In the first of an occasional series on Creativity and Motherhood, here is our very first ever guest blog from the lovely Harriet Hopkinson:
The fact that I’m writing – or trying to write this – out in the garden while my children play around me says it all. Having got as far as the title, I’ve already been interrupted once to get my daughter more milk – mulk, mulk, mulk – and to rescue my son’s tricycle which he’d crashed accidentally-on-purpose into the gulley between the lawn and fence so that it could then be retrieved – a manoeuvre which he oversees to ensure that I use the proper tools - his sister’s toy pushchair – in the appropriate way – the pushchair’s handles must be hooked around the handlebars of the tricycle before pulling accompanied by straining and groaning sounds.
Now, where was I? (A tennis ball lands on my head, mulk is splashed on my leg…) Is creativity compatible with (a football lands on my head) being a mum? If the life story of the writer and Nobel Laureate, Doris Lessing is anything to go by, the answer is ‘no’: as a mother, she felt ‘trapped in a persona she feared would destroy her’ and so left her two young children…
Sorry about that – just got called away to accompany my son, who has now been transformed into a police officer thanks to his dad’s bicycle helmet (my daughter is now standing on the paper I’m writing on, rolling a tennis ball on my head and pulling my – argh, no, don’t pull hair!)… to accompany my son to a nasty RTA in which the driver had become trapped in the vehicle. Fortunately, we were able to rescue him and the patient made a full recovery.
If you’re reading this, the chances are you’re a mum and if you’re a mum, the chances are, you don’t need me (or Doris Lessing) to tell you how hard it can be to find time to think, let alone write or paint, amid the day to day routine of changing nappies, wiping hands, filling tummies, brushing teeth, bathing bodies, singing songs, sorting squabbles, reading stories, tidying toys, not to mention interludes sorting out minor traffic offences and answering life’s big questions, such as what happens when you cut someone’s head off?
Still, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Finding time to write is so important to me that without it, I think I’d go insane. (Perhaps this is where Lessing was coming from?) So when I gave birth to my son, I made sure I still found time to write. Once he was settled into a routine with two or even three daytime naps, I made sure that at least one of those was set aside for writing. This time was sacrosanct: I wouldn’t let anything encroach on it – a quick phone call, a little bit of dusting, the washing up. All I did was write. So although progress has been slow, so slow that at times it has felt non-existent, at last, three and a half years later, I have finished a new novel.
So, while I couldn’t argue that being creative is easy when you have children, it’s certainly not impossible either. You just have to be determined to keep some time for yourself. And perhaps that isn’t as selfish as it sounds because, after all, the happier you are, the happier your children will be.
Harriet Hopkinson is a novelist and creative writing tutor. She runs Creative Writing Academy, offering e-learning courses, workshops and mentoring. With no deadlines and the option to dip in and out of courses to suit your lifestyle, Creative Writing Academy is the perfect creative outlet for the busy mum! For more details see www.creativewritingacademy.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org