My toddler is a scientist: experimentation and the creative process.

A few weeks ago my son learned to walk. Like every other skill he has picked up, the process involved a lot of trail, and a lot of error. There were plenty of missteps and a few little falls here and there, but it didn’t take him long to get the hang of it. Now he likes to spend his days charging around, while we spend our trying to keep up with him.

Over the last year it has been his gift to us to hang out with him while he learns to do new things. I am sure all parents think their children are clever, and I am no exception to this rule, but it has been one of the most delightful surprises of parenthood to be able to see this unfold. He is the epitome of a little scientist. Touching. Tasting. Moving things about. Trying one thing, seeing it fail, trying it again with adaptations, before moving on to the next option.

The other morning we were eating breakfast together and it occurred to me that this process is also the process that underpins good art. Trying one thing, adapting it, trying the next. I am one of those odd people who trained in the sciences, but is drawn instinctively to the arts. In my mind there has never been a huge distance between the core process involved in doing science, and the one that underpins the making of art. Watching my child develop has reinforced this for me in the most profound way.

Now he has walking mostly under control, we’ve moved on to putting blocks together in new and interesting patterns. For him, inspiration appears everywhere. We aren’t quite up to building yet, but that too will happen in time. I can’t wait to see what he will experiment with next.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. 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.

Parenting and productivity: what have I learned?

When my son was born last year a few weeks before we went into a national lockdown I thought that there would be time to do things. Long time readers of this blog will know that I have a habit of working on multiple projects at a time. We also bought a house that needs lots of work doing to it that we planned to do ourselves. I naively thought that I would be able to continue with this multiple project approach, but it turns out that I was very optimistic.

In the first 6 months, when my son couldn’t move very far, it was actually possible to do lots of things, but as I was recovering from a C section there was a limit on what I could do, so I mostly stuck to writing. Once he got the hang of moving about however, things really changed and I found I was able to do less and less. in particular I found he got really interested in my computer, which meant that my previous approach of writing when he was around became unviable, or I would soon have a broken computer.

There have been a few black days where I was feeling very frustrated and stuck, with the house needing lots of work and my projects sitting untouched on my computer. At the same time I have found that just spending time with him, watching him learn and grow has been a really mind expanding experience. Everyday he encounters something new for the first time. I didn’t want those moment with hime to be lost in my need to do other things and so I started thinking about getting more organised. My partner bought me a copy of Getting things Done by David Allen (affiliate link), which was helpful to some extent. I also read a copy of From Chaos to Creativity by Jessie Kwak, (affiliate link) which was really helpful and a much easier book to navigate when you don’t have much time.

He’s now toddling, and into absolutely everything making and while you would think things would be even more difficult, actually I feel a lot more on top of things now. Here is what I have learned:

  1. It helps to have a system – Both of the books I suggest above recommend developing a system to mange all of the things you have to do. I’m still working on mine but have found Trello and a series of physical white boards helpful in organising my time.
  2. Get used to making the most of small, unpredictable pockets of time – I find that I frequently find I have small pockets of time in which I can do something that come at odd moments in the day. In order to make the most of this it really helps to work out ahead of time what little jobs or tasks I can do in ten minutes or half an hour and keep a list of these. For example I have managed to do quite a lot on our garden this year in thirty minute slots here and there. I have also made some good headway on the second draft of my novel in twenty minute chunks of time.
  3. Switch devices – my son is obsessed with my laptop computer and I can’t really use it around him as he just grabs it off my lap the whole time. But I have found I can write a lot of bits and pieces on my phone and then tidy them up on the computer later when he is napping.
  4. Switch media – I’ve recently signed up for an audible account (affiliate link) have found this really helps me – I can’t read and look after my son, but I can listen to an audio book while I’m cooking or something like that. This has been transformative for me.
  5. One thing at a time – I have had to put some things on hold, like pretty much all of my film making and art work so I can concentrate on one bit of one creative project – the first book of the Feeding Jasmine Valentine Project because that’s all I can do.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. 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.

Reasons to be Grateful: People are nice to my son

I’m sorry to have been quiet for that last couple of months, I have started back at work and am experiencing the lockdown child care crunch that will be familiar to many parents.

This won’t be a long post, but I wanted to share this picture of my son. He likes to stand in on the window sill in our front room and bang on the window as people pass by. Obviously he is still too little to stand up there on his own so I am often sitting there with him, just behind the curtain. I don’t think passers by can see me, but they do see him and they frequently wave. This makes him very happy, and he bangs on the window a bit more and shouts.

Parenting a young child during lockdown hasn’t been easy. There aren’t many places I can take him at the moment and he seldom sees anyone other than me and my partner. Hopefully all this will change soon, and he can get on with making friends and meeting people outside. In the mean time I am really grateful to the people who wave at him. It makes his morning or his afternoon to get a wave.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. 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.

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.