The first week of no school was rough. This is the first summer in two years that I didn’t have work as a brief respite for a few hours a day each week. I really wanted to make my writing a priority and after week one, I hadn’t written a word that wasn’t a grocery list. The boys were at each other’s throats. I started the week with a low-grade fever and sinus pain. Things weren’t going well.
The second week, they were both in camps. (Insert sigh of relief here).
The first day the boys were in camp, I came back from drop off and managed to bang out 1700 words of the book project I’m working on and a draft blog post. I still had time to reward myself with lunch and an episode of Parenthood (ironic choice, no?).
I was amazed at how great I felt, how light, energized and happy after spending just two hours with fingers to keyboard. I felt fed and satisfied and inspired. I had to take a notebook to camp car pool pick up with me for all the ideas suddenly bubbling up.
It’s so easy to forget that creativity begets creativity, that your brain needs a workout as much as your muscles. And let’s be honest, every day parenting isn’t exactly a mental workout.
So, how am I going to ensure that when the boys aren’t in camp this summer, I’m still flexing my creative muscle?
First step is identifying what feeds me:
- Writing – Whether it’s here, in a journal, on the book project, a letter/card to a family member or friend, I enjoy watching letters form words and words form sentences and sentences become thoughts. It’s not always easy, but it’s always rewarding.
- Being Outside – When I get into a mood, often just taking a cup of coffee onto the front porch or ushering the kids over to the park for an hour can drastically change my (and their) outlook. Fresh air, natural elements, birds chirping. Plus, when we’re outside, we tend to be doing something active – playing, walking, hiking, running, kicking a soccer ball. Involving all the various senses of sight, sound, smell and feel outside can only serve to feed the creative parts of my soul.
- Water – I’m an Aquarius and the water has always been my solace. The bigger the better, but without an ocean nearby, a stroll by the river or a hike to a waterfall or even throwing stones in the creek and watching the ripples all restore a certain balance to me.
- Reading – Hi, my name is Monica and I am a bookworm. I feel unmoored and a bit lost when I don’t have a book to read. I love watching characters evolve, feeling myself pulled along with the story, seeing other authors so effortlessly craft a story. I read at breakfast, lunch, bedtime, carpool line, waiting rooms, whenever I can sneak it in. I don’t understand people who say they don’t have time to read. I don’t have time NOT to read. Even five minutes a day is enough to take me outside myself.
- Driving – I’m not sure if it’s the open road, the pull of possibilities, but I tend to get most of my inspiration in the car. To clarify, I tend to get most of my inspiration when highway driving. Shuttling kids to activities and errands around town doesn’t leave me much time for inspiration, but long road trips or a commute or those rare moments when I’m riding out to an appointment alone – those moments are priceless for me.
Now that I’m more aware of how these activities feed me, I can work to incorporate them into my daily routines and, yes, with the kids. So we’re taking a few picnic hikes, visiting the local botanical gardens, going to the library. Each of these small activities with the kids are like small snacks for my soul. Certainly they don’t allow me the physical time at the keyboard to write, but they feed my senses, stretch my experiences and relieve the stress of breaking up arguments between the boys when we’re just at home building Legos and grating on each other’s nerves. This dedicated time with the kids exploring our world and things that inspire me also inspires them. I’ve watched them build rock collections on our hikes, marvel at tadpoles in a rock pool, discover new books and invent new playground games. Spending this time engaged with them outside the walls of our home also buys me a few extra minutes of quiet when we return as they rest or read new books or watch a movie.
Adjusting to this new schedule has been challenging. Seeing how much better I am at writing, mothering and living when I feed my soul has inspired me to take my inspirations seriously. And to take my kids along for the ride. After all, who knows how that inspiration might feed their souls?
So what feeds you? Is it crafting, cooking, hosting parties, volunteering, music? How will you feed yourself this summer?