The dishwasher is full of steamy plates, bowls and cups waiting to be put away, and the sink next to it is full of dirty ones that wouldn’t fit. I’ve got three baskets of clothes waiting to make their way narrow basements steps to the washing machine, dried out leaves and sticks have made their way indoors and into every room, and we have just run out of the essentials for the weekend: milk, bread, and eggs. Yet, I sit here and I write. Let me share why.
I write to you, as a mother and homemaker, as a person who finds purpose and fulfillment in work that will never fall seamlessly into the category of done unless I declare it so, because it’s the kind of work that goes on well beyond the encore. Right now at this very moment, I could write a winding trail to-do’s detailing things I’d like to get done today, things both big and small, things both essential and admittedly petty, and still feel as so though I’ve got a steep mountain to climb even if I tackled them now through sundown. I write to you, dear reader, as someone who would ideally have all her ducks in a pretty little row before pressing the start botton on any project or creative pursuit to fill up my tank. But if that were the case and if I made it a priority to line up my ducks before beginning, my bum would never be sitting in here this old rickety fold up chair in the front of our living room, my fingers never tapping these keys to share my heart.
Also, I would have never made paper snowflakes yesterday with the kids, nor would I have five or so half-done, very amateur knitting projects laying around the house. My babes wouldn’t help me regularly in the kitchen, I would rarely correspond with friends who live afar, and I would probably not allow myself to sink into a rhythm of solitude that is rarely offered but needed for me to care for my family.
If I told myself I had to do it all before starting any creative process, whatever it is that it all entails, I would probably never begin. Respectively, I would probably never fall into the beautiful but messy landscape that is making something, a divine and grace-filled affair that has the rare ability to take me out of myself into a place of rest and and restoration. And I think that is the key:
to simply begin despite not feeling ready or being an expert at something…
…to try with all your might to reach back and remember what it feels like to create, and then to hold onto that warm idea tightly so that you don’t have to have your home, your hands, or your heart in tip-top condition before beginning a conversation with your creative self. No one is ever free of mess, no matter where that clutter builds. We use begin anyways.
Now and again I get letters from readers like you who tell me they want to start up a blog, draw with their kids, read a book in its entirety, make a compost, try knitting a scarf, write penal letters, preserve something from the farmer’s market, plant a garden, bake a loaf bread, do something, anything, along the lines of making for the soul, but for some reason cannot get there. They want the stars to have aligned for them, and they want to know how I’ve aligned mine. We all like to think in equations from time to time, as if doing this will equal that, but as I am learning, life doesn’t always tend to work that way. So I do my best to share with them that my stars are scattered, just like theirs, and I convey that stars in a straight line cannot light up the dark, night sky like ones that are sprinkled all over the place.
So I tell them, “Listen to that voice and start. Begin today. Start small, but begin. Bird by bird your way into the unraveling of yourself, so you may find that place deep inside that feels like home and connects you to something bigger and greater and mysteriously contagious that dispels the myth of needing that starry line in the first place.” Okay so it’s usually not those exact words, but along the gentle lines of:
“…it’s all gonna be okay, you can begin now.”
So if you feel the tug to make something, or if you are in a place where you need a voice outside that perfectionistic hamster wheel clambering inside your head to give you permission to abandon more “essential” pursuits like laundry or scrubbed toilets before beginning, perhaps I can be that voice for you? I’ve had others be that graceful reminder to me in the past and it has made all the difference. Because of their encouragement, I have learned that making time to make has made me a better mom, wife, friend, etc. Let me say that again, making time to make has made me a better me. I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but if that sounds like something you need to hear, lean into it, because there will never be a perfect time to start. There will never be a day without that loud list of to-do’s, especially now that we near the holidays, nor will there ever be a string of stars aligned welcoming you into a safe place that confirms your worth so you may begin.
Though infinitely important and meaningful, the work that is mothering and homemaking can go on and on without outward appreciation, therefore we must be strong and make time to recalibrate, re-center, and renew ourselves. We must make it essential to become still enough to feed our souls, so that we don’t plant seeds of resentment, but instead, refocus the lenses over our eyes to reap gratitude and abundance in even the mundane bits of our lives. When I take time to transform something, whether it’s a vegetable or a blank sheet of paper, I come home to myself, and when I transform those “have to’s” into “get to’s” gratitude is the present.
Below is a list of 50 ways for you to set aside time for you to make something. You do not need to be the dictionary definition of a creative to begin, this is for everyone. I really believe all of us are makers, no matter what that looks like or what the end product turns out to be. The making is in the hands on process, and in the unwinding and resetting of our priorities. I invite you to carve out moment today or this weekend to turn off your phones, step away from the screens in your home, and choose one of the items below. Get comfortable, get curious, and know that you have someone on your team who believes in your ability to begin, despite how full your plate is. I believe in you!
- Do a puzzle while listening to beautiful music.
- Visit a public library and thumb through actual books made out of paper.
- Write a letter to someone you care about.
- Bake bread for a neighbor.
- Take a flower-arranging class with a friend.
- Light a fire and warm your toes.
- Curl up with a book and read until you feel filled up.
- Write your first blog entry.
- Dip or roll beeswax candles.
- Doodle with no agenda.
- Color with your kids or by yourself.
- Take photos for fun and show them to know one. Save them in a folder called, “Gratitudes.”
- Send snail mail to someone who has been on your heart.
- Take a meandering walk around a park.
- Watch an old classic film without your phone nearby.
- Host a dinner party and the meal with your husband.
- Make a nature table on a shelf in your home.
- Get a new journal and begin a daily writing practice.
- Play an old board game.
- Rearrange the furniture in a room.
- Light calming incense or diffuse essential oils.
- Do an hour of yoga or meditation. That might simply be sitting and watching the leaves fall.
- Write a list of gratitudes. See how many things you can come up with in ten minutes.
- Cozy up your home to reflect the season.
- Take a warm candle-lit bubble bath.
- Model with play dough and make a seasonal scene.
- Visit a museum and write down artists that inspire you.
- Knit a scarf, a potholder, or something useful you can put to work this season.
- Play an instrument or make one out of recyclables with the kids.
- Whip up some natural beauty products or remedies.
- Watercolor inspirational quotes and hang them around your home.
- Take white clothes or clothing and naturally dye them with things from your kitchen.
- Sew something as a handmade holiday gift.
- Create an imaginary world out of blocks, silks, and other open-ended toys with your kids.
- Take a class to learn something new, like embroidery or pottery.
- Devote a few hours a week to learn a new language.
- Start a felt project or practice your sewing skills.
- Get outdoors and garden or pull weeds.
- Send thank you notes for those who have helped you in some way.
- Make a loom from twigs and yarn.
- Repot your plants.
- Hang photos around your home.
- Go for a jog at sunrise.
- Paint a piece of furniture.
- Make a lantern with tissue paper, glue, and an old mason jar.
- Set up a fort with your little ones and spend time playing.
- Gather seasonal books and look at them in bed with your babies.
- Put together a new playlist.
- Make sun prints with things you find outside or around your home.
- Press nature you find outdoors and preserve them in frames once dried. Write a little note on the back on the frame saying something about that day.
Jenny - Amanda, your words are so inspiring- the way you describe your thoughts and feelings beautifully unravel to create a work of art—which I feel like those were my thoughts too somewhere in me but never got let them out because I just haven’t invested my time to practice enough w words and I’m not good w them just yet. So thank you for being you and sharing you, being the voice that I can resonate w my inner self.
Morgan - Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Ashton - Amanda, literally moved to tears by this post. I re-read so many of your sentences throughout this piece because it spoke to my heart so very much. It was like you looked right into my mind! Thank you dear friend for being willing to share this. So blessed and challenged by these words.
Amy - Thank you Amanda. This post was wonderful. I am such a perfectionist and I always think that I need things to be “done” before starting anything for me. And by the time I have finished my “to do” list, I have no energy left! Thank you for always taking the time to share your thoughts x
Stacy - Amen, amen and amen! I so agree you. Since becoming a mom I have discovered I NEED a creative outlet, be it coloring, writing or even rearranging our furniture, as much or even more than a shower! I never have everything all done but most days for a hour in the afternoon it’s my free time, I used to have an agenda but now I show up and do what I am led to, without critiquing the time. So many mamas don’t do this and I think more need to know it’s ok, and this, more than finishing things will make you a better mama.
Sarah - You continually inspire me! Your words are so encouraging and I truly enjoyed this post.
Ellen - Thank you Amanda for making such a gift of yourself. Your blog is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing this!
Jennifer - Your words really spoke to me 🙂
Amy Saycich - This brought tears to my eyes, thank you. It’s just what I needed to hear and have been struggling with for weeks now.
Katherine - Thank you for these words. Sometimes we just need to hear them said by someone else in order to truly allow ourselves to listen. I find it’s easy when you have little ones at home to simply put creative pursuits away “for another season” because it feels like there are just so many other things that need to get done. This is a great reminder of how important it is to continue to pursue the things we love, even in busy seasons.
Eda - I am crying a little. Thank you!
Melissa - I woke up early this morning because I couldn’t stay asleep – anxious about the things that awaited me to do today and, let’s be honest, this week! I decided to make the most of the quiet early morning to myself, so I got up and went downstairs, lit a candle and poured a glass of lemon water. I pulled up your blog and read this post. Like so many others who have commented, your words moved me to tears! Thank you for writing this post – I so needed this, to hear this. At times, I get overwhelmed so easily, and just as easily, I forget about the things that make me feel centered and at peace. Thank you for this nudge, this reminder, to focus on me. Very grateful to have a place I can go to on the Internet that speaks to my soul!
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Ezgi - Very inspirational..
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Sarah - Just read this post – catching up a bit on your site – this was timely and just what I needed. As a teacher, I had five days off in a row this past week. I had created a very long to-do list for myself at the start of the break. Well, not much of it was finished. But what I did do was cook several wonderful meals, colored with my six-year-old for long stretches of time, began reading Little House in the Big Woods with her, spent a day in town puttering around a few small stores and visiting the park where my daughter made her first successful monkey-bar crossing, and spent yesterday in the woods with my husband and daughter, finding our Christmas tree, and then decorating it for several hours last night. The to-do list doesn’t have much crossed off, but I think I’ll stop feeling stressed about that. What a gift these past few days were. Thank you, Amanda. I hope your week is cozy and calm.
Jes - This post is my hygge. Thank you.
Kenny Hansen - Thank you for being who you are. We are all unique and have something beautiful to offer this earth. You offer a beautiful perspective on everyday life. You offer true and lasting joy. Thank you, Amanda.
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