Stop Trying to Fight Your Chaos and Just Make Something
What if the obstacles to our creativity are actually our greatest resources?
Over the past several months, I’ve made a habit of asking parents in creative fields how children changed their work. It’s a question asked mostly out of self-interest: I’m currently working on my second book (my first came out earlier this year) and, as I write this, I am 37 weeks pregnant with my first child.
Invariably, the parents I talk to speak of the difficulty of juggling their creative output with the demands of day-to-day life — the childcare, the family obligations, the day jobs, the million big and little things that make up a typical chaotic existence. It’s a worry shared by everyone pursuing some sort of creative work, with or without children: How do we find that balance between creativity and everything else?
It’s a worry that used to consume me, too. After all, doom-and-gloomers throughout the ages have proclaimed the incompatible aims of family and art. “There is no more somber enemy of good art than the pram in the hall,” the English literary critic and father Cyril Connolly infamously warned.
But after looking at the lives of lots of different creative people, I’ve realized that balance — the separate maintenance of two distinct parts of life — isn’t the most fruitful thing to strive for.
Take your life as it is
Anne Truitt was in a crisis. The artist had recently separated from her husband and had three young children when she unexpectedly lost her studio space. Suddenly, as she recalls in her 1982 book Daybook, she had no studio, no money to rent one, and, disastrously for a working sculptor, no way to make her sculptures.
One day shortly after the crisis hit, exhausted by panic, Truitt sat down on her front step to think and had a revelation: “It occurred to me that I might regard being deprived of a studio as a present,” she writes. “I began to entertain the idea that, if I looked upon it as such, I could turn myself into it instead of away from it. By the time I got up from the step, I had decided to make drawings in my living room on the white table I had used to change the children on when they were babies. The…