. What does a typical day/week look like? Are you a morning or night person? Do you stick to a schedule or create whenever you can?
We're usually up by 7am. Every morning while the kids eat breakfast and play and work, I sit with my coffee and toast and read. Usually for a good hour or more. The kids have learned that I am mostly unavailable to them until I put my book away. This makes for a happy mama ready to take on the rest of what the day holds.
As for a typical week? It changes, but this is what it looks like right now:
Mondays we have a regular homeschool park play date with a bunch of spectacular folks.
Tuesday I work in my office while my mom is with the kids.
Wednesday and Thursday is our family weekend. My partner is a chef, so her days off are always mid-week. I use one of her days off as a second writing day.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday are flexible; with lots of time at home. Those are my partner's longest days, so the kids and I have oodles of time to putter and play and make and explore. And go to the library. We have 150 books out at a time. No kidding.
We also love to travel, so we're always planning a camping trip or adventure. Costa Rica, San Diego, Halifax, Whitehorse, Toronto, Ottawa, Mexico are all places we've gone since having kids. We recently got back from five weeks in Mexico, where I did a lot of writing at a local cafe off the plaza in the small town we stayed in. You can read all about it on the blog! www.carriemac.com
As for when I write or make art? Whenever I can. I'm not precious about requiring a minimum of time, so I dive in whenever I can. Ten minutes is better than zero minutes, and mastering the use of ten minutes makes two hours feel like a luxury!
13. Can you offer any advice or tips to other creative mothers on? Inspiration, wisdom?
Simplify as much as possible, so that there's less to do. Free up time, space and resources wherever possible. Under-schedule. Practice saying 'no' to invitations and new obligations. Resist the urge to take on new tasks or responsibilities. Resist the urge to explain why you can't/won't/don't want to do something that will take time away from your creative process. It's nobody's business but yours and your family's. Streamline your calendar so there is as much white space as possible. Streamline your bill paying, household tasks, shopping lists too. Stay offline when you have a slot of time to be creative. Delegate! Supportive spouses ROCK. Consider your own needs before attending to those of others. Give yourself permission to let the kids stay in their pajamas all day, feel free to wash the towels only occasionally, and get the kids to do their fair share of the tidying and chores. Leave your kids alone; they will get better at it over time. You don't need to engage with them every waking moment of the day. Step back, let them be, and start taking time for you. Draw, read, imagine, wonder, write, create. Don't underestimate the importance of your own needs in the name of 'putting family first.' Instead, know that you need to be fulfilled in order to bring your best self to your family. Find out what makes you tick, and go for it. And don't make excuses. Either unapologetically make and take the time, or don't. But don't make excuses.
14. Finally, name an artistic mother who inspires you.
My twitter buddy, Sam ... she does amazing house portraits. http://instagram.com/houseportrait and her twitter is @_sambo_
Are you a Creative Mother, or do you know one? Want to be interviewed? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you the interview questions and info that I need.
I'm no longer doing Creative Mothers interview, but this will remain as an archive. Thank you for all of the love!
About the Series
Let's face it, being a mother can be the most challenging, and the most rewarding thing. Being a mother who needs to be creative can be even more challenging, it can even feel lonely at times.
So let's dig deeper into the lives of creative mothers, share their amazing work, and get some insight into creating while parenting. Hopefully, inspiring other artistic, creative mothers, and women who may one day be mothers themselves, along the way.
Explore Past Interviews
Suzi Banks Baum
Shelli Bond Pabis
Elizabeth B. Borowsky
Kellee Wynne Conrad
Kisco Print Shop
Art by Megan