making space for creativity & parenting
When I bought Magpie House in 2008, I picked the bedroom overlooking the back yard to be my studio. It's a big, airy room with beautiful natural light, and for the first few years I loved working there.
Then 2010 - 2015 happened. A lot of you were along for that part of my journey, but if you weren't, I'll recap: IVF, high-risk pregnancy, a baby who screamed non-stop and never slept, hysterectomy, Lyme disease diagnosis, brain surgery, divorce, becoming a single parent with sole custody. I kept right on working through almost all of it, because I didn't really have a choice, and because some days, making art was what kept me sane.
That's a lot of emotion and baggage to drag through your workspace, though. I did everything I could to keep it a safe space, but by the end of last year I was absolutely miserable in that room. I tried everything I knew to make it better - I cleaned, I rearranged, I smudged sage and threw salt into the corners of the room, I put up new art, I rearranged again. I brought in more plants, a bright tablecloth for my workbench, pretty little bowls to replace my ancient bead-sorting trays.
It didn't work. I woke up every morning dreading going to work - not because of my work, I still love that, but because the room just felt... exhausted and sad.
I started taking work to the park on nice days, and the difference in my productivity and mood was amazing... until I got home, and went upstairs to the studio. I started working downstairs in the living room, but my job more or less requires having an entire studio of supplies and tools at my fingertips at all times, and no matter how carefully I pack a portable work kit I inevitably forget something essential.
(True story: I once packed a work kit and and got to where I was going, very smug about having maximized my productivity... only to open it and realize that I forgot to bring wire cutters.)
So I decided it was time for a drastic change... and I moved Wyrding Studios downstairs, into a corner of the living room. Back to the very beginning.
Several friends expressed extreme concern at this choice, for reasons that make a lot of sense. Yes, putting my workspace in my living room does mean that it's harder to completely walk away from work at the end of the day... but the truth is that as a self-employed single parent, the only time I really get to walk away from work is when I fall asleep or when I'm at synagogue with my phone turned off. I answer work emails while I'm waiting in line at the grocery store, I run shipping labels while I'm cooking dinner, I make earrings in class, I take packages to the post office on the way home from school in the afternoon. I chat with customers on Twitter while I'm supervising bathtime and play Go Fish while packing up wholesale orders.
There was a time when I was able to walk into the studio in the morning, work 7 or 8 or 10 hours, and then walk away until the next workday. That was a different version of my life, and one I don't expect to get back anytime in the near future. These days, I rarely get more than an hour or two at a time before I have to switch focus, and having a dedicated space was actually making that harder for me.
Moving the studio into the living room has made an amazing difference. It's not just the energy of the room, although that's definitely a factor: I don't feel so isolated anymore, and on days when Miles is home with me (as has been the case all week) she plays independently instead of coming into my studio every 30 seconds to ask me when I'm going to be done working.
And perhaps most importantly, it feels comfortable, and I don't dread having to go to work in the morning.
What's your workspace - creative or otherwise - like? Do you need a dedicated space and a fixed schedule, or do you work in found space and found moments? Leave a comment or tell me about it on Twitter!
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