I never really thought of myself as creative.
I was a bookish child, the sort who memorised the books my mother read me and “read them aloud” to myself at the age of two. I excelled in English and the Humanities. I once wrote a poem that was so good my teacher thought I had copied it from a book. Needless to say, it wasn’t the one I recently discovered in an old copy of the school magazine, which was four lines in length and ended with the immortal words “and now it’s back to the farmyard, the sheep and the cows.”
I was good at the discussion stuff. I studied Philosophy and learned how to talk a good game, to press a point, to argue my way through most discussions in a way that was articulate and concise.
But I wasn’t creative.
Creative people did art, and sang, and danced ballet, instead of improvising routines to Madonna songs as they went along, imagining that they were the most brilliant dancer that ever lived, but knowing that the reality was more drunken Macarena than Margot Fonteyn. They were the ones who got the singing and acting parts in the school play, whilst I was relegated to a walk on part as a “Hawaiian dancer” in a grass skirt. When they went to their flute lessons they would be entered for exams. I never even got to a Grade 1, let alone a Grade 8.
My ballet teacher told me I was a sack of potatoes and advised I switched to gymnastics. My dreams of a scholarship to White Lodge were dashed when my mother told me that ballerinas had “veiny toes.” My flute teacher practically had to drag me kicking and screaming out of double French to get me to attend the lessons. I couldn’t even get a sound out of the blasted instrument, let alone pass an exam in it.
Creativity was not my forte.
But yet I wrote. I wrote diaries, and squirrelled them away wherever I could hide them. I wrote endless lists of characters for imaginary plays, novels and soap operas, and concocted ridiculous plots for them.
I didn’t realise that I was creative.
It wasn’t until I moved to Japan aged 21 that I realised that anyone would even want to read my ramblings, when I emailed my friends back home and received emails back detailing how much they had enjoyed my tales of Japanese pop videos, bad TV and dodgy internet cafes. And it wasn’t until years after that when a friend’s parents cornered me to tell me how much they liked my emails and I should start a blog, that I even considered blogging.
Fast forward another eight years and I have been through three blogs, and I have learned when to share, and when to stay quiet. I have also discovered a whole new world of creativity, and in the world of parent blogging, of creative mothers specifically.
When Bridget Christie talked at Mumsnet Blogfest of writing her book under cover of darkness, in the witching hours after her children had gone to bed, I thought of myself; of my own nocturnal tappings at the keyboard; of my own struggles to make my voice heard.
Not that I am quite at the stage of publishing my own feminist manifesto for the twenty-first century just yet, but we will get there.
If anything, becoming a mother has been an inspiration, for it has made me realise that time is short, responsibilities are increasing, and I owe it to myself and my son to try to make something of my writing. Before I became a parent myself, I read Caitlin Moran’s words about how motherhood turbo-charged her ambition, and I didn’t understand. Surely becoming a mother meant slowing down, taking stock, pouring your whole self into the new generation and abandoning one’s own ambitions? Surely becoming a mother meant no more time, energy or motivation for creative endeavours? Surely my career would be on the back burner for a few years, let alone any thoughts of starting a new one?
Fast forward a few years, and I understand now what she meant. Motherhood may mean less time, but less time to spend two hours procrastinating over the day’s outfit choices, not less time to spend on the things that really matter. It just forces you to choose what those things that really matter are, and for me, creativity matters. I just didn’t realise it before.
This post was first published as a guest post for the fabulous Occupation: (M)other as part of her Creative Mothers series.