I never learned to juggle. I came close one time with Dad in a juggling class we took together. But I just couldn’t quite swing it.
I’m not a Type A, do all the things or I’ll die, sort of person. While I love learning about and beginning new things, the hard part is carrying on consistently with whatever new project or habit I’ve begun. If I start sprinting with too many good intentions at once, it’s not long before I hit a wall. I need a quiet moment and a hot cup of tea to ponder and question why I do….really anything that I do.
I feel the happiest and most purposeful when I’m doing what I was made to do. Music and encouraging people give me the most energy. The most joy. But being married, raising boys, and writing are also things I always knew were in my future from early childhood onward. The older I get, the more secure I become in who I am and what I was created to do. But as we all know, getting older also means more responsibilities.
So how does one juggle life and creativity (without anger and annoyance)?
What has been the most helpful for me in this season of small children is to stop separating “creative” and “non-creative” tasks. I do this (not always very well, mind you) with three steps.
STEP 1: For me, personally, I have to first remember that I am secure in Christ (my destiny, my purpose, my reputation) because otherwise there's no way I'm going to do anything purely for someone else's benefit. It helps me look outward. Without Him, I can honestly say I'd be too worried about keeping up with cooler people than me, or vacillating between pleasure seeking and being responsible enough to stave off hell or karma.
STEP 2: I try to remember that I am the perfect wife and mom for my particular husband and children. I am in my specific neighborhood and church for a reason. Why? Because I am uniquely equipped to encourage these particular people. So instead of viewing people and daily tasks as a hindrance to “creative work,” I can choose to walk into each day with my whole creative self knowing that I am the right person for the job and I just need to show up, get busy, and have fun doing it.
STEP 3: My personal motto (that I mutter to myself at the tops of mountain bike trails I'm about to descend) is: EYES UP. COMMIT! Nike's slogan works just as well here, but if you need a new one, there ya go.
Practically, here’s how that can look:
When I get an idea for a story, a video, a song, etc, instead of groaning that my family and mundane domestic tasks are preventing me from working on it, I can happily jot it down in my notes app or in a notebook on the counter, and then go about my day. Ideas come when I am listening and fully engaged with the people around me. This means I can simply be excited for all the great input and know that when I have a bit of extended time, like after the kids are in bed or they are in class, I can work on it a bit.
When I wish I didn’t have to care for a home, I can instead be grateful we have space to safely rest, to work and learn, and to show regular hospitality. I can enjoy creatively arranging the space to facilitate even better learning and hospitality and daily flow.
Instead of looking at home and family as constant barriers to getting into any sort of creative workflow, take that creative drive and turn it in to creative problem solving! Similar to rearranging a music score, how can you rearrange your home environment, your children's schedule, the family calendar, even the way you interact with and teach your children, to bring out the best for everyone?
Consistency is more important than quantity. I can do anything for 15 minutes a day. In fact, I can do MANY THINGS for 15 minutes a day. Even when I haven’t yet established the best time of day to do it. Writing for 15 minutes a day is better than never doing it. Practicing music for 15 minutes a day is better than never doing it. Lifting weights, learning a second language, cleaning, playing a game with the kids, reading. Most things in life are about consistency, not quantity. Quantity comes after consistency, it is often seasonal, and it comes at the expense of other activities, so it is best reserved for the most important things.
When I change my mindset from “I HAVE to juggle all these separate balls. Alone.” to “I GET to wake up and be the creative person I was made to be with what I have, where I am, and WITH/FOR the people I’ve been given,” I always see big results both in my own happiness, my own productivity and creativity, and the happiness of the people around me.
I hope this was encouraging! I am still working through all this, so if you have another helpful step or practical ideas to add, please share in the comments below.
Stay tuned for the snappier, more poetic version of what we're discussing in PART 2! :)
See, it's even on my fridge!