Scraping together time for art.

It’s been a busy few weeks here in the Magpie Nest. I was finally able to take Baby Magpie home to spend some time with his grandparents, which was great but exhausting. We also have quite a lot of jobs that need doing on the house, and the day to day jobs involved in looking after a small person.

With all of this going on I have been finding it hard to fit in time for creative things at the moment, as Baby Magpie is reaching an age where he is interested in everything, and beginning to be able to move himself about the place just a little, but not quite enough to satisfy his curiosity. It is difficult to find the kind of quiet alone time that you some times need just to think a bit of creative work through.

One of the little projects I had in mind was a card for Mr Magpie, as it was his birthday recently. I have given him hand made cards for his birthday every year since we’ve been together and it’s one of the little rituals of our relationship that I don’t want to let slide. I had a design in mind but found it difficult to just sneak away and put my design onto paper, which began to make me very anxious.

In the end I was able to manage it by pretending I had another piece of work I wanted to do and getting Mr Magpie to sit with him for a while for a while. It wasn’t the best solution, it would be better if I could find ways of managing my time better, but it worked as a fix at the time.

Baby Magpie is just beginning to take regular naps reliably, so I am hoping to be able to concentrate more on my projects during that time. Thus far I’ve not demonstrated a particularly strong ability to put boundaries around my time, or be disciplined at the opportunity arises, but this is something I plan to work on. I will let you know how it goes.

Thank you for reading. I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Stop looking at your phone Mama Magpie

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I have been at my parents house in the countryside this week with Baby Magpie. He is getting to spend some much deserved quality time with his grandparents, and we have left Mr Magpie back in London to do a few of the many little jobs needed in our eccentric house.

In the day Baby Magpie plays with his grandparents and I try to film little bits of him sitting on the swing and that kind of thing on my phone to send back to his dad so he doesn’t completely miss out. In the last few days I have noticed that Baby Magpie will stop smiling or laughing when I get the phone put to film him, and instead looks at me with a serious expression as if to say ‘mummy you are not paying attention’.

A while ago I blogged about being present as a parent, but from the perspective of how it might affect my mental health. I spend most of my time with him at the moment, but the quality of that time is very different depending on whether I’m trying to do something else at the same time or am just able to concentrate on being with him. Often there are things that just need to be done, but I also find myself picking up my phone or computer when I don’t really need to, because it’s become a reflex in modern life to do that. Babies are very clever. He can tell if I am present in the moment with him.

Recently Baby Magpie has been reminding me that putting a phone, even for goodish reasons, into the middle of my relationship with him tells him something about what is important. It’s when I put the phone down and concentrate just on him that he begins laughing and smiling again. 

Thank you for reading. I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Late night research and the Hidden Life of Trees

Followers of this blog may know that I’ve been working on a novel for some time (like ten years worth of time). I think it’s taken so long because it took me a while to work out what kind of book I was writing. When I started I had pretentions towards a kind of literary book, maybe magical realism, but wouldn’t have placed it in any kind of genre. Over time my ideas have evolved and I have ended up writing something that fits more squarely with the science fiction/ urban fantasy genres, with a strong environmental and mental health theme. I hesitate to call it feminist, but it has two female protagonists who are complicated, and as ‘whole’ as I can make them so far.

One of the things I’ve been doing while up in the middle of the night expressing milk for the baby is to read non fiction books that could be called ‘research’ for this. I think this may be where the famous ‘multi tasking’ that women are often claimed to have begins, because I certainly wouldn’t claim to be a multi-tasker, but I’ve found that I can just about manage to hold a breast pump and balance my chrome book on my knees at the same time.

My list so far has been slightly eclectic, and tending towards environmental themes. I’ve read This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein, which I really liked/ was deeply frightened by, and also Into the Woods, by John Yorke, which is a really nice book about the mechanics of storytelling.

I’ve just begun reading the Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, which is a really interesting insight into the biology of forests. It explains how trees in forests communicate through a ‘wood wide web’ and form a social network through which they can support each other and warn each other of threats. I really like these ideas for my novel. I was finding the idea of writing science fiction because there was no place for things like robots or computer science (yet) in my book. Equally I was having difficulty with the idea of writing fantasy as so far there are no elves or swords in my story (although with time who knows – these things evolve). But I feel like I am on good ground with biological sciences, which I always found a had most affinty with.

For anyone interestes in reading about the social life of trees I would suggest this book as a nice tour. The writing in the early chapters reads a bit like an essay someone has written for GCSE biology, with a series of chapters that read a bit like lists of interesting things, rather than a coherent story, but this evens out later in the book.

Happy reading.

This article contains affliate links. Should you choose to buy one of the books cited with the links here amazon will throw few pennies my way. I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Trying to be a new parent and creative at the same time: Write everyday?

IMG_20200302_041051151 It’s been almost 9 weeks since I had my baby and I’ve been beginning to get back thinking about how to be a creative person, at the same time as being a new parent. It’s been quite a learning curve, but I think that he’s beginning to settle into a routine, which means I’m beginning to be able to predict when I will have a little bit of time to engage with my creativity.

For anyone who has followed my blog over the years, you’ll know that I’ve always had several projects on the go, including writing a novel, making art (some of which is available here), and trying to finish a documentary, as well as a day job. The big, important thing I have learned since having my baby is that I am only likely to have a little bit of time in any given day, so I need to choose wisely how I use it. Most of my projects involve getting out camera kit or bits of paper or other stuff which will a) take half of the short amount of time I have to set up, and b) will be abandoned half way through my trying to do what ever it is I am trying to do to get tripped over or sat on by cats.

At the moment I’ve chosen to focus on my writing because that’s the one project I have that I can pick up and put down easily. At home I have two computers, one which is a mac that has all my film making software and word on, and a chrome book which is really designed for using a range of apps and the internet. At the moment I have a draft of my novel on the go in google docs, which means that I can work on it from either computer. I’m finding this really helps. I almost always have the chrome book to hand to add in a few sentences to a page. I turn on the mac for moments when I know I will have a bit longer to do a more concentrated bit of work.

I’ve also been listening to a podcast called The Bestseller Experiment (check out the website here), which has been going for several years now. I started right at the beginning and find it’s a good thing to listen to when I’m in the bath in the evening. The podcast is full of interviews with people who have written best selling books, and has lots of interesting insights. One of the big messages they have, which has come out of interviews with lots of authors, is to write everyday, even if it’s only 200 words. I am trying that out at the moment, which is a different approach for me, as before I was saving my creative work for times when I knew I would have a big block of time (half of which I inevitably spent procrastinating).

I am finding the write every day approach is helping a lot, as it forces me to keep continuity on a single project. I’m finding I’m having a lot more ideas as I work this way, and am making a lot more progress than I did with the big blocks of time approach, so this is a win I think. I expected parenthood to be teaching me all sorts of new things. I was concerned that I would lose the creative part of my life to being a mum, so it’s really nice that some of those things are about how to be more creative.

I also make art. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.