makar [ˈmækər]
n (Literature / Poetry) Scot a creative artist, esp a poet
[a Scot variant of maker]

Friday, June 21, 2013

She wrote in the kitchen, perched on a stool, with the baby strapped to her back, trying not to move too much in case she woke him. Her mind was racing, perhaps from the coffee or maybe from the desperation. She looked at all the books on the shelf, dusty and muddled, and felt as if they had nothing to do with her. Did they belong to someone else from another lifetime? She wondered about the person who had read them and loved them. What happened to her? She had so many ideas - it sometimes seemed like her head would split open - but none of them made it onto the page.

How much longer could she let the 'big' kids watch television? They'd already had 15 minutes more than she said they could. The baby slept on. It was so nice to sit still and to feel the pen in her hand, to see the words skip across the page. She wondered about starting a PhD. Would that make her writing legitimate? Would it miraculously create more time? Solve the problem of small people and the way their needs spread into every minute of the day? No, of course not, but a woman could dream, couldn't she? The baby squirmed; the DVD came to an end. The pen stopped. 

This was two weeks ago, on a particularly low Friday afternoon. Once the kids stirred, one from sleep, the other two from the coma-like state of viewing, we went out into the garden. In the postbox was a package, containing a copy of Lost in Living. I watched it that night and it was everything a documentary should be: intelligent and subtle with an open minded approach. It lifted me out of the fug that I have been in for weeks. Not because it provides an answer to the problem of trying to find the time and space to make art when you're a mother. I don't know if there is an answer. Two weeks later, I'm still thinking about the film and the women in it, and I'm not sure yet how I feel about everything it touches upon. This much I have garnered:

  • You need time to make art, and motherhood (or indeed parenthood) doesn't leave you with very much of this at all. 
  • To immerse yourself in your art and ignore the children is obviously not a great idea. Neither is ignoring your art and losing yourself in motherhood. 
  • Becoming a mother will probably necessitate a change in the way you practice your art, and also a change in the way you perceive success. 
  • Motherhood changes everything, so of course, your art will change too.
  • The only real solution is the availability of good childcare, but most artists don't make any/much money, so how do you justify the expense? 

Recently, we went to visit my aunt, having not seen her for a long time. Quite out-of-the-blue, she asked me whether I was finding any time to write or do anything else creative. I laughed and replied, "not really". "Well, you must" she said, "It is so easy to lose yourself in motherhood, and to forget that you are a person, with an education and passions and dreams. Even if it's just a little bit here and there, you must find a way to keep your art going. One day, you will have the time to devote more to it, but you mustn't lose it."

She is a painter and mother of four - her words (paraphrased here) mean so much to me.

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