I had the opportunity to teach last week (in a creative journaling series), and although I didn’t feel excited to teach, the students and the creative process gave me a huge gift (I don’t know why I’m still surprised by that; teaching is always a gift): a reminder that perfectionism is the enemy of good work, of learning, risk-taking, exploration, and quite frankly the enemy of happiness & fun.
It’s good to have high standards and good taste, but putting your inner critic into place – not powerful enough to derail you, but not so weak that you produce crappy work – is such a huge challenge. It’s a challenge that I’m starting to understand might be a thing for the rest of my life, something I might never outgrow.
And it’s funny, as a parent, to see how early the struggle can start. For example: my son knows how a particular puzzle is supposed to go together. But getting all the pieces in is difficult. Some days he’ll work at it patiently until he figures it out. Some days, he’ll turn a piece around just twice before crying and running away.
Knitting is (one of) my puzzle(s) right now, and I’m trying hard not to lose my temper with it. My current recipe for success? Er, recipe for not crying and running away? Start again on something easy, and focus for a while on how satisfying it is to have inch after inch of knitting drop away from my needles.
Part 4 of a bite-sized series on keeping your creative life alive while you parent a Little (or more than one). Part 1, part 2, and part 3.
4. Pick projects that you can complete mostly on autopilot. S is just now starting to sleep through the night, at 13 months. I’m sleep-deprived, I’m knitting in tiny chunks, and frankly, I have milk brain. So, for a short season, I gave myself permission to be un-ambitious.
Or rather, I re-defined what ambition looks like for me. I’m holding down a job. I’m learning to parent. I’m making time for my spouse and I to spend together. And I’m defaulting to creative projects that don’t need a lot of thinking. Sweaters with lots of stockinette. Baby hats.
In my last post, I talked about leaving my sewing project literally in the machine. That project is a blanket that requires sewing in straight lines, and almost nothing else. It’s a tiny adventure for me, because it’s increasing my knowledge of my sewing machine and its even-feed foot, but it is something I can easily drop in the middle of a stitch and not worry about losing my place. It’s perfect for these days, and at the end I have something super adorable that will actually be used by my family.
Part 3 of a bite-sized series on keeping your creative life alive while you parent a Little (or more than one). Part 1 and Part 2.
3. Keep projects and/or tools set up around the house. For instance, is there a shelf next to the couch where you can stash a knitting project out of reach? When the kids are playing nicely together in the living room, whip that project out and knit a row. (Does not work for beaded lace shawls. Ask me how I know.)
Right now, I’m also playing around with my new sewing machine. I’ve got it set up in the studio and ready to go, literally with the project clamped in place under the needle. When I have 5 minutes, I can sit down and stitch a little. On my machine, when you turn it on and off, certain things automatically reset – like the stitch length. So if I have to adjust those settings, I make sure there’s a neon bright post-it note on the machine as a way to remind myself to adjust before starting the next time.
I also leave my camera set up on its tripod, next to the photo corner in my studio. Whenever I have a few daylight moments, I can photograph a finished project or the new yarn I just bought. Finding time and brain to edit the photos is more difficult, but I can often do that once a month during my 2 hours of dedicated time.
This works really well for me because I’ve become incredibly selective about the kids of projects I choose to tackle – and that is part 4, coming your way soon!
Part 2 of a bite-sized series on keeping your creative life alive while you parent a Little (or more than one). Part 1 is here.
2. Pick a creative pursuit that scales to your life.
For me, that’s knitting. It’s portable, it’s relaxing, I can talk and do it at the same time. I knit while I pump at work, I knit in the evenings after S has gone to bed and while I talk to Husband, I knit in the car. I knit while playing Dungeons and Dragons with a group of friends (that’s right, geeks cross all segments of society). For a while, I even knit while S was napping in my lap.
Some of my other creative outlets, like printmaking and encaustic, exposed me to too many chemicals for me to be happy doing them while pregnant or nursing. That might also be a concern for you!
Maybe you give yourself permission to experiment with a lot of different things during the baby season of your life – anything that you can pack into a little bag or sprinkle around the house to pick up in 10-minute increments is a good candidate. Creative journaling, embroidery, watercolor paintings, working on your photography skills…. you’ll know the perfect thing when you find it (kind of like choosing the perfect yarn).