Saturday, September 7, 2019

Creativity of the Ordinary and the Quirkily Personal. . .

If I tell you that sometimes when I'm awake at 3 or 4 in the morning, I think of my blog -- either in general or with a particular post in mind -- and am engulfed by a clammily uncomfortable mix of vulnerability, embarrassment, and/or shame, I am not fishing for reassurance about the blog's value or for compliments about the quality of my writing, or declarations of your interest in the content.  By 7 or 8, after a cup of tea and 25 minutes of self-talk in my morning pages, the intensity of that wee-hours attack has dissipated, and I've reminded myself of the lively, thoughtful, kind, intelligent, relevant and resonant conversations we've had here. And given myself credit for creating the space for those conversations to happen, for having contributed significantly to building a meaningful community. Which is not nothing.

Hmmm. I hadn't got quite as far as the awareness gained in those last three sentences, to be honest, even in my morning pages. I'm going to sit with that for a minute. I beg your indulgence.

I'm needing that time, I guess, because my brand of creativity skews to the quirkily personal and domestic and quotidian . . . and ordinary, I guess, but the idiosyncratic or particular ordinary.  Which would be fine if I kept it to myself or tried to share it with a like-minded friend or two. But which can elicit some very noisy "Who do you think you are?" questions, inner critical voices inculcated over decades, in the early hours of a morning -- and in the metaphorical (or even metaphysical) early hours as well.

And those voices have gathered some strength since my retirement from a position (a title, a persona, a professional identity) that conferred a certain impunity. But they've been part of my personality since I skipped Grade One, over 60 years ago, and found myself, an early reader but still an occasional thumb-sucker, in the midst of a cohort that seemed much more cognizant of the way this new world operated.

Yesterday, at a Creative Mornings talk here in Vancouver, I listened to a compelling presentation about personality profiles and creativity, about three "instincts" that influence, even govern, the way we direct and nurture our creativity. As the speaker described the third instinct, the social one (the first was Sexual or Activating; the second Self-Preservation, think creature comforts)  I had one of those "Pings" that invite us to make a small, but potentially very transformative twist in perspective. Basically, as I understood and experienced the insight, my heightened (social) attention to reception of my creative activity can be a strength, but also forms a blind spot. It's constraining me. Not to mention keeping me awake in the wee hours.

I'm not quite sure, yet, where I'm going with this. Immediately after that insight, still digesting it and seeing its application to my writing, both here and in work I'm doing off-screen, I went for coffee with a young woman I'd just met, a young woman who'd also heard the talk. The conversation was a delight, rich and honest and wide-ranging. As it came to an end, and we headed in our separate directions, we exchanged Instagram "handles," as a quick and easy way to stay in touch.  I suspect it's that exchange that had me awake at 4 a.m., and my discomfort arises from being viewed through my online representation of myself.

Not that I think this woman is looking (I suspect she's too busy to bother, realistically),  but that my social instinct was triggered -- and that my response is to assume and fear ridicule, against a certain amount of evidence to the contrary. And that assumption and fear exacts--and always has exacted--a cost, exercises a constraint on my creativity.  Says that it's too little or too ordinary or too domestic or too quirky. And regularly, sneers at my blogging and begs me to stop embarrassing myself.

I said I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but perhaps I do. Perhaps I want to remind myself that I was brave enough when I began this blog (twelve years ago? Really?!) to want to write my ordinary domestic quotidian as part of my whole life, such as it was at the time. There wasn't (supposed to be) much space for that in the life of an academic, which I'd come to after raising my four kids, but I wanted to "keep it real," I guess. My version of a feminist act. I wasn't thinking of it as "creative" at the time, but I'm beginning to these days. Quirkily ordinary, domestic, daily creativity. The kind that I'm going to claim as work and privilege and responsibility to represent one version of a woman's life, the far side of 65. . .

That's enough. Heck, that's probably too much.  Let me reward your reading patience with a visual diversion, an illustration of quirky, ordinary, domestic, daily creativity taken to the ridiculous. . . . A page from my travel journal, sharing the contents of the little pouch I used to carry around the dental-care products required by my Invisalign regime (oh, the teeny, tiny European semi-public/restaurant/train WCs I've flossed in, cringed in, brushed my teeth in as quickly as possible).

And that's a wrap!

If you care to comment to today's quirky maunderings, let me reiterate that I'm not fishing for reassurance here (although I'm never averse to thoughtful encouragement). But I do wonder if you've thought much about the relation between your own creativity and your "social instinct" as our enneagram-trained speaker talked about yesterday.  Does your social awareness influence your own creativity? And finally, a wild card question, has anyone else ever cared for their teeth in a tiny bathroom in transit? Gross, right?! Ugh!





34 comments:

Leslie K said...

I admire all the bloggers I follow for their commitment, creativity in the content, and their bravery in putting themselves out there.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful series of thoughts and questions. I, too, have been pondering how to "feed" my creativity having just retired after 40 years in the classroom. I love to write; one of the favorite parts of my Master's program, creating curriculum, and lesson plans but I'm not sure how to incorporate that into my daily life...I find I need something to write about and my daily life isn't it. I do enjoy being part of your community as you often have me thinking throughout the day.

anonymous said...

It's the quotidian and the quirky that draws me to your blog and your instagram. Who needs the perfect when it's the ordinary that makes up the bulk of our lives? I am curious about the quirkily personal details not the perfect moments.

slf

Madame Là-bas said...

Quirky is good! It's interesting to find other people scattered about the world who share some qualities with us and we inspire us to go further. I went to Creative Mornings in July based on your experience. I felt a bit "old", school marmish and suburban (guess who's insecure) until I talked with some of the younger people. I'm on the waitlist for the next morning presentation.

I've not known where to go with my blog when I'm not travelling. To take the quotidian and to write about one's relationship with it takes talent. When I think about the journals or memoirs that I enjoy reading, it is not the author's level of activity that interests me but the sensitivity and intelligence of their reflections concerning everyday things. Does that make sense?

I've joined a meet up called The Unconventional Book Meetup. After stepping out of my comfort zone with Creative Mornings, I might be ready for it.

Your tooth care sketch..I have had my sketchbook out since my last class and I should practise with quotidian objects. I'm not as brave as you at sharing.

Sue Burpee said...

Oh, I hear you in so many ways, my friend. I find I'm getting better at not being embarrassed abut spending so much time blogging. At not rising to the bait when someone glibly comments that such and such a blog made millions. Yep. Okay. But that's not what I want to do. Or could even contemplate doing. Funny in these days of honouring everyone, and everything, of concerted FB campaigns about not "shaming" we still don't seem to appreciate the small things unless they are slick and high definition, and included in IG stories.
Re: Invisalign. I remember getting so adept at popping them out surreptitiously to be able to have a cup of tea. Then slipping off to a washroom wherever I happened to be, to brush and put them back in. Bottled water was my constant companion. Wilderness camping made life a little more difficult. Ha.

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy reading your blog. It’s the normalcy and sharing of thoughts that always rings true to me. In such a curated world it’s good to know that real people are still doing real things with real hope, anxieties and a good dose of critical thinking and reflection. As an artist with training wheels I also envy your painting and consistency in following your passion.

Lorrie said...

I plan to retire after this current school year, and I'm doing a lot of thinking about what that might look like. Tim will continue to work for a couple more years, so I will have lots of solitude and freedom to do what I like. I'm learning to dismiss (with difficulty) those 3 am thoughts for when examined in the light of day, they most often lose their punch. I think daily domestic routines such as you've established are feeding grounds for creativity - your writing, drawing, bread-making, knitting, family times are all testament to that.

BuffaloGal said...

You've definitely activated a memory for me. Having a late in the year birthday, I was always the youngest person in my class. I had no trouble academically, but I still cringe at some of the social problems it engendered. It definitely has a part in my keeping up a brave face always, even if inside I'm cringing. I hate to be vulnerable or to ask for help. I'll have to spend some time thinking about this. I've never put these things together before. Thank you.

Lynn said...

As a fellow retired academic I am struggling to channel my creativity. For me the classroom was the perfect outlet, but now I feel too exposed. I had not thought about it in social terms, but that pings with me too. If I write now, it's just me, not me the professor, So there has been a lot of stating and stopping and very little done. Thank you.

Annie Green said...

3am just shouldn't be allowed. I hear you. The other morning I lay awake from 3am to 5.30am and panicked, put myself down, imagined all kinds of social faux pas, tossed and turned until it occurred to me that, actually, I was having a mild panic attack, pulse racing, and that it was doing me no good at all. A couple of hours and two large cups of tea later I was much more reasonable. When I am up and about - mornings are really my best time, peak at about midday - I can literally or metaphorically, mentally or verbally, stick two fingers up to the rest of the world and brazen it out. The dark hours never helped anybody. As for blogs, I've just deleted one because it was making me feel ancient and miserable. Well, that won't do. Keep on quirking.

Studio said...

Our worst critic is ourselves. Keep writing your blog if it makes YOU happy and tell those insecurities to ...... off. Anyway I enjoy reading it.

Mary said...

There is a reason that the saying "dark night of the soul" resonates with so many of us (though not necessarily in spiritual ways). It can lead us to dwell in dark thoughts--many self-critical. A lot of mind-noise traps us in those early hours. Good to take those thoughts out into the light of day for some clarity. As you are doing with your reflection.

"Quirkily ordinary, domestic, daily creativity." In your statement, one finds the stuff of life. In your blog--the same. The reason you have developed a community here.

materfamilias said...

Leslie, Thanks, we appreciate having our commitment, creativity, and bravery acknowledged.
Anonymous: Even just structuring your days, now that they're freed from a 40-year schedule, will take creativity. You will find your own way, I'm sure. . . I found Julia Cameron's book useful as a starting point. . .
SLF: We're on the same wavelength! ;-)
Mme: You manifest so much creativity in your interests and your travels, your reading, your gardening. . . I know what you mean about feeling much older at Creative Mornings, but the crowd is so open and friendly, right? I'm curious now about your Unconventional Meetup. Enjoy!
Sue B: Yep! Slick and High definition and IG Storied (I just don't have the patience!) . . . and Curated! (which pretty much means removing the quirkily personal for a cohesive, branded whole). . . Your experience with the Invisalign is encouraging in that I love thinking of it being over -- Mine is a 28-week program -- in two weeks I'll be halfway through. . .

materfamilias said...

Thanks, Anonymous at 2:29. . . I'm on the Training Wheels as well -- we can still get to our destinations on those, right? ;-)
Lorrie: I rather envy you the years you'll have before Tim retires. Paul retired before I did, and I could have enjoyed some puttering time for longer on my own to sort out a daily rhythm that worked just for me. Take your time -- enjoy! And savour this last year's teaching as well -- I know you do.
Buffalo Gal: You get it, then! Those patterns really do persist. . . mine were magnified by also being among
the two or three shortest in a class, and being late to puberty even without being a year younger than my peers. Shouldn't still make a difference at 66, but I see the shadow from time to time. . .
Lynn: Yes, exactly. It takes a while to find a new equilibrium. And determination, conviction of worth. . . . You will surely get there soon.
Annie G: I've never experienced a full-on panic/anxiety attack, but sometimes, heart racing, feeling ill, in those early hours, I wonder if. . . I know the process evolved to get us woken up in the a.m., but sans tigers prowling the encampment, I could do without. (I also peak at midday, and often take a short nap to power me through the rest of the afternoon and evening. . .


materfamilias said...

Studio: Aw, thanks so much!
Mary: Along with that other bit of wisdom so memorably sung by Mama Cass, "The darkest hour is just before dawn" . . . The nasty whisperings are so convincing at those hours. If I could read in the dark, I'd have a sign on the night table to remind me they won't be so convincing in the light, with tea. Thanks for the encouragement.

Taste of France said...

First, Annie Green, I love you for correctly conjugating Lie/Lay.
Like many people, I am increasingly turned off by sponsored posts. I love the blogs that share some kind of wisdom, not merchandise. It's the larger point of our shared humanity that gets me.
With my own blog, I don't talk much about myself or my family because they didn't sign up for it. I aim for "service" with useful information, but the things that resonate the most are, to my great surprise, on the street fashion shots. I guess that also is service--women want to know what fashionable French women wear, and I shoot classy women of all ages and sizes. I try not to spend too much time on it because I am not earning anything from it, but I am too meticulous about trying to track down specific details. Many unwritten posts awaiting a few final details. No lack of material, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I think all blogs exist for some type of attention/reassurance. Why else would someone put themselves “out there”? To preserve the moment could be done privately, with a diary. It’s a curious thing, and an indication of how isolated people feel.

materfamilias said...

Taste of France: You put so much work into your blog, and for those interested in knowing more about French culture and history, it's a gem.
Anonymous: Yours is the 3rd negative or passive-aggressive comment I've had today -- I deleted the other two one after another on an earlier post (with amused kudos for the commenter's persistence and desire for attention) but I'll briefly entertain your comment here. It amuses as well, because you unwittingly contrast my fellower bloggers' and my willingness to "put ourselves out there" with your own need to make your mark without any willingness to own your comment. I can't help but wonder how isolated you feel. I can't speak for other bloggers, but I don't write these posts to "preserve the moment."

In some small way, though, I hope to contribute to a broader understanding of women's lives, I suppose, particularly as I move into the senior years which so often render us invisible. And I love having the opportunity to enter into a conversation that's different in some very compelling ways from the ways I interact with friends and family. Read through these comments and see what I mean. . . and should you again feel inspired to connect, to counter your own isolation, you're very welcome. But we'd love to be able to think of you by name rather than only as Anonymous. I suggest you use that approach to get you through Google's gateway, but sign a name (nom de plume, if you prefer) at the end of your comment) -- signing off that way would be so much better a reflection of your "To be honest," opening.

Georgia said...

I'm late because once again you sent me away thinking. First thought 'I understand and am interested in what you're saying, but I don't create in public.' Second thought 'Georgia, you fool, what about your front garden?' So more thinking to come about that. And to be perfectly honest, these were my second and third thoughts; my first was for that little thumbsucking girl.

The wildcard: Yes indeed, as I had full braces when I was in my early 50s...I recall with fondness the Great Rechargeable Water Pik Tour of 2011.

D2Zen said...

Bonjour, dear Frances. I enjoy seeing how you continue to wrestle with who you are and giving a damn what your readers think. Ha! A pox on those who don't understand that communicating is a process, and this is yours.

I'm too often awake at 3 as well. Sometimes I think good thoughts. Sometimes I don't. Mostly I wake with a mysterious, ever-changing musical earwig and I fumble for my iPad to search Spotify. Sometimes I think about writing, what I've read or am presently reading ... or how to mix a color, how to break from my current sketch style ... cabbages and kings.

(I'm freestyling now.) The nice thing about IG is that it's a happy place. That's where I feel I got to know you. We've bonded over reading, love of language, and feeling positively spunky about what we think!

There's no reason to think any one social platform defines us. I'm a raving social scientist liberal on Twitter; on IG, it's close-up beauty shots, my workspace, and books. I ditched FB almost a year ago and don't miss it for an instant.

Please keep writing. Some topics will resonate with different people. And you know the old saying ... F*** 'em if they can't take a joke! xxx Deborah

K.Line said...

Let me just say that I know the young woman was captivated by your convo - truly. You seem entirely relevant to all the age groups!! xo

Eleonore said...

I found your blog many years ago while surfing the net following tags like „women in academia“, „age and visibility“, etc., and I was hooked right away. It was the joyful exploration of the quotidian, backed by vast knowledge and solid (feminist) theory that convinced me. Your blog was the concretion of the motto „the private is political“ (and vice versa). And it still is. The way older women lead their lives, raise their voices (on blogs or in other places), claim their space or view their own bodies may be a private affair in the individual case, but it is also political in that it changes the way society at large looks at these women. And your „public thinking“ as well as the debates you initiate are part of this change.
On the individual level, I cannot measure the number of things I learned from you. Often you just send me googling (lots of plants, the Hudson Bay Blanket…), I read (and enjoyed) books I would never have heard of without you. You put me up to embroidery and extended my cookery book, my list of knitting patterns, not to mention my vocabulary. And on top of that, all those fascinating women I „met“ in your comment section!
What sometimes worries me is the imbalance in this relationship (if that is the right word). I seem to be on the receiving end while I would prefer some more recoprocity. Still thinking about that.

materfamilias said...

Georgia: I love that you're recognizing your garden as a creation -- and one that you both work on in public and present to the public as a creation. I think I could argue, if only I knew a little bit more about your work before retirement, that you created in public there as well. I know I did -- the researchscholarship might have been fairly private, but the presentation and the teaching were a kind of limited public. I think in a way I'm working now/still to find comfort either offering what I've created to the public or creating in public (which gives a different kind of energy to the process, I think) when I'm justme, no title/position attached.

materfamilias said...

D2Zen: Cabbages and kings, eh? (my Canadian "e," I'm sorry ;-). . . how apropos as I'm writing from a place beside a boiling lake, although not a boiling sea (hot springs, but close) Thank you so much for the encouragement, written in your usual inimitably entertaining style. It's true, isn't it -- Instagram really is a happy place. It's also true that different social media platforms inflect our voices and allow us to try on something like a different personality. I first began blogging here to counter the academic voice I'd honed through years of grad school in my 50s, and I both like and am often fatigued by the greater room for prose here. . . .Ongoing experimentation. . . (I'd quite like to ditch FB, but I fear I'd immediately lose contact with most of my sibs and their families.)
K: Aw, thanks! Such a delightful surprise to discover our single degree of separation!
Eleonore: Thank you so much for the thoughtful praise -- which I really wasn't fishing for, honest! ;-) I should memorize this and speak it back loud and clear to my Inner Critics at 3 in the morning. As for reciprocity, I was just looking at the lovely postcard you sent me several years ago -- pinned up on the corkboard I just moved to my new office space. And the garden post you contributed. Our meetings in German cities. And your thoughtful engagement with discussions here. xo

Anonymous said...

Frances,you are such a wonderful lady,so creative and accomplished,I have a feeling that your day lasts more than 48 hours. And if you write about it-what is here not to like? And if you don't want to write about it-it is your life and your blog-you have to please only yourself
Our saying goes "Morning is much more clever than night"
Dottoressa

Anonymous said...

Building a meaningful community is certainly not nothing!
Does your social awareness influence your own creativity? I've been mulling this over in my mind today as it really struck a chord with me and the answer is a resounding 'yes'. I've had very few issues of self doubt in relation to expressing views, opinions or providing advice in my professional career. I can easily and happily generate ideas and solve complex problems at work. However, in my personal life, I'm very guarded with people until I know and trust someone and I'm sure this has inhibited my creativity. An example which springs to mind is a Life Writing Course run locally which I would love to attend - but only if no one else was there, which I know defeats the purpose! Now you've got me thinking about the impact of being one of the youngest in my school year. I hadn't given it much thought until now, but of course that must have affected how I am as an adult. Guess what I'll be thinking about at 3am?! Wilma

LPC said...

I have been thinking about this since you posted, wondering whether I could comment without writing an entire post of my own. I hope so:).

In my particular constellation, creativity and social impulses are very much intertwined. I'm an extroverted person, in many ways I feel most creative in direct communication with another, or others. So I think that when I make space for creativity, when I "sanction" it, if you will, I tend not to be ashamed of what happens. For me, it's my non-creative communications that provokes the 3am creepies.

That said, the other issue you touch on is the small, the domestic, the immediate, the practical - and maybe whether that deserves a place in the creative pantheon? My answer, is, how could it not? AKA, the patriarchy;). History is told as wars, but wars are in no way all that happens. Maybe this time, in history again, is the time where small and immediate female experiences are finally finding their voice. Insisting on it even.

To me your thoughtfulness is your particular creative thumbprint, and I imagine that holds across all topics.

Linda B said...

I really value blogs that deal in the quotidian, and then take flight for a while into the abstract, then circle round again to asking 'what do you think?". Far from a need for reassurance/attention, I see a conversation, a real connection that I could be having with a friend across a cafe table, or a meeting with a someone new where you both suddenly feel that spark of friendship kindling. I think it's marvellous how they manage to subvert the competitive/FOMO basis of male-engineered social media platforms (Willing to be corrected if it turns out social media was engineered by female techies). Blogs like yours, and especially yours, are very precious to me just now, having moved from a busy professional life in a city, with these conversations somewhat taken for granted, to a tiny village where exchanges run along narrowly defined lines in a formulaic groove I recognise from my childhood.
I can't say I worry about social media, except in the context of my business where it has come to be One More Thing On The List. My 3am panics are reserved for my new business and for my children. But since I'm about to dip back into a personal blog I may come to add an existential social media worry to the list!

Ceri in Bristol said...

I cannot tell you how much this post touched me and cheered me. I also cannot tell whether this comment will reach you as I've been having issues with disappearing messages so I'll just give this a go.

Ceri in Bristol said...

Aha, it worked. So I'll go on to say that I have been thinking about what you have written here - and also the sage comments (mostly) that other friends have added. I am drawn to blogs that are honest. I like to hear about the quotidian of other lives, those going on in tandem with mine but in places I shall never know. I follow blogs written by people who write with passion about their gardens, their food, their travels, or all of the above and none. I switch off when I see the message about generating commission from affiliate links. But writing on the everyday takes great skill, lest it turn quotidian in the most negative sense of meaning, and you have this ability in spades.
I really appreciate your sharing your occasional feelings of trepidation about your writing with us. I often feel paralysed by the blank screen, certain that everything I say will turn turgid, convinced that nothing I write can be of any interest, sure that what is meant to be light and frothy will read as dense and leaden. I think that it's why I find Instagram so much easier.
It's interesting - and comforting - to hear that others with a background in academia may feel something similar. Has the peer review process got our creative voices in a stranglehold, do you think?
Anyway - I hope that the responses to your post have shown you how much we all enjoy catching up with you in this little corner of cyber space. Long may our chats continue.

materfamilias said...

Ah, Dottoressa my friend, thank you! And I very much like this Croatian expression . . .
Wilma: Isn't it an interesting avenue to pursue? Hearing the talk Friday before last really gave me a new perspective and it's encouraging me to shift some practices a bit. . .
Lisa: Your second paragraph -- this resonates, for me, but for difference as much as for similarity. I reassure myself, in the early morning, of the personal, very-small-p politics that impel me to be open and vulnernable here -- so I intellectually "sanction" what I've written. But because of this very long ingrained social awareness of potential alienation, I guess -- my Inner Child, to resort to the (useful enough) cliché) I will feel anxious and even defensive. Not so much in daylight, thank goodness!

materfamilias said...

Linda B: Thanks for strengthening/validating/adding to my response to Anonymous above. Spending a bit of time in this community really changes some of the commonly held perceptions about the superficialities of the medium.
Ceri: Thanks for persevering! And for your thoughtful, kind, and encouraging words. I do think that the critical skills we have honed in academe have much to do with my trepidation, yes. I value intensely the rigour I learned there, and the discernment, and the way I learned to discipline my writing voice to meet those parameters. But, as you know, there are lacunae. . . And I think that letting the messy (at least messi-er) stuff loose occasionally gives a broader, more honest representation (which then, perhaps, can serve as an original/originating text for more critical thought. Or something. (apparently, four years away is not enough to mute some patterns ;-)

Bev said...

I adore reading about your quotidian, daily, quirky life and your creativity. That's it. Thank you for sharing your life with us...

materfamilias said...

Bev: Thank you so much for letting me know this. A little appreciation goes a long way in encouraging me to continue.

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