{Creativity Series} Spark Moms Interview

{Creativity Series} Spark Moms Interview

Last week I launched a blog series exploring the intersection of creativity, spirituality, and motherhood. As part of our journey together, I’m featuring interviews with fellow mom-artists.

This week, I’m honored to be talking with poet and mom of three, Sarah Dunning Park, who’s also offering a signed copy of her new book of poems, What It Is Is Beautiful, for one lucky reader {scroll down to learn how you can enter the giveaway}.

Q: When you became a mom, how did that affect your creativity? 

A: Becoming a mom has affected my creativity tremendously, in a variety of ways. But before I get into that, I want to note that getting married also had a major effect on my creativity. With both types of life changes, you have to figure out how to balance the new relational needs and responsibilities with your own desire or need to find time for creative pursuits. To be honest, I would say that I’m only now beginning to figure out a healthy balance, though I’ve been married for about twelve years. Our kids are now 9, 6, and 6 years old. But I wish I’d made it a priority sooner!

When my first baby was born, I really threw myself into the creativity of homemaking. For instance, I got into baking bread with a sourdough culture (which needed daily tending). I can see now that I found that particular creative outlet out of necessity, in the best way I was able to, for that chapter of life.

Three years later, our twins were born, and I entered a very difficult period of a few years — I had three kids preschool-age or younger, and I was also battling a chronic health issue (severe leg pain). The pain (coupled with the challenges of being home with three little ones) led to depression. So I found myself in the position of needing a creative outlet more than ever, and yet not only could I not find the time or energy, I also couldn’t remember what I even liked doing, creatively speaking!

But this story does get better… About three years ago, I spent three weeks on my own in Manhattan, seeing a specialist for my leg pain. It was the first time I’d been away from the kids for longer than an evening out. That time was transformative. I finally had a moment to sit and think and breathe. And another moment, and another, consecutively! Suddenly I had a thousand thoughts I wanted to do something with, and that is when I began writing my recent poems about motherhood.

So the very challenges that had made it difficult to find time for creativity (those constant demands of motherhood), became, in the end, the raw material for my creative work, once I was able to take a step back and start making.

Q: How do you find the time and space in your life for creative pursuits?

A: Of course, I couldn’t stay in Manhattan and live the life of a solitary writer! I came back to my home and family, and decided I had to figure out a way to make space for writing. My kids are all school-age now, and I work part-time, not full-time, so I try to take advantage of hours during the school day to get writing time. Once I have a draft of a poem, I’m able to squeeze in the editing work here and there — getting up earlier, grabbing a half hour while the kids play outside after school, and so on. But it really helps to have an uninterrupted chunk of time when I’m first starting a poem. And that, for me, is a matter of timing; I could never have found such time when the kids were all much smaller. Summers are still difficult.

One thing I’ve found to be quite helpful is note-taking. When an idea for a poem pops in my head, I try to get it down on paper (or email it to myself) as quickly as possible. I keep a file of those ideas. Or if I’m driving around, running errands, I try to use that time to wrestle, mentally, with a problem I may have come up against in the writing of a poem.

Q:  What role does spirituality and your relationship with God play in your creativity?

A: I believe that God values creativity, and art, deeply. After all, look at this intricate world we live in! But it’s easy to write off creative work as unimportant or frivolous. A luxury. So when I’m questioning the value of my creative work, I have to take a step back and revisit what I believe about God.

When I’m writing, I’m very aware that the beauty or truth I’m trying to capture is pre-existing. I’m not the source of it — God is. I’m just uncovering it. And so there’s this wonderful joy in the discovery, and a lack of pressure or fear with regard to “coming up with something good.” The good is there, God-made. And it might not be tidy. But I have the fun of taking part in it, playing with it, and helping others to see it.

I also feel that God has taken this creative work and used it for good in my life in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to predict. It’s been very healing work. So that bolsters my sense of how huge God’s dreams are for us — he wants to do great things in our lives, things that heal us and others, and that bring him glory.

Q:  When you do create, what is the payoff? How does it make you feel? 

A: When I write a poem, I’m helped by the process in so many ways. Writing a poem enables me to clarify an issue in my mind. Often I start one about a particular problem, and I honestly don’t know where the poem-writing will take me. But the process of writing it helps me figure out a new way of looking at the problem, or even “solving” it, in a sense.

In addition to gaining a better overall perspective by the end of writing a poem, I also benefit from the ongoing creative act of mental play. One of the things I love about writing poems is that I get to work with words so fluidly, finding echoes in how they sound together, and really paying attention to the subtle differences in meaning. It’s exercise for my mind, and it lifts me up out of the repetitive cycle of household tasks.

Q: What advice would you give to a mom who feels like she can barely take a shower, so how can she find time to create?

To the mom who can barely find time for a shower, I would say, “I know. I totally get it. If you have five free minutes, take that shower, enjoy it, and don’t feel bad about not being creative, too.”

I’ve been there, too, and I think it’s important to not make “being creative” just another to-do item to feel burdened by. If you long for a creative outlet but feel swamped by your life, then make a tiny, incremental goal. Find *one* way to, say, make your kitchen table more beautiful, whether it’s putting a single flower in a jar, using cloth napkins, or simply removing all the piles of mail for once! I know it seems small, and not as “worthy” as working on a painting or writing something, but it’s vital. Small steps like that will keep the creative parts of your brain alive and hungry for more. And if there’s a hunger for it, you’ll start finding other ways to make more space for creativity.


      Sarah Dunning Park is a wife, mother, and writer who lives in Virginia with her husband and three daughters. She and her husband run the simple online budgeting program,   PearBudget.com. Sarah is the author of
What It Is Is Beautiful: Honest Poems for Mothers of Small Children.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below telling us how you fit creativity into your busy life and/or what role God plays in your creative pursuits. The giveaway ends on May 17, 2013. 




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  1. I wish I had more time for creative things…I guess writing is one of those avenues for that,, but I also love fun, small home improvement projects and have painted almost ALL of the rooms in my home in the last 6 months and have a few more to go! 🙂 I think for me my biggest draw back to free time is the time I “waste” online at times. 🙂 Some time online is good of course but I need to be better about finding a balance! 🙂

  2. Documenting life on my blog and in scrapbooks is important to me. I also have all kinds of photo projects as decorations around our house. I certainly wish I had more time to conquer other projects that come to mind, but an older friend told me one time to focus on living life with my kids now while they’re at home because I’ll have more time to scrapbook when they move out. 🙂 While I do think it’s important to be creative and document life now, I also want to be able to balance that and really live life. On another creative note, I don’t have a Pinterest account because the idea of adding another online element to my life totally stresses me out. Finding balance is hard enough already!
    Kristin Taylor recently posted..{Guest Post} All the moments that make a motherMy Profile

  3. Creativity is something that is necessary for me often, but it doesn’t always look the same. There are days when my writing feels like the best creating there can possibly be and I feel completely fulfilled…and then there are days when I’m starving for the time to create something different. I’ve been blessed with a toddler who doesn’t take naps…and she goes to bed around 7:30, leaving me with several hours at night to write and/or do something creative. (Ok, confession…sometimes (most nights?) I just watch TV.) 😉 But when the need is there, I love to pull out my paints and go at it. I’ve done a several canvasses, but I’m also known in our house to paint all over the walls with the understanding that if it looks bad, we can just paint over it. In fact, a few weeks ago, we painted over a really baaaad attempt of the Eiffel Tower in my closet. 🙂 Sometimes I’ll make a piece of jewelry or crochet a hat or get on Pinterest and learn something new. My newest wanna-do-this is something I saw on Pinterest (of course). You spray paint a wire/metal garbage can, turn it over, and it becomes a little table. I want to do one in bright pink for my daughter’s room. 🙂
    Mel recently posted..Five-Minute Friday: ComfortMy Profile

    • Mel: I didn’t realize you were such a crafty girl–how fun! I just love your bravery in really going for it — whether it’s on your canvases or walls, or jewelry-making or crocheting. (I make jewelry too, and I totally want to learn crochet, so I think we’d get along fabulously IRL 😉
      seasonswithsoul recently posted..{Creativity Series} Spark Moms InterviewMy Profile

  4. What an interview!! I read it this morning, but haven’t had time to comment until now. Here’s the part I love…

    “So the very challenges that had made it difficult to find time for creativity (those constant demands of motherhood), became, in the end, the raw material for my creative work, once I was able to take a step back and start making.”

    YES, YES, YES!!! All the things I suffered through (not that motherhood is suffering – well, ok, sometimes it is – but I’m saying that about life in general), in the end became raw material for my creative work – talk about giving meaning to life!! God uses everything for good! What a wonderful reminder!

    And so off the topic, but my goodness, how I LOVE Sarah’s haircut!! It just frames her face beautifully.
    Christine Wright recently posted..Prayer: Soft, Yet PowerfulMy Profile

    • Thank you, Christine, both about the interview and about the haircut! 🙂 I’m so glad you connected with the part about these struggles becoming raw material. I think God intends for art to be woven into our daily lives, not just something that’s relegated to museum visits — so it’s really fitting for us to try to make art *out of* the pieces of life around us. Yes, he does use everything for good!

  5. I sstuff most of my creative spurts into rest time… I don’t know what I’m going to do when they all give up naps!
    Melissa recently posted..Lens Types: Zoom or Fixed Focal LengthMy Profile

    • Nap time is an awesome time to either create, or to find another way to recharge {so we have the energy to create}! My big downfall during nap time is to fritter it away checking emails or cleaning the kitchen or prepping dinner {things I can do with kids underfoot}. I’m glad to hear you’re making wise use of your time.
      seasonswithsoul recently posted..{Creativity Series} Spark Moms InterviewMy Profile

  6. Great interview, I found myself nodding in agreement through the whole thing. Writing helps me process what I’m thinking or things I may be going through, rather it’s in journal or online. The act of being creative just makes me feel closer to who God made me to be and closer to Him.
    And I agree with Christine! The haircut is so cute!! I wish I could pull that off 🙂
    Alecia recently posted..Words StickMy Profile

  7. Wonderful and inspiring. No…it’s not easy to get time in for creative efforts in the middle of mothering. And so sometimes I think we have to remember that parenting is both practical and creative. Love this series!!
    Elise Daly Parker recently posted..What Part of Life’s Journey Are You On?My Profile

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