This is a question that’s been floating around my household quite a bit, actually. And it’s been especially relevant since about July 16th, 2012, when my husband and I welcomed our first child. See, I’m a writer and teacher with some cartooning ability, and my husband is a web designer who uses shapes and colors to solve complicated problems. We both like to create. But once we went so far as to create a baby, our days and nights suddenly revolved around keeping a tiny human being clean, fed, and entertained.
And if you think that sounds like one big, creativity buzz-kill, well–it can be. But it’s more complicated than that.
During those first few sleep-deprived months of parenthood, when I was sitting up every night with a newborn and listening to a lot of music to keep myself from going crazy, I had a bit of a creative epiphany. One night in particular I listened to “House on Pooh Corner” by Kenny Loggins and got to thinking about the timeless magic of certain characters and stories. What stories, I wondered, would my son beg to hear over and over again? Would they be the same stories I remembered from my childhood?
Maybe it was the lack of sleep, or maybe it was the fact that I was forced to basically sit around all night, in a quiet house, with very little but my own thoughts to entertain me. Either way, I began to think that I could create a character a child could fall in love with. And I could create an adventure that would teach that character something about himself. And if I could do all that, then maybe, just maybe, my son would ultimately request my story before bedtime one night. Maybe he’d ask for it again and again. Maybe he’d even share it with his future children, some day after I was gone.
As I sat there in that uncomfortable rocking chair, it hit me in a way it never had before that I wasn’t going to be around forever. There were so many years when I could have written a brilliant children’s book, and I’d squandered most of them doing, well, things that were a little less lasting but a little more fun. Now, I felt a stronger desire and sense of urgency than I ever had before.
The good news is, I now have a solid idea for a young adult novel, and I’m three chapters into it. But of course the bad news is probably obvious: It took me twenty-one months and five days to get to that point.
My husband has already written about the topic of kids and creativity; he wrote: “…I still have creative urges when the day is done. My problem is energy. I need to recharge too, more so than before parenthood.”
And that about sums up the sad irony. We both want to create, just as we always did. And we now have even more motivation to succeed. What we don’t have is the energy. Yeah. A little thing like that.
This particular day has been an extra challenge. For the past two hours we battled with my son to get him into his highchair, to keep him from throwing food on the floor, to get him into his bath, to get him out of is bath and into his pajamas, and finally to get into bed. Now he’s down for the night, and I’m sitting here at the computer desperately trying to squeeze just the slightest bit of creativity from my addled mommy-brain.
It’s tempting to just get into bed and close out the world. But I still want to create. And I’d like to ultimately teach my son that sometimes (most of the time) you have to fight hard to accomplish your goals.
If I didn’t have my son, I wouldn’t be the writer I am right now, today. And if “the writer I am today” is one who has to scramble to put together this guest post after a full day of chasing around after a toddler, well, I can deal with that.
At the very least, it’ll make for an interesting story someday…