Welcome back to Creating in the Midst. If you're new to the series, all of the posts are located here. Thanks for joining us!
This week Jen Precourt is sharing about her life as a writer, creative soul, and a homeschooling mom of two. I'm honored to call Jen one of my closest friends, as well as my writing partner. I'm so happy to have her here today!
~Can you tell us a bit about your creative life? Before kids? After kids?
Before kids it was knitting. Some writing but not much. Since having the girls my creative life has exploded. I think it’s because I’m viewing creativity differently. Anything can be creative, making a home, homeschooling, playing with the girls. Now my creativity revolves around my thoughts about how I want to model creativity, how I want to express myself, how I want to teach them that we all have creativity swirling around inside us and it is okay....more than okay....to express that creativity however we see fit. I want them to see me as creative, as BEING creative. That it’s a part of me. It isn’t meant to fit in a nice neat box. You think you can’t draw or paint or knit or sew? Well just try, play with it. Create SOMETHING. A drawing, a meal, a book, a poem. The girls also have taught me….play is creative. Get messy. Not sure how to use a tool? Well pick it up and experiment. You aren’t using it the way it’s intended? Who cares (as long as it’s safe!) figure out how that tool can serve you. I also find that if nothing else creative happens in a day (because lets be honest, some days don’t go at all as planned!)….taking a picture of something that catches my eye, putting a few words together and posting on Instagram helps a lot to fill that creative well. On the days when I post quite a bit of pictures on Instagram….that’s how you know that my creativity is needing a boost! On the days when I’m in the creative flow with ideas & writing, then not so many posts on Instagram!
~What does an average day look like at your house?
I wake up early, ideally it would be get up at 6 but lately it’s been closer to 6:30. The early morning hours are sacred to me. I love the peace of pre-dawn for coffee, prayer, morning pages, dreaming about projects I want to do. The girls wake up & come down between 8 & 8:30 typically for breakfast. We then do any number of things: homeschool field trip; work on school; they play; I do dishes, laundry, etc. we run errands. Lunchtime, then they go up for nap/rest time. I sit with a cup of tea & my knitting for a bit of quiet time myself. Then I catch up on more chores or write. Marie-Therese comes down about an hour & a half later for some one on one schoolwork or we do art projects together. Veronica gets up and we play together or go back outside before dinner. It’s really an ebb & flow. We move to the rhythm of where we feel called to on any particular day. No two days are the same and yet they feel a lot alike. There’s always schoolwork, chores, creative time, quiet time, food. It’s the activities within those frames that shift day to day.
~What projects are you currently working on? Do you have any upcoming workshops?
Right now I am in the midst of preparing for NaNoWriMo. Except I’m not planning a novel, I’m planning a collection of essays based on creativity, mindfulness, spirituality, motherhood, & seeking the beauty in the everyday. I’m also in the beginning stages of creating a self-directed study on poetry. I’m feeling called to writing poetry so that might be woven into November too. No concrete plans for a workshop but the ideas for them are in the back of my mind. I’m waiting to see what direction November takes and see what flows from that! I also have the idea to turn the pictures I take into notecards, to open up a small etsy store with them. Taking pictures helps me stop and be more present in the moments, in the beauty, in the ordinary parts of the day….and a lot of time taking pictures sparks a creative movement in my soul. To write more, to think more, to be more connected to my soul.
~What measures do you take to protect your creativity?
Accountability partner. If it was up to me, I’d most likely remain stagnant with my creativity, my writing. Having someone to answer to, someone to gently nudge me to write, knowing someone is waiting for me to check in with how its going helps me keep creating even on the days (or weeks!) when I don’t want to.
~Do you create alongside your children?
Yes! I used to have the mindset that I needed absolute peace & quiet to create. But then nothing got done and I got terribly frustrated. So now if I feel called to write or draw or take photographs I just do it and the girls flock to me and they do it too. We don’t really talk about it, its just something that happens naturally. And sometimes Marie-Therese is at the table painting or drawing or art collaging and I sit down and follow her lead.
~Do you need absolute silence and space to write, or are you able to carve out moments while in the middle of daily life?
Writing is different then the other forms of creativity I like to do. I do need quiet focus for that. I jot down ideas throughout the day as they come (usually at inopportune times like when I’m doing the dishes, homeschooling, driving or taking a shower!) But even that is changing time goes on. I am able to sit at the table while the girls play around me and write pieces. If I leave the document open or the notebook at the table, I am finding I can add words to it as the day goes on. I have to edit my words more afterwards, but at least I’m getting the ideas flowing!
~I think of you, my beloved friend, as a writer, a knitter, seamstress, an overall ninja in terms of creativity, as well as a mother, friend, and homeschooling parent. Do you think all of these things are tied together by the strings of creativity?
I do! Each aspect of me is a part of another aspect. All tied together by creativity. My creativity is a part of my soul & it is released through being a mother, writer, homeschooling parent, knitter and any other actions I take throughout my days.I used to think I wasn’t creative because I can’t draw or paint well. That is only one aspect of creating. My views on what creativity means has opened up so much over the past few years!
~What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer/maker and a homeschooling parent?
Finding the chunks of time to create deeply. A lot of mornings I just get into the writing groove and the baby starts calling or Marie-Therese comes downstairs. Same with the afternoon quiet time. And now some of the time I used to use to create goes towards planning our homeschool days & activities. I don’t regret that, it’s just a fact and I am re-working my time. It’s an ebb & flow and this season of homeschooling life is teaching me to be flexible with my creativity and how I view it and when I do it. It’s teaching me that I don’t always have hours of free time but I do have pockets of 5, 10, 15 minutes at different parts of the day. I need to learn to use those pockets more instead of waiting for a two hour chunk of time. Because those are far & few between!
~What is the most rewarding aspect?
Time. Time to be, time to create alongside my daughter. To learn from her & her process. We aren’t restricted by the schedules of a traditional school day. We feel like staying up a little later to paint or color at the kitchen table? Then we do it! We want to read books & stay in our pjs until 10? Then we do it! We have the time to dream creatively and the time to follow through on that creativity. Homeschooling has opened up our days and how we learn together. And we all model to each other learning & exploring & experimenting. She sees me having a passion for writing, reading, nature, knitting, photography, etc. She is learning that even as an adult learning doesn’t end. School isn’t just sitting at a desk or table, the classroom is the world and we are exploring that classroom together.
~Has your creative process changed due to homeschooling?
Those pockets of time I mentioned above? Yea those! I am learning to recognize them, to use them not for checking in on social media but to pick up the pen & notebook. Or knitting needles & knit just a row or two. To look out the window and snap a picture and string some words together about the current moment. Seriously, I used to think that if I couldn’t have a huge chunk of uninterrupted time then I couldn’t do it. I am slowly learning that I need to use those small pockets and that a lot of times those small pockets are more productive then huge chunks of time.
~What are your dreams for your creative pursuits in the next year?
Ohh so many. To continue growing as a writer. To take myself seriously as one. To work hard at my writing in order to start sharing it with the world more. That takes a huge leap of faith, but it’s one that I plan on working towards. I want to write more poetry. I would like to begin blogging again, to share more of my writing. I would love to turn my photographs into notecards to sell. Maybe do a series of poems based on my nature photographs. We’ll see! I have so many ideas, the big thing is to begin working on them. Movement. Baby steps, but at least take those steps!
And last, but not least... some quickfire questions:
~What was the last book you read?
Fiction: Still Alive by Lisa Genova Non-Fiction: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
~The last thing you made with your two hands and creativity?
Socks! I have a goal to knit 12 pairs of socks in 2015, I am on track to make that goal too! And now that I think about it, I colored in a coloring page yesterday with my daughter. That is creativity too!
A cup of tea and Grey’s Anatomy re-runs. The girls go down for rest time, I sit with my tea & watch (and usually knit too). It’s very rarely a whole show but even 15 minutes helps rejuvenate me and gives me a few minutes of doing something that I enjoy.
~Least favorite daily task?
Cooking! I have a love hate relationship with food preparation. My people love to eat, I hate making it!
~If you had an entire day that was just yours, how would you spend it?
Watching the sunrise as I drank coffee and wrote my morning pages. Going for a long rambling walk in the woods. Come back home for more writing, some reading, some knitting (maybe a stop at a local yarn store & bookstore). Yoga, prayer, maybe a nap. And then reunite with my people because no day could be complete without time with my husband & girls!
You’ve Got Mail
~Coffee or tea?
Coffee first thing in the morning…that’s part of my morning writing/prayer rhythm. In the afternoon it’s tea. Bengal spice is my favorite at the moment!
Jen ~ Thank you so much for answering all of my questions! I adore you, and I'm thrilled to be able to share you with my readers. So much of what you've written resonates deeply with me, and I'm sure with many others.
Links for Jen:
If you or someone you know, are a homeschooling parent who is in the midst of creative pursuits and would like to contribute to this series, please contact me at crnnoel(at)gmail(dot)com.