Recently, I've been thinking about how another critical component of creativity is when it does the work of making connections. For me, I exercise my creativity these days by making connections between things - between people by creating spaces for conversation, between parenting and my identity, and even between the mundane and ethereal.
I recently read this article in NYMag called "Is Domestic Life the Enemy of Creative Work?" (recommended by Lisa) and I thought it touched upon these thoughts I've been having in a really poignant way.
The author of this article posits that creativity comes in direct conflict with parenting and especially with the responsibilities of motherhood, and asks, "Why is it that writing (or really any creative pursuit) seems to be in such conflict with parenting?" The response she got from her writer friend was: "Because the point of art is to unsettle, to question, to disturb what is comfortable and safe. And that shouldn't be anyone's goal as a parent."
She goes on to quote more opinions along this line: "Art itself is inherently subversive. It's dsetabilizing, it undermines, rather than reinforces what you already know and what you already think" (Deborah Eisenberg). "Art is revolt" (Hippocrates). And Oscar Wilde said it is the most intense mode of individualism the world has ever known.
One one hand, I absolutely agree. There is a place that your mind goes when creating things that seems to have no room for distractions - whether it is children, household chores, or even your spouse. And art can be an incredibly powerful force for change and revolt. But this is only one of the many attributes and capabilities of art. Art is a wonderful way to express the revolt and subversive, and to question and unsettle... and some art undermines and challenges our way of thinking in such a powerful way. But these days, as I've been thinking about the creative life as a parent, I keep coming to the conclusion that art's most noble abilities is to connect. It connects people, it connects dots of thoughts and ideologies and beliefs and feelings. It expands your person story as you make it and as you experience it. It connects you from your earthly being to the spiritual.
And even though it is mind-bendingly hard to find some spare time to create as a parent of young kids, I think the creative life can definitely exist (and maybe be enhanced) by parenthood. I don't parent with the main priority being to keep them safe. I parent in order to connect with them as people and equip them with the tools to connect with themselves, other people and all the beautiful and mysterious things around us.
(It's so funny and ironic that as I type this, Lola is climbing on to the table where my laptop is, trying to push the lemon she has in her hand on the keys, asking "this? this?" while pointing to everything, and then trying to close the laptop).
The author goes on to say, "[The home life] makes perfect sense but for a writer intent on using language to break down boundaries, explore taboos, trespass over the line of what is polite and pleasant and suitable...." And I would argue that a writer attempting to do all of those things, is actually doing it with the intention and desire to connect!
The author concludes with a conversation with another writer, Gallanudet Howard, who is a mother of two kids. About being a writer with kids Howard says: "The kids grew me up in a way nothing else could have. And basically, I needed ten years of mothering before I was like, "Whoa, hey, this is what I'm meant to write. And now I'm working on a novel I love and it feels like the kids gave me that by remaking me." Howard says that yes, the kids taught her about intimate relationships, but that they also taught her "not to fear pain so much, to understand, experimentally, that pain and joy are inextricably linked (connections!) and that we are not in control. That's one of the major things parenting is teaching me, the balance between letting to in writing and being ferocious with my imagination and rigorous in my practice. Shape and chaos. Learning to shape chaos."
This was my view from when I was writing this post.
This is the fourth installment of my ramblings about creativity. (The first four were: Thinking About Creativity, Creating Invigorates, Creativity in Community)