Mar 31, 2009

Finding Time To Create

How to you find time to create while caring for your children? This is a question I used to ask myself daily. The older my son gets, the more he wants to interact with me during the day. This of course is wonderful since I am also his teacher. He would happily spend every minute by my side learning with books or through play.

Finding time to sit alone with my thoughts and stare a blank page or sit amongst my crafts supplies searching for inspiration is rarely found now. I tell myself during the day that once he is in bed, I will have some time. You and I both know how that turns out! I either fall asleep staring at that blank page or get lost online trying to connect with fellow humans. Not to mention, asking your brain to think about aspects of your life that have nothing to do with your child, is next to impossible.

I find many mothers have the same problem, eventually everything becomes about the children. How then, do work at home moms create, write, design or "whatever", while at home with their children?

As mothers, we have become master multi-taskers. This is not always a good thing. I realize that a lot of the time it’s a necessity, but to be continually in that state can be exhausting and will all but destroy creativity. In order to create I need to focus only on the project at hand and be able to concentrate. Before having my son, I could spend hours contemplating or sitting in my creative zone just allowing ideas to slowly bubble to the surface. Since I no longer have that luxury and man hasn’t yet found a way to add more hours to the day, I needed to make better use of the time I have.

This is what I do now, I have to think of my brain like a computer hard drive with partitions.
Drive A (the largest drive) is for all things pertaining to my child, as he is and will always be my first priority. Drive B is for all things pertaining to being an adult woman and a homeowner. Drive C is for inspiration, spirituality and creativity. Then throughout the day when the window of opportunity arises (ten minutes here, twenty there), I quickly switch drives.

This takes some practice. You have to silence the voices and chatter in an instant so the next drive can open and begin to compute. There is no time for backups. At first, I would actually say a verbal command out loud to help myself switch gears. I wonder what people thought if they heard me suddenly say "stop, switch", while walking around my house? Humm, good thing I don’t have any close neighbors!

As you go through your day, you train your mind to switch drives at a moments notice and focus only the tasks each drive handles. You have to stop planning lessons in your head while trying to balance a household budget. No thinking about meals while selecting color swatches for your next design.

Some things that might help:

1. When you get twenty minutes or so while your child is engaged, grab a notebook and jot down thoughts on your subject in a rough outline form. It doesn’t have to make sense now, just practice spewing words.
2. Then when your child naps (if your lucky and they still nap), or when you are at the park and they are playing with others, you can refine it.
3. Keep a tape recorder handy to record ideas when your hands are full.
4. Bounce ideas off your children. This can be a fun game for them and may inspire you. Ask them what color they think your next creation should be, or how many ways are there to say " insert phrase here". Your child’s answers may trigger another approach you hadn’t thought of.
5. Stop having conversations with people that aren’t there. We all do this, run conversations in our head over and over, about what we should have said or what we are going to say. It’s precious time wasted.

Once you have a clear concept or topic, then when your children go to bed, it won’t seem like such a overwhelming task. You won’t have to start from scratch when your too tired to find new inspiration.

Yes, I’m still guilty of doing two or more things at once, but I’m getting better at carving out micro windows of time to be creative. Making lunch while on the phone discussing a missing deposit with the bank, I can do.
What I can’t do is call on the creative muse without a clear head. If you have any tips on harnessing your creativity while working from home feel free to share!


ck said...

I'm a SAHM/ creative writer with two girls (1 & 4). I found that the only time I could write, really write, was before they woke up in the morning. I've always been a night person, so even after doing this for 6 months, it's still not easy.

But I've never written as consistently as I have since I started getting up at 4:30 to do it. Knowing that my 2.5 hour window is my only chance each day for "me time" forces me out of bed each morning. And I actually use my time to create, rather than space out on the computer. (Which is what happens if I try to write after they're in bed...which is also why I'm rambling right now...)

Nodin's Nest said...

ck: Early morning is another good option for some, if I can find a way of not waking up my dogs (and thereby also waking everyone else) I might try that.

Flax and Spindle said...

I think you just blogged about me!!

great tips...

H.E.Eigler said...

What a fantastic post! It is hard to switch gears isn't it? I'm wracking my brain to figure out how to make my commute (I drive about 6 hours a week back and forth to work) into a creative time. Thought about voice recorder...might go that route. Otherwise, that time is pretty much wasted. Thanks again for such wise words :)

Vixen said...

Wait, you mean it is not acceptable to lock them in a closet anymore? Wow the world has changed since my kids were little. Who knew.

Hee hee.

Nodin's Nest said...

Flax: I knew there were more of us out there!
H.E. Eigler: That would be a good block of time to take advantage of.
Vixen: lol, I know, some days...

Holly at Tropic of Mom said...

These are great ideas and tips! I definitely crave creative time alone, and it's tough now that I'm pregnant because I am just so tired that when the kiddo is asleep, I want to sleep too!

Nodin's Nest said...

Holly: It is really a craving isn't it? One most moms probably have.

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