I'm so happy to bring you all a new Creative Mothers Interview! It's been way too long. I LOVE Lucy's perspective on motherhood and creativity. Truly a positive and beautiful person. Such an inspiring mama!
Thank you Lucy for sharing these insights and creative pieces of yourself!
I am a writer and an artist, a wife and a mother. My primary modes of creation include the blog, the novel, the poem and the multimedia collage.
Only recently did I delve into "installation art." I had the opportunity to show my poetry at a gallery and I needed a clever, appealing way to display it. The show, "Maternal Matters," is currently at The Shop at Flywheel Press in the Bay Area.
In October 2014 I moved from Seattle, where I grew up, to San Francisco. I love the bay. In January, I co-founded Maker Mamas, a community to support artist moms in San Francisco and beyond.
For me, art is a way of life. I try to infuse everything I do with creativity, whether I'm cooking dinner or lifting weights at the gym. I use recipes and regimens as guides rather than templates. I am not a rigid planner, I like space for fluidity.
1. What is your earliest memory you have of creating/writing, and when did you realize you needed to write regularly?
My earliest memory of writing was at six years-old. We kept a daily journal at school. At home, I made my own diary, which I still have. I wrote my first poem, "Autumn Leaves," on my mother's typewriter at age 7 or 8. Though I wrote in the second grade that I wanted to grow up to be a "book author," I shoved that dream down to the bottom of consciousness for years. I didn't think I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be stable. I wanted employment and independence.
But have you ever noticed how the universe shows up for you? Have you noticed how it nudges you in the right direction no matter how many times you look the other way?
Some years after college, my best friend and college roommate told me that I told her during those formative years that I "actually" wanted to be an English or writing major. I am still not sure I remember thinking that way at university. The first time I consciously remember wanting to write happened at the end of 2008, when I was 23 years old. By that time I had already switched career paths, abandoned a graduate program, lived in Thailand for the better part of a year. I had already fasted for a week, stopped drinking alcohol (temporarily), traveled in South East Asia and returned home. I'd already sold my soul (AKA good credit) to buy a condominium in downtown Seattle. The catalyst for returning to my true writer self was something like an awakening, in which I recognized and quieted my ego for perhaps the first time since she'd gotten a hold of me in my early teens.
But, again, it wasn't until my second career ended with a terrible thud that I realized it was a complete farce. The man who gave me the job was headed for prison; I was laid-off and newly pregnant. Onto another career, this time, at home so I could be with my baby. I started an organic herbal tea business in 2009, Herbal Philosophy. I won't go into details, but I only recently closed its doors upon my move out of Seattle.
It wasn't until after my daughter was born in 2010 that I sat down at my computer while she slept and started tapping out the story that would become my first novel, The Farrang. Three years earlier I had been so taken with the people I met in South East Asia that I would often say to my cousin and travel partner, "these people are like characters in my book!" Finally, I knew where those words came from. As I wrote this novel, I knew, I needed to write. It wasn't easy, but it was right.
2. How do your children inspire and take part in your writing?
As I mentioned, something about having children compelled me to write. My best guess for this? When I became a mom at 24 years old, younger than I could have ever predicted, I realized that my life had begun. There would be no more wasting time. This was it. They continue to inspire me every day--I want to be a role model for following my dreams and my heart.
3. What does a typical day/week look like? When do you feel the most inspired to write?
I am always inspired to write, but that I doesn't mean I don't also succumb to distractions (and often). Typically I wake up slowly with my family. If I am up early and I have the energy, I love to sit down at my computer first thing to write. This is usually poetry or something journal-like that may end up on my blog.
Most mornings I have two hours of childcare at the community center where I exercise and read in the steam room, and finally, post up in the cafe to write for 30-45 minutes. Preferably on my current novel.
Four afternoons per week while my younger daughter naps (usually on me in the front pack) and my older daughter is in preschool, I have 1-2 hours to work.
If I am lucky, I will get some more time after the kids are in bed, but I am also known to hang around on the internet when I am too tired to do anything else--including go to bed.
4. What is the most challenging thing about being a mother and full time creative? How do you handle those challenges?
It can take me a long time to get in the flow. I mentioned that most weekday afternoons I have 1-2 hours, assuming my little one wants to nap, but often it will take me half of that time just to get through my emails and get my thoughts organized and figure out exactly what I want to work on. By the time I get going, my time is almost up! Or perhaps the time just flies when I am writing. Either way, I am always getting interrupted, either by myself or others. I am working on making smoother, quicker transitions. I am very much a work in progress.
So for me, the greatest challenge is finding time.
5. Can you share a recent poem and give us some insight into it?
I want you to do what inspires you
Whether it’s “bad” like taking off your clothes
Committing to wanderlust and only wanderlust
Looking beautiful above feeling beautiful
Numbing and filling and failing
Or it’s “good” like fighting for social justice
Making babies and raising them closely
Teaching yoga or meditation or The Truth
Reading and writing and ruining and creating.
I want you to be who you are
Wild hair pale skin smooth hair dark skin
Sex lover sex avoider sex hater
Careerist artist feminist philanthropist
Competitive anxious selfish judgmental
Gifted deep spiritual devoted
Depressed happy introverted extroverted
High low stubborn stuck
Changeable mutable unpredictable
I want you to cast away shame
I want you to love yourself
I want you to have unshakable faith
I want you to do what you want
I want you to stop listening to them
I want you to know your purpose
I want you to enjoy yourself
I want you to be more you
As you are now, you are perfect.
I wrote this for the women in my life. They are so perfect and many of them feel dissatisfied with themselves. As women we are taught by society that the ideal woman is always different and better than who we are. I want to encourage women everywhere to know themselves and love themselves and shine their light, without thinking they need to be different in order to shine. As Marianne Williamson famously said, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us."
6. We are all afraid of failing. Failing are children. Failing as artists. But failure makes us stronger and keeps us growing in so many ways. Can you talk about a time where you felt that you had failed, and how it became a positive instead of the feared negative?
Oh, yes. It seems that the good and the bad in life are so tangled, there's no way to separate the two. As I mentioned, my second career was built on someone else's fraud. I consider working for this man, a friend before he was a boss, a certifiable sociopath who used his employees to help him steal money, as one of my greatest mistakes.
And yet. Because of this experience, I learned. I learned that some people lie. They lie to old friends, they lie to their best friends, they lie to their family. I learned to be more careful about trust, but I also learned that you have no control over other people, and sometimes, it's a crapshoot. Sometimes, you trust the wrong person and when you reflect on the experience, you still don't know what you would have done differently. I learned to forgive myself for making a gross mistake, and I learned that every once in a while you come across a person who doesn't deserve to be forgiven. I learned that you forgive that person anyways, and then you walk away.
All of those lessons aside, I would still make the same mistake all over again. Why? Because of that job, I met the love of my life and now we have two daughters together. My family is everything.
7. I love your post 'The Beauty in Falling' and the mindset you bring to that ever pervasive idea of balance. To me balance is an ongoing act when it comes to motherhood and creativity, and life in general. Do you feel that balance is a flow rather than a constant handle on your life? That it's something that isn't always where we want it, but where it needs to be when parenting and creating are involved?
Yes. That is it exactly. I daresay I do not have a constant handle on anything. My creativity ebbs and flows. Balance is a continual practice, and I am always hoping to find more of the flow and less of the ebb. That being said, I am a mama first. And my children are small once. Someday they won't follow me around the house. I try to soak up all of their fierce love while they're hungry to give it, which means my art unfolds slowly. I have spent five years wrestling with these conflicting ambitions, and I will continue to seek a healthy balance.
8. I love Maker Mamas. Can you share the inspiration behind that, and what it's about?
Maker Mamas is a collaborative art project founded by Danila Rumold, Jacquelyn Krieger, and myself. Our mission is to make the unseen work of artist moms visible through the exploration of their art and their stories.
The idea for this project came out of an initial childcare co-op we started to give one another more time to do our work. We quickly discovered we needed something beyond time; we needed a collective of mothers who supported one another as artists, a coterie of kindred spirits coming together to create, as well as raise our babies.
We are now accepting submissions for visual art and poetry and prose for our blog. We are also recruiting volunteers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Interested readers can connect with us on our Facebook community or by emailing me at lucymiller7 [at] gmail [dot] com.
9. What advice can you offer other mothers who are just starting out, or are struggling to find the time to create/write?
Start now. Don't wait. Don't worry what you are going to create. Just start. If you want to write, write about nothing. It will turn into something. I wrote my first novel by writing it, not by thinking about it or plotting it or planning it in advance. As E.L. Doctorow said about writing, "It's like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."
If time is the issue, give yourself permission to do only one thing while your children sleep: create. Let the laundry pile up, let the dishes sit, let the bed go unmade. Your creations are worth your time. The chores aren't going anywhere. They can wait.
10. Finally, name an artistic mother who inspires you. Why and how does she inspire you?
My Maker Mamas! Danila Rumold, painter, and Jacquelyn Krieger, whom we call a "maker of many" since her artist self spans too many labels to list. These ladies are full-time mothers who create every chance they get. They are joyful co-collaborators who've helped me stretch myself as an artist. They are always ready to provide constructive feedback and they seem to possess the exact connections we need. Because of them, I feel more at home in San Francisco as both a mother and an artist.
I want to also mention one of my very favorite novelists, Barbara Kingsolver, who wrote her first novel at night while she was pregnant with her first child, and struggling with insomnia. This exemplifies how the universe shows up for us. Life happens for us, not to us. Insomnia is extremely unfortunate, as anyone whose battled it during pregnancy (and at other times), knows. But look what she did with her insomnia. She turned it into art. I am also in awe of her stories, her scientific knowledge and her prose. She weaves activism and science into narrative. She also established the Bellwether Prize for socially engaged fiction to "encourage writers, publishers, and readers to consider how fiction engages visions of social change and human justice." What a woman.
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.
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