Back in 2013, some months into my life as a new mom, I realized that my magazine subscriptions to Vogue and National Geographic Traveler were fuelling a festering discontentment that was encroaching on my joy and creativity in the early days as a first-time mother.
Prior to my first pregnancy, I was obsessed with how much travel I could pack into a calendar year and thrived on back-to-back trips, travel logistics, and photography opportunities that took me from Sonoma to Siberia. I was weirdly preoccupied with tallying up my frequent flier miles and plotting their eventual uses.
But a of couple months before Lauren was born, Will encouraged me to find another hobby, one that I could do from home. I was stumped. In my 20’s my passion for photography lead me to art school, which resulted in my career as a professional photographer. From the age of 16 during my first overseas adventure, until the age of 31 shortly after Lauren was born, I immersed myself in all things photography & travel related. To be completely honest, I didn’t really have any hobbies I could do at home, besides research and plan for future trips.
I settled on dabbling in watercolours and calligraphy as I’d done a little of both in the past. I whipped up a simple sign that announced, ‘Homebirth in Progress’ and politely requested we not be disturbed. I think we taped that sign to our front door during all three of my deliveries and I treasure it now with sweet nostalgia.
Initially, I figured this little hobby would be short-lived, as travel was likely to pick back up following the birth of our child. After all, our families lived thousands of miles away and I had no intentions of letting my career vanish into an abyss of dirty diapers and sleepless nights. Essentially, I assumed that in no time at all, I would bounce back with a baby slung across one side of my body and a camera on the other.
But I had pushed myself too hard and too far during my pregnancy. During my first trimester I was relearning to walk after being thrown from a camel in the Jordanian desert and fracturing my pelvis a few months earlier. This was followed by two big trips, one in my second trimester as the photographer for a destination wedding in South America and another during my third trimester as a bridesmaid for my sister’s wedding in Canada. These lead to signs of premature labour and my midwives putting me on strict bedrest for a time.
And yet I still assumed I would have an optimal birthing experience (which I did), nurse like a champ the way my mom had (not so much), and come out the other side a battle-tested mother of one, globe-trotting again with a baby to boot (lol). No other hobbies necessary. Creativity and career in tact.
Eight years later I write this and laugh at my naiveté.
“When life circumstances force us to adapt our creative outlets, they often become the first things to be sacrificed on the altar of our to-do lists.”
Turns out, breastfeeding was an all-consuming beast for me to tackle and made travel extremely difficult. I couldn’t nurse well in public because I struggled to let down any of the meagre milk supply I could muster. My midwives who’d seen it all told me that while most women struggle a bit at one stage or another with breastfeeding, very few struggled to the extent I did. And yet, we attempted travel during the newborn stage.
Our pediatrician, who shared my enthusiasm for far-flung adventures grimaced when we shared our plans for schlepping our newborn to Mississippi for American Thanksgiving and two different provinces in Canada over the Christmas holidays. Lauren was the first great-grandchild on my side and the first grandchild in both our families and we were eager to introduce her to everyone.
While I do have fond memories and photographs of those trips, the struggles we faced vastly shifted my perspective on traveling with little ones. Specifically the one in which Will and I both wound up with bronchitis on the last leg of our journey, rescheduled our return flights incorrectly (my doing), found a flight to Las Vegas, rented a car at midnight, and drove through the dark to a little motel in the Mojave Desert where we slept for for a bit, before finally finishing the final eight hour drive home, sick and exhausted. Through it all, Lauren was a total travel champ. We, however, swore off holiday flights from then until our last child was out of diapers, and have faithfully stuck to that vow ever since.
But wouldn’t you know, I continued to obsess over travel opportunities. To the point where it became unhealthy. Will and I fought over how to make travel work, I took on photography jobs that made breastfeeding a nightmare, and of course I poured over any and all books, magazines, and websites that spurred on my travel dreams. When my monthly issue of National Geographic Traveler would arrive, I would go down the rabbit-hole of wishing and hoping and land in a puddle of discontentment. The same thing happened whenever my issue of Vogue arrived…the content was so glamorous and pulled together that I found myself flipping the pages feeling jealous and resentful.
“I realized that stewing in a pot of discontentment, comparison, and resentment was not only going to make my life miserable, it was stifling one of the things that could help me thrive in this new stage of my life: my creativity.”
This pattern continued for a while before I realized that stewing in a pot of discontentment, comparison, and resentment was not only going to make my life miserable, it was stifling one of the things that could help me thrive in this new stage of life: my creativity.
It was then that I realized that my creativity was something I had to defend and cultivate with more intention than I had ever done. Creativity is a gift we are all endowed with, but more often than not when life gets hard or circumstances change, our creative outlets get pushed to the back-burner. When life forces us to adapt our creative outlets, they often become the first things to be sacrificed on the altar of our to-do lists.
But tapping into our creativity is essential to the art of thriving. Sure, it may not be what we have to prioritize in a survival situation, but if we neglect creative outlets or the exploration of our creativity on a regular basis, we make a way for discontentment to creep in, and with it, a host of other nasty neighbours like resentment, irritability, and comparison which are bound to take up residency in the space that creativity could have occupied. When we allow creativity to take its rightful place in our lives, it spills over and carves out room for healing, joy, and gratitude to settle in.
When all of this dawned on me, I canceled my subscriptions to Vogue and National Geographic Traveler with some sadness and regret, because it felt like giving up my dreams in a small way. Not forever, but for a time. And so I searched for other magazines that might inspire the current lifestyle I was immersed in. Home, garden, and cooking magazines became my inspiration (this was before social media or Pinterest had the kind of presence it has today). The two current subscriptions I receive are Martha Stewart Living and Magnolia. In addition to content, I’m pretty picky about the quality of photos, paper, font, etc., (this is an art school geek talking here) but those two magazines really stand out in those departments along with subject matter that resonates with me.
Or course there are other ways I tap into my creativity, but I have found that what I’m reading, watching, or listening to, is often the first and perhaps easiest thing to begin cultivating in order to inspire my creativity. The things we surround ourselves with can either inspire us or make us feel worse about lives or ourselves. The same goes with people.
If you’re stuck in a rut of discouragement, comparison, or bitterness, I highly encourage switching out some of what you consume for something that elevates and uplifts. It doesn’t mean that what you’re partaking of is bad, it just might not be right for the season you’re in.
Here are a few questions to prompt your search for healthy sources of inspiration to fuel your creativity:
- Does what I’m reading, viewing, or listening to make me feel light-hearted, inspired, or motivated?
- While I’m reading, viewing, or listening to this do I get a nagging feeling that it’s not healthy for me?
- Are there other interests that I haven’t spent time exploring that could be inspired by books, magazines, music, movies, shows, podcasts, or social media feeds?
- Do I find myself swept up into a comparison game when reading, viewing, or listening to this?
- Do I feel guilty for things I purchase after I read, view, or listen to this type of content?
- Do I find myself creating new things or adapting old ideas after I read, view, or listen to this content?
“Tapping into our creativity is essential to the art of thriving…when we allow creativity to take its rightful place…it carves out room for healing, joy, and gratitude to settle in.”
I am passionate about coming alongside others to inspire them in their creative journey. With 15 years’ experience as a creative entrepreneur, I have been able to cultivate a strong repertoire of strategies to boost creative output and help others tap into their creativity. If you would like to have me speak either in person or online at your upcoming conference, workshop, or retreat, please email Jaime Fenwick at firstname.lastname@example.org .