Is creativity a leisure time pursuit?

I feel as if a big fat finger is poking me in the back, prodding me to write this post so here goes.

A few days ago  Medmcn [also known as M. Edward McNally] and Ilil Arbel, both very talented writers, were talking about the years they had wasted doing responsible things – like earning a living – before finally being able to follow their passions.

Then just yesterday my neighbour Sallyanne, an incredibly talented photographer, laughed off the slow growth of her business with the words
“…but the kids come first”.

The photo on the right is a portrait Sallyanne took of my late father for his 89th birthday. Dementia was slowly eating away at my Dad but Sallyanne managed to capture the old Dad and immortalize him as he used to be. For me that was a minor miracle and shows just how talented she truly is.

The final prod came this morning when Metan, another very talented lady blogger, mentioned how hard it was to find the time to do her research when the dishes had to be done, kids uniforms washed etc, etc.

How could I ignore that fat finger of fate any longer?

The trouble is that I don’t quite know where to take this post. Should I talk about the historical absence of women in the arts? Should I draw parallels with women’s ongoing responsibilities to their families as the cause? Or should I explore the idea that art for art sake can only happen when the artist is freed from the daily grind for survival? Yet as soon as I think along those lines my brain pipes up with ‘but what about the cave paintings?’ It’s hard to see how caveman artists would have had the leisure for art unless art was somehow functional.

I honestly have no answers here so I’m throwing the question[s] out into the void.

If you’ve got any ideas please jump into the discussion by leaving a comment.



About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

29 responses to “Is creativity a leisure time pursuit?

  • Stephanie Allen Crist

    The answer depends on how seriously you take yourself and your writing (two separate things). If you take both you and your writing seriously, then you NEED to MAKE time for creativity, and that time is WORK no matter how fun and enjoyable it is. If you take your writing seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously, then you will come up with reasons (bordering on excuses) why not to devote time to your creative pursuits. If you take yourself seriously, but don’t take your writing seriously, then your creative time is leisure and your writing is a hobby–there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s a whole different thing.

    Now, I used to be a writer who took my writing seriously but didn’t take myself seriously. I was a wife and a mother–my husband and my children all have disabilities. They come first. Then, there’s the house. Then there’s the things necessary for family survival (unless those things become urgent). Then there’s the things necessary for my personal survival (unless those things become urgent). This went on for years.

    Somewhere between realizing that my husband would not be able to support our family and finishing the degree that was supposed to empower me to do so, I realized I couldn’t live my life like this. In fact, I wrote about the experience ( Once I figured out that my writing was a need and then decided to apply my business acumen to my writing, things changed–dramatically.

    My family is still my priority, but so is my writing. They balance–because I balance them. Sometimes one is higher, sometimes the other–like a teeter totter. It doesn’t have to be one or the other in the long-run, though, and that’s the point. If you take yourself and your writing seriously, you will find a way.

    Not to sound holier than thou or anything like that, but if I can raise three children with autism, support my family with a business, go to graduate school, AND write, then most of the reasons (like the need to do dishes) just don’t cut it with me.

    You, my dear, are a DAMN GOOD WRITER! You and your writing deserve to be taken seriously. That’s not to say you don’t have stuff to learn still–don’t we all. But it’s worth learning and you and your writing are worth the time and effort that learning and practice takes.


  • Adulthood CONFIDENTIAL! A Word of One’s Own at the Gates of the Secret City « Bluebird Blvd.

    […] piece was my friend Meeka’s discussion of writing, responsibility and fear in her short essay Is Creativity a Leisure Time Pursuit? I had hit a different wall lately in which I was wondering about the next step in my blogging […]


    • acflory

      Thanks Bluey. I felt as if that post was a gift for me but I didn’t dare assume too much.

      I began blogging because I felt that it was some necessary first step to marketing a book I did not even have. I discovered that blogging can be an enormous amount of fun but that alone would not be enough to make me keep doing it. The joy that keeps me blogging is the joy of discovering so many stimulating, funny, generous, erudite, articulate wonderful WRITERS.

      Blogging may begin as ‘me,me,me’ but it very quickly becomes ‘you,you,you’. I couldn’t give this up even if I wanted to! And I don’t.


      • Ilil Arbel

        Blogging can be so many different things. Sure, some are me, me, me… but for many of us it’s a way of sharing thoughts and communicating with people we would otherwise never meet. For me, it’s the weird joy of writing a book on line and getting feedback about it as I go along. While I dislike some of the new technologies, I do love the Internet and how it offers bonds with others.


  • Courtenay Bluebird

    Oh, Meeka— I was so touched by this particular essay-post— you managed to reveal an unspoken but common fear amongst writers (and artists and dancers and photographers and so on) about what one’s work is worth to oneself, and at a remove, to the world. Sometimes these fears converge and become one big fear, as you know.

    In fact, I was so inspired by this open and thoughtful piece of writing that I ended up writing a response. So many beginning writers that I’ve met have hit a wall lately, and I just want to do what I can to help you all see how illusory that wall can be.

    Thank you for writing this, my friend. You inspired me this week, greatly.


    • Ilil Arbel

      I have already placed a comment, but reading what you said, Courtnay, I wanted to add something. You are so right. The thought that what we do is not of value is what kills so many great works before they are sent out into the world. I believe that anything one wishes to express in his or her writing, art, music, anything, really, is worth it, except when it expresses hate or is meant to hurt someone, of course. This is why I consider the publishing revolution to be so good and important. Yes, the huge new competition causes me to lose some sales… but the joy of seeing so many people coming forward and expressing themselves certainly compensates me for such self absorbed thoughts. Plenty of walls are tumbling down!


  • john malone

    it’s a good isuue to raise. I think part of the answer to this is that people who’ve alwaqys wanted to write, find a way around it. Raymond Carver is the classix example of this though admitedly he is male. Are there female examples, I wonder?


    • acflory

      Good point John. Certainly amongst painters the cliche of the starving artist living in a garret is very prevalent and I’m sure the same can be said of writers and musicians/composers.

      Being driven and being responsible for a family is even harder though, especially if money is an issue as well. I suspect that is one reason why there were so few great female artists in history.

      Nowadays we don’t see that gender bias as much although having kids is still a ‘complicating’ factor for most women 😀


  • acflory

    Yeah, they grow up so fast. I still find it hard to believe that funny kid who loved to play dinosaurs is now 25. lol And I remember the staying up late because it was the only time I owed to no-one!

    Tell you what though, start letting yourself dream /now/ so you’ll be ready when your time comes.


  • acflory

    -grin- Don’t sell yourself short Metan. History may be your obsession but the way you write about it proves to me that one day you’re going to be doing a whole lot more writing. You love words and I think that’s the first step. Finding the right outlet is the second. Balancing everything is the holy grail.

    I know I floundered around for a long time, incapable of seeing outside the box I’d built around myself. Wife, mother, daughter, housekeeper. I’ll always be The Mum but those other walls have fallen away and I really like the view without walls.


    • metan

      I always wish for a clone, the clone can do everything the I ‘should’ do, washing, cooking, mumming etc and the other me can just indulge my own whims without guilt.

      I always look at the kids and think any minute now they will be grown up and have their own lives. I try my best to enjoy all the things that drive me mad now as I know I will miss the madness when it is all over.

      My secret weapon to maintain sanity is knocking off work early enough to give me an hour of computer time before I pick the kids up. It gets some of the think out of my system before I have to do the after school mum thing and be swept up with their needs. I might sit up all night writing but if I didn’t get those thoughts out earlier in the day I would be no use to anyone!


  • metan

    Awww, ‘talented lady blogger’. Thanks! Perhaps ‘obsessed reader of the past’ might be a little more accurate 😉

    All the things you experience in your life feed into what makes you do what you do. If people have ‘lost years’ it seems to make them value the writing (or whatever their obsession might be) that much more later. Perhaps if they hadn’t had that break they would have less love for it?

    I love Sallyanne’s photo of your dad, I also love that she laughs off the slow growth of her business, thanks to the kids, instead of wishing for them to get on with growing up so she can do her own thing. Love those priorities!


  • medmcn

    For me, writing was what I had known I wanted to do ever since second grade, when the Kansas City Star ran a cutsey little kid poem I had written. That was what I turned my back on for ten years, and as I never lost the desire to write during it, it was a miserable ten years. Energy, even creative energy has to go somewhere, and for me it went into self destructive places. And of course, predictably, I wound up making the people I was trying to make happy by not writing, equally miserable.

    I’m totally not saying every single writer has to have a single-minded devotion to writing, because we’re all every bit as different as writers as we are as people. But for me, just me personally, it has to be my raison d’être. If I push other things to the back because of that, I know now that doing any different just makes things worse. But again, I’m just talking about myself, I’m totally unqualified to offer wisdom to anyone else.

    If I can quote an Ani DiFranco lyric (and I think I can), “Art is why I get up in the morning, but my definition ends there.”

    PS The rest of that line is: “…and it doesn’t seem fair, that I’m living for something I can’t even define.”


    • acflory

      I envy you that certainty Ed, although I don’t envy the misery it also caused. To me writing was something other people did and people like me read and enjoyed. I saw myself as practical, unimaginative, logical. Connecting the dots did not add up to that magical word ‘writer’. Now though, now I finally understand what ‘Art is why I get up in the morning..’ actually means.

      I guess we all have our own demons and I’m going to use that as a neat way to segue into a little promo of your new book ‘Devil Town’. It’s not out yet but if anyone’s been reading my reviews of the first 3 books in the Norothian series you’ll know how impressed I’ve been with them. I suspect book 4 is going to be even better.

      Speaking of book 4, would you mind if I put a pic of the cover up on my blog?


  • Candy

    Nothing is wasted. All the ‘distracting’ experiences, all the time spend earning a living, caring for family, worrying about failure, all of it gets rolled into fiction. It’s all source material.

    Now, sit down and write.


  • Ilil Arbel

    Hi there!

    Since you mentioned my name and said nice things about me (thank you), I allow myself to be the first to answer. My regrets about the lost years are not because of lack of leisure, but because I only started writing after a real career change. I was a scientific illustrator for twenty years, and while it was okay, I did not love it. I do love writing and I wish I had the guts to start it earlier, but I held myself back because of one reason — English is not my native language — so I felt I had no chance in hell to be a writer. Eventually I took the plunge, and the rest is history.

    However, lack of leisure never had anything to do with it. I don’t have leisure. I never had leisure. I will never have leisure. This is my mantra. I work full time in a publishing department, and I have always worked full time. So my writing and research are done in the evenings and on weekends. I don’t mind the sacrifices it requires, since writing is important to me. Perhaps an obsession. But my books are not best sellers and just living off the roylaties is not an option.

    So this is my story of lost the lost years, and I would so love to hear what others have to say.


    • acflory

      I’m gobsmacked Ilil. I had no idea English was your second language. I’m even more glad that you found the courage to write anyway.

      For me technical writing was permissible because it had a purpose and helped pay the bills so I fitted it in around the needs of my daughter and the family. Skimping on house work was OK because the writing was ‘useful’.

      Writing fiction was none of those things. For a long time it was like a secret hobby, the kind you’re just a little bit ashamed of and rarely mention to your friends. I’m so glad I finally found the courage to let my passions out of the closet!


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