So there I was, a first time mom with disheveled hair, a two-day-old nursing shirt, unshaved legs, and a sink full of dishes. I was holding my newborn baby girl in one arm and a checklist full of to-dos and would-like-to-dos in the other hand. And, as my morning turned to afternoon and my afternoon to evening, my checklist still sat empty. The next day, my checklist turned into merely three items: sleep, eat, shower.
As a full-time employee and mother, I feel the pressure. The pressure to be it all, do it all, and have both feet in both worlds at the same time. Come home early to be with my child and also stay late at work to show dedication and drive. Check my phone regularly for client emails, and stay off my phone completely to dedicate my attention fully to my daughter. On top of this, I do (really, I do) have hobbies. Well at least I think I do, somewhere between the routine of the day and the pull of being wife, mother, employee, and friend.
In the rush of things, we can’t help but to wonder, “Have I sacrificed my dream for these things?” We wonder if we’ve laid aside our long-awaited titles of “Musician,” “Artist,” or “Writer” for “Changer-of-Diapers,” “Doer-of-Dishes,” “Fit... Fit-ish Mom,” and “Dedicated-Employee.” So, what do we do? Where do we go from here when we are at our max and feel we have nothing more to sacrifice? How can we pursue art within the strong current of routine and responsibility?
Well, fortunately, I do have a few tips to help you pursue art and continue to grow as an artist amongst the busyness of life:
1. Carry a Notepad/Sketchpad/Music Pad
This could be physical or digital. NEVER pass up a fleeting thought of inspiration! You never know when inspiration will strike, and in the busyness of the day we can’t rely on “Oh, I’ll remember that!” Write/Sketch down your ideas as soon as they hit! (I will even sometimes create voice memos on my commute to work to remember ideas I want to write about.) Even if it’s just one word that inspired you, write it down. Then, when you have an unexpected 30-minute window to practice your art, you will have a whole notepad of ideas to get you started and act as the springboard into productivity.
2. Wake up Early
Let me emphasize that sleep is incredibly important. But sometimes, the still of the morning (while everyone is asleep) is exactly the peace I need for ideas to flow. Not everyone is a morning person, sure. Then perhaps this set-aside time for you is on a lunch break, arriving twenty minutes early to work and sitting in your car, or taking an extra long shower to think (the only almost-guaranteed place us moms have to ourselves!)
3. Take Yourself on a Date
We schedule time with friends, with family, for birthday parties, for meetings. A friend wants to have a coffee date and we can almost ALWAYS find somewhere in our schedule to take an hour window. Now, find the same sense of priority in you! Schedule time with yourself. Turn off your phone. Take yourself on a date. Truly. Write it on the calendar, and tell people you’re busy.
4. Find Like-Minded Community
There’s nothing more inspiring than finding someone anxious to hear/read/see your next piece of work and find mutual joy in creative energy. Find or create a local group to exchange your creative pieces with for valuable critique and praise. Sharing the excitement of creativity and someone appreciating your talent couldn’t be more encouraging.
5. Attend Community Events
You’d be surprised how many creative communities there are in your neighborhood. There are food festivals, art festivals, music festivals, writing groups, reading groups, community orchestras, theater, and more ALL around you! You don’t have to feel like you’re sacrificing family time for your art, go WITH your family! Let them experience what you love. When going to a bookstore, grocery store, or restaurant, look for local magazines at the door that tell you about and promote community events. Also, colleges are a hub of creativity! Check their websites for events too!
6. Break Up
Break up with the apps that steal your time and energy, that don’t contribute to your growth or joy. Just as you can’t sustain 20 best friends, neither can you sustain 10 apps and hobbies. Sometimes we must sacrifice little time suckers here and there to devote more time to our art.
7. Surround Yourself with Inspiration
Surround yourself in that which promotes inspiration and creativity! Perhaps it’s making a cozy nook in your house, painting one wall red, keeping a garden, or writing your favorite lines from books on the mirror. Whatever it is, surround yourself with inspiration.
8. Take a Hiatus
Take breaks from your art, and don’t feel guilty. Sometimes we need to refocus our energies on other projects, duties, or our own heath. Don’t feel guilty. It’s okay. Really.
9. Be with the Lord
Pursue the Lord and your outpouring of worship, adoration, and joy will inspire you to pursue the specific gift of art that the Lord has given you to worship Him with.
At the end of the day though, the best answer I have for you may not be particularly “sexy” or be fit to write on your bathroom mirror in your favorite color dry-erase marker. Here it is. Ready for it? Sometimes you can’t do it all. But, let me offer you something more optimistic than this. Something comforting. Something true. Something beautiful.
Life IS Art. Art happens in the wee hours of the night when your child comes to you scared of the monster under the bed, and you sit there holding him in your arms. His little body relaxes, his breathing slows, his chest rises and falls against yours, and the world is quiet and simply watches. Art happens when you’re rushing out the door and your child decides instead to pick a flower. In the rush, your little girl gleefully shoves the flower in front of your nose and declares, “LOOK, ma! Look at how many colors the petals have! I always just thought it was red!” It happens the moment the tension breaks with your spouse, they let down their guard, and with a tear in their eye walk toward you and embrace you. For these things, there is only art.
These moments shape us as an artist. They shape our art, become our muse, become the emotions that make our art breathe! These moments may not have yet found permanence on a piece of paper, but they are etched on our hearts waiting to find expression. Be FULLY in these moments, as these moments pass too fast. And, more importantly, trust the Lord. Trust the season He’s placed you in as an artist. Open your eyes, your ears, your heart to the moment you’re in. The Lord hasn’t made a mistake. He hasn’t made a mistake even when He’s blessed you with the ability to be a songwriter and each time you pick up a pencil, you fall fast asleep.
Redefine your definition of success as an artist. Our goal here on earth as artists of the Master is to reflect his beauty, to bring through our art a little piece of Heaven on Earth, and be molded into His likeness, revealing glimpses of His majesty.
Our life is an act of worship, and our art a reflection of life, the very life we accuse of getting in the way of our art.
With all the best wishes, you got this.