“There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall” the critic Cyril Connolly once famously said. Was he right? Is parenthood so very hard to combine with creativity? Deborah Brooks, founder of Writing Parents gives her views.
It is 10pm when I finally sit down and start writing this. That’s after a day in which I was up at 4.20 with daughter number one, then up again (for good) at 5.20am with daughter number two. It’s been a long day and so it’s unsurprising that I am not feeling at my most creative now – thoughts of settling down in my bed push aside any other thoughts that might have come to the fore otherwise. It’s hard to write when your brain is so full of other things – what do the children need for nursery tomorrow, what do I need to get at the shops, how can I possibly do everything I need to do this week?!
It wasn’t always like this. Before my children were born I was always writing. Throughout my life the things I have enjoyed most have been reading and writing. In fact the first surviving poem that I have was one I wrote at age 5 for my sister who had just learned to walk – “You are good/you are sweet/you can balance on your feet”. Ok, not award- winning but it definitely showed signs of promise! From then on I was always writing poems and stories and throughout my school years, teenage years and university years I wrote reams of bad indulgent poems and over dramatic short stories. I just enjoyed writing and gave very little thought to whether it was good enough or what it was for.
I didn’t notice it stopping. It was only when my first daughter was about one that I realised how long it had been since I had written anything. I’d noticed that I’d stopped reading so much, but once she started to sleep through the night and I regained my powers of concentration I rediscovered my love of books. Writing was different though. Writing meant sitting down, reflecting, taking time out of a busy life to focus on my inner self and use my imagination. That didn’t come back naturally and has had to be coaxed out.
So is Cyril Connolly right? Is the pram in the hall really the death warrant for creativity? I think for me that there are two reasons that my creativity has been (hopefully temporarily) stifled. The first is how very tired and busy I am and the second has nothing to do with motherhood and everything to do with adulthood. Whereas once I wrote for pleasure, I now agonise over whether I am good enough to ever get published. If, my thoughts go, I am not then why bother at all. It is hard to overcome this self-defeating philosophy.
But on the flipside, motherhood has awoken a new creativity in me in that has shown me a whole side of life that I had never previously imagined. I have accessed deep feelings inside myself that I never knew I was capable of – a love so profound and deep that it has changed me to my very core. This is certainly something worth exploring, thinking through and probing.
These are all the reasons that I started Writing Parents. I feel that parenthood is an exciting time, a time of huge change to both your inner and outer worlds and one that is fascinating to read and write about.
I try not to worry now about whether anyone will ever read it or not. I try to focus on doing it for enjoyment, and if anyone else ever wants to read it, that’s just an added bonus.
Do you want to rediscover your creativity? Why not start by trying this simple exercise?
Sit down in a quiet place with a pen and paper. Laptops are forbidden. Make time for you.
Make sure you have a watch and note the time.
Now write the line “I am thinking of…” and continue writing for ten minutes. Don’t stop writing. Don’t take your pen off the page, don’t cross out anything, just write and write whatever comes to mind and see what you end up with. You will be surprised.
I’d also love to hear how other people have combined parenthood and creativity. Have you found that yours has dwindled or, on the flipside has it spurred you on to new and exciting things?