by Melissa Uchiyama
My four-year-old eyes a scarab-looking beetle. Green head down, a sure sign it is dead, he says. “Ants will come and carry off this beetle, but not to eat. They’ll put batteries in him. That’s what ants do, you know.” Of course!
Within a five-minute quick walk around the block, he supplies several good children’s book ideas. Children do not leech our imagination; they inspire and sprinkle wit into all they glean. I see it now, despite the trouble with this week. We’ve been confined to the house, confined to my son’s proximity to a toilet. It is like a terrible week-and-a-half snow day. And yet, sequestered, I write.
Given the opportunity (organic conversation, shared walks, observation), kids infuse our otherwise blah writing with grit and firepower. They are life and thus bring life in every essence. Having children does not dull our senses, assuming we are not utterly ravaged by sleep deprivation. Creative energy is not ever-present, but when it rises up, look out. Inspiration abounds. There is no lack of witty dialogue or funny “what if” thinking; instead, the lack is only about time.
This week my son speaks with greater maturity. This week he’s cracked up and cracked me up. Three hours with my son on one of these indoor days could produce forty-two story starters. We need this amidst the labor-intensive tasks of raising children and working that Sysiphusian magic within the household. And now, I am writing with a kind of child-like lightness.
Motherhood does not need to hijack or dull our sense of purpose in writing. We may need to be selfish and creative and fight to write our words.
I fall in love with the personalities and words of my brood. If not written down, these funny and poignant moments are lost to the wind. It is rapid-fire, busy moments with kids. The big ideas are roly-polies. They will not stick around, waiting to be fed. I stuff pens in every room.
To even write these paragraphs, I actively forgo the dishes and choose when to pounce on my note taking or essays. Ideas must matter more than dishes caked with crumbs, sauce, and chocolate milk. This is tense, as parenting is filled with back-to-back moments all lined up like paper chains–ice packs, hugs, and wipes. Everything will loom Important and Dire and it may be.
I want more concrete things to show for my thoughts. It’s good to put our work on the fridge, to be hungry for our next essay, story, or poem. It helps to make something with our words. It helps to have our own experiences and ideas written down in ways that challenge and preserve us.
I feel a certain desperation, but not to flee or crawl away, not even with this week of doctors and medicine, cleaning, and not getting out of the house for me. I want more conversation, more connections. I want to comfort. I want to write tall tales.
I record the fizz of explanations that get us talking about the world. Our living ideas may be the content of future books, the butterflies and mosquito tales we dared to chase or crush.
I chase those “what ifs” alongside my kids. My boy imagines enough decent bug stories that I see the possibility of us co-authoring an entire book of cricket and mosquito short stories. We show them that ideas are worth stopping for, worth flipping open a journal for. I show them rough drafts, even this piece.
I shall work and play hard, present with them, but also present to the profession of words, ensuring the most quality yield. Sick or well days, I shall put my heart and full self in our exchanges. May we allow these days to be transformative, all of them. We just may be the stiff beetles getting carted off for new batteries. We may even publish stories with their names typed in dedication.
We go go go just to finally fall into bed sometimes. We fold and forget exact lines we wish to repeat in a poem. Sometimes, though, and at odd times, new and repeated phrases will turn in our heads, many inspired by our kids. Record them before they fall headlong into “gone”. Stick them on a page and recharge. Tomorrow may be the most beautiful story, a most salient and gratifying adventure.
Image: “Vintage Typewriter” by Memphis CVB via Flickr.
I really appreciated this perspective. So many articles about parenting and creativity focus on the downsides, on lost opportunities or conflicts. But my experience has been much more similar to this. The interactions with my children, with other parents in the neighborhood, with myself (in the form of personal struggles) stimulate my creativity. And learning things like time management, patience, persistence, and organization as a result of parenting has benefitted me as an artist.
I really respect & appreciate your response, Rebecca! I think you are saying something interesting about creativity–that perhaps it needs, or at least benefits from, some challenge, some big choices, or adversity. What do you think? And yes to all of those healthy ways to combat the challenges, as you listed with time management, patience, etc. It requires greater planning than what comes naturally to me. Yes, though! And these qualities can totally serve us as artists. It really turns the whole portrait of the artist on its head. Well done to you and keep up the beautiful work! Thanks again, Rebecca!