A Residency In Motherhood

artist residency in motherhood manifesto

I’m extremely excited to announce that on May 11th (2016) I have become an Artist In Residence In Motherhood. Incidentally, on this very same day, it was also my Grandmother’s 99th birthday. We are not very close, but I nonetheless would like to dedicate this Residency to her. May she get to a hundred.

If you’re curious, you will find all the details about the Artist Residency In Motherhood on its official website, but if I were to tell you with my own words what compelled me to join, I’d say. It’s a project that radiates wit and a badass creative approach not only to art (any art) but to life in general, and my lust for things that are both intelligent and fun is too great to not want to be part of such an inspiring, empowering project.

With just one crucial shift of perspective, I understood that in my hands lies the power to turn my Toddler into my Muse, rather than a burdensome distraction from The Real Work. Many a time I’ve been reminded by fellow artists and film professionals and other such authorities that I will not be able to be a well-functioning creative AND a dedicated mother. In this world of mine, it’s either I can prove I can perform as if I had not even the shadow of a family in my lap, or it’s hasta la vista baby.  And of course it IS true that it’s almost impossible to perform like you’re on speed 16 hours a day, once you have small children in your care – but what if that were actually good news?

I want to BE in this motherhood for real, I want to experience it head-on and learn from it. Learn how to create with the emotions and thoughts this time of my life is offering me, rather than feeling disadvantaged for having given birth to another human being and trying to do the best job I possibly can to make him fall in love with life. I refuse to believe this is not interesting and worth telling the tale of.

My Residency will last for approximately 3.7 years, till December 29th 2019, my son’s 6th birthday. While setting up an outline of how I want to work, I’ve been encouraged to ask myself some important questions. I would love to share some of the less technical ones, hoping they will resonate with more creatively working parents out there.

Q / Where Are You Now?

A / I’m somewhere suspended mid-air in the act of straining to get unstuck. Parenthood has been a nuclear implosion for the emaciated tent of a writing process I had going on for my work. And my self-esteem. The baby, my son, this breathtaking little creature that came out of my body – he sucked me in completely. He transformed me, and transformed all things I believed interesting and sexy – all I had written before suddenly became just so dusty and lame. Like seeing a hungover Goth teenager in broad daylight. You know how Hemingway’s suitcase got lost at the Paris train station, containing all the copies of all unpublished stories he had written in his young years? That’s how I felt right after my life was turned on its head by my son’s grand entrance. It took me months to slowly claw my way back to my desk (a completely alien space, by then) and once I did, I realized I had no idea what I wanted to do there.

Q / What In Your Current Situation Makes Your Creative Life Difficult?

A /  I always say that what I’m missing is time. But when I look at it honestly, it’s more a question of resolve, or the (deep, authentic) belief that my work matters, that my “art” is not just a glorified hobby I’m desperately clenching onto as an excuse to stay home with my child, cause I don’t wanna face the music of hard life and get a job. Some of the closest people convey this message to me. Sometimes in a subliminal way, some other times just plain right on. And this makes my creative life really difficult.

I have very little time. Too little to doodle, too little to be creative without a clear aim. I am with my now 2.4 years old son all day, every day. We don’t have babysitters, daycares, or family close by. I can write at naptime 2 hours when I’m lucky and five days a week I have the evening to myself, which means I can still squeeze 2 hours of work after bedtime, if I’m not too tired. That makes an average of 15 hours of creative work per week, when I keep shit tight. More often than not, even when I do have a couple of free hours to write, I shrink under the pressure of coming up with stories I can sell so I can show someone an income strip and be left in peace.

I do have a desk. I have a kitchen table, and a couch and a floor and a chair on the balcony, but I keep having this distinct feeling it’s a problem for me not to have a separate room dedicated only to my creative work. Sometimes I take my work to the library or to a café, which I enjoy as a change of scenery – but I do dream about having a studio. A real studio, with a door, and a lock.

This as follows is my Artist In Residence In Motherhood Manifesto:

I wish to use my time in this Residency as a frame to help me live motherhood in a more present, joyful way and recount it with as much wonder as I am capable to convey. I want to learn how to turn the challenges of young parenthood into inspiration and creative tools, rather than let them become paralyzing chagrins. I will work on my sense of (artistic) self-worth and empower myself into building the creative life I’ve always dreamed of, not “despite the circumstances” but making treasure of the difficulties.

Coal to gold, motherfuckers.

To keep myself focused and motivated, I hereby declare I will:

  • Write one page of longhand stream of consciousness every morning (or whenever humanly possible) as soon as I’ve given breakfast to my son.
  • Publish every two months on this blog an essay specifically related to my Residency in Motherhood.
  • Make a public yearly check-in with development of projects and taking stock on progress and challenges.    
  • Take myself out at least once a month on a date. Yes, me and My Artist on a date.
  • At least twice a month go for a “Saturday At The Library” working session (until I find a solution for the “my studio” situation)
  • Figure out some acceptable form of childcare that will allow me to have more time for my creative work.
  • Invite a mentor to join me on this journey, someone who will be generous enough to help me shape my Residency’s programme and hold me accountable for my progress.
  • Become creative and pro-active in the financial department and find a way to secure some funding to keep my Residency going.
  • Get in touch with other fellow Artists In Residence in Motherhood to create a support system and possibly collaborate on some projects.
  • Find that studio.
  • And write that fucking novel.

Wish me luck.

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4 thoughts on “A Residency In Motherhood

  1. Super Mama, You are my dear! I am sure you have motivated many, count me in too, to tingle the artist in them. Fabulously crafted this article. Loved it.

  2. I love the focus and fire this project is giving you. Stating goals publicly has such power–it reminds us to do what we want to do.

    Also: I very much agree that it can be huge to have a private, dedicated space to writing. I don’t have one. I crave it. Yes.

    • I cannot believe you don’t have a room for your writing! When I read about your life and daydream about how it all may look (your home, your kitchen, the places you love for a run) I always imagine you writing in a cozy room, at a solid wooden desk fashionably cluttered by your students’ papers, small frogs carved in jade, a thick thesaurus, old moody postcards. There is a wall covered floor to top in books right behind you and somewhere in the corner of the vision I see dark-green velvet curtains hanging by the tall window. Are you telling me now this place DOESN’T EXIST??? We need to change that.

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