I’ve always struggled to prioritize my creative work while giving so much of myself to the responsibilities of career and adulthood. I was the oldest in a family with many challenges, and I was expected to be like the dependable, hardworking, productive Farmer—though my free-spirited Artist is always calling me outside to play. For years I toiled on my career in arts administration, and I did not write or draw or create with any regularity. I was forever only partially fulfilled and only somewhat happy. Then my life went through a huge transition. I changed careers. I moved away from NYC and bought my first home in the Berkshires. As all that was happening, my sporadic practice of writing plays on my phone while riding the subway began to transform into writing short stories with coffee at my laptop. And I realized one day that writing was becoming a habit, a craft that I looked forward to, that made those days better than other days. I was dependable, hardworking, and productive as my creative self.
Once I fully recognized this private war, I was able to articulate and respond to it, and I think I have finally achieved a measure of balance between these equally important and demanding desires: to give time and attention to my home, career, and future; and prioritize daily space and energy for my creative practice and soul work. They each benefit from the other.
I wanted to write a story that illustrated this experience, and I wanted to try writing it as a sort of parable or fairytale.
How do you showcase your own experiences as a woman in your piece?I think our world asks an awful lot of women, and we ask an awful lot of ourselves, too. We are required to do and be so much. We multitask and divide ourselves into all our necessary roles. While the Farmer and the Artist are two separate women, they are also the same woman. I could have crafted a narrative with an entire family of women pulling each other apart at the seams. That’s what life can feel like at times.
This story is about two opposing forces—to tend, nurture, produce vs. consume, break down, create. To constantly think of others and the future vs. to live in the moment and put yourself and your desires first. I frequently feel this tension in my life, and I’m constantly seeking ways to do it all and not completely deplete myself. Balance is an active verb far more often than it’s a noun. I try to savor that state of grace whenever I dip into it, because I lose it just as quickly.
Write regularly. Find the time of day that you are most in tune with your creative self. See if you can carve out and protect a little bit of that time just for you and writing. For me it’s an hour before my household wakes up. I protect that hour fiercely and do my best to organize my life around those 60 minutes. It’s a gift to myself and it’s vital to my creative process and to improving my craft.
Also, do your best to be your own cheerleader. Especially when/if you start submitting work or looking for public recognition. Make sure you keep writing because you love to write, no matter who says no or how often someone says no thank you. And on the days this is especially hard, be gentle with yourself. Just keep showing up to engage with your creativity. You never know when magic will happen—and it will happen!
Offer to be a reader. Be generous with compliments. When you're moved by someone’s words, tell them. Be gentle and honest with criticism. When criticism is offered to you, don’t take it personally and remember that you get to decide whether or not it’s useful to you and your work. (Some people just won’t get you and that’s ok. You’re writing for the ones that do.) Share opportunities to submit/collaborate/workshop. Encourage writers to keep going when they feel discouraged, and surround yourself with writers who do the same for you. Be as kind to yourself and your own words as you are to those of others. How we treat ourselves has a profound impact on our families, communities, and the outside world.