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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Children and Art: the Creative Source

Once upon a time, ladies & germs, and several years before my son was born, I was talking to someone about my varied creative projects and she said, “You must not have children.”

It was, at least for me, a very weird moment. I did not have children, but it sounded terribly unfair to me to say that was the reason I was creative or accomplishing a lot creatively.

Yes, children take time. It’s harder to find time to create when you’re taking care of children. But I know many women like fellow Booktrope author Kandi Wyatt, who has five children and who teaches countless others—and who still manages to write some pretty amazing books, including the Dragon Courage series for middle schoolers.

When my son was born, I did have to slow down my creative work for the first year. Some of that was because I was a very inexperienced parent and felt pretty overwhelmed. I went from wanting to get a play produced in New York to wanting eight hours of sleep, and I stuck to that wish for what seemed like a very long time.

But my son has given me some very great joys that I wouldn’t trade for anything, let alone a new dimension on life and my writing. (He once told a friend his mom wrote all her plays about him; while not exactly true, I did use our relationship for many stories and plays).

Whether or not you’re a parent, I believe what you do with your time and creativity is, ultimately, up to you; and kids can add to that creativity by helping you savor the moment. By moment I mean the times you play with them at the playground or hunker down to make an art project; or any of the other things you do and enjoy doing with each other. (If you’re a savor-the-moment person anyway, more power to you. I needed a kid to help me get there.)

What parenting means for creativity is anyone’s guess—but it could be we all need a certain level of happiness to be creative. I say this because creativity requires time and space and what I’d call a healthy level of obsession—which could be more about who we are, deep down, than the number of children we have (or don’t have?)

I did think a lot about kids when writing The Beat on Ruby’s Street, because it was not only about artists but about how some of us become artists. Ruby’s parents are not particularly attentive and the Beat Generation itself never struck me as being focused on family.

And yet. And yet. 

Ruby’s craving for an artistic community is also a sort of search for family. Art allows us to be in and transcend the moment simultaneously and artists want their work to be known because they want it to reach others and to resonate for them. Children's art compels us because their spontaneity keeps them from getting stale and mired in clich├ęs.

That leads me back to how I started today; I am not creating because I did or did not have children. But children have and will continue to inspire me to create.

What do you think? I’m all ears if you’d like to share your thoughts here. To learn more about finding time for creativity as a parent, I’d recommend these articles: