For many of us life gets in the way of creating. Instead of writing or painting or designing or working on any other creative project, we’re paying bills, doing our taxes, going to meetings, driving the kids to school, cooking, washing dishes, vacuuming, dusting, grocery-shopping and so on. And so on.
It’s as though life is big one interruption. One big obstacle that stops us from picking up our tools and getting to work. How lovely to have hours upon hours of uninterrupted time to just think and play and plan and make? How lovely to have a full hour?
We tend to assume that life and creativity are two very separate things. But they can be fluid. We can write through our lives. We can create through our lives. For instance, I love the first essay, entitled “On interruptions,” in Sarah Ruhl’s book 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater. Here’s an excerpt:
…The child’s need, so pressing, so consuming, for the mother to be there, to be present, and the pressing need of the writer to be half-there, to be there but thinking of other things, caught me—
Sorry. In the act of writing that sentence, my son, William, who is now two, came running into my office crying and asking for a fake knife to cut his fake fruit…
In any case, please forgive the shortness of these essays; do imagine the silences that came between—the bodily fluids, the tears, the various shades of—
In the middle of that sentence my son came in and sat at my elbow and said tenderly, “Mom, can I poop here?” I think of Virginia Wolf’s A Room of One’s Own and how it needs a practical addendum about locks and bolts and soundproofing.
Ruhl, an award-winning playwright and mom of three, has incorporated her life into her book. We can do the same with our own creations. We can write about our lives. We can mine our days for moments that must be written down and understood and shared. We can mine our experiences and memories. Of course, we need to have the time to do the mining and the writing and revising and sharing. Which isn’t easy, but by shifting tasks, asking for help, minimizing our use of social media, it can be done.
We also can live a creative life. We can make everything we do a creative act. What we cook and how we cook. What we play and how we play with our kids. Even how we discipline them. The adventures we have with our friends and partners. The way we structure our days. The way we solve everyday concerns and conundrums.
After all, our lives are art. Just take this powerful quote, attributed to Helena Bonham Carter:
“I think everything in life is art. What you do. How you dress. The way you love someone, and how you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in, and all your dreams. The way you drink your tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How your writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art.”
We can create in the nooks and crannies of our days. We can get creative with the tasks and activities we already do on a regular basis. Instead of texting and checking email on the go, we can use our cameras to capture natural surroundings and sweet moments. We can plant a mini garden in our yards, create flower boxes beneath our windows or make our balconies into secret-garden sanctuaries. We can color and draw along with our kids. We can pause for a few minutes to watch the sunset and recreate the hues in our journals. We can jot down what we see, smell, hear and feel while riding the train to work. The possibilities are, really, endless.
Ruhl concludes her essay with these important words:
I found that life intruding on writing was, in fact, life. And that, tempting as it may be for a writer who is also a parent, one must not think of life as an intrusion. At the end of the day, writing has very little to do with writing, and much to do with life. And life, by definition, is not an intrusion.
So the next time you feel like life is meddling with your creativity, remind yourself of the truth: Life is creativity. And creativity is life. Sometimes, we just might need to get a little creative about letting creativity in.
How can you carve out a creative life? How can you get creative inside the nooks and crannies of your days? How might your life inspire your ideas or your next creative project?