Welcome to Creating in the Midst! This week I'm thrilled to introduce Danielle Jones to you. Danielle is a homeschooling mother of four, writer, and photographer. Her writing inspires us to dive into the creative life, and it's an honor to have her here in this space. Thank you for being here Danielle! And now on to the Q&A's...
~ What does an average day in your house look like?
During the school year we had homeschool co-op classes twice a week. The days in-between we are mostly at home. On those days we do our studies in the morning. I have twin second graders, one preschooler, and an infant. We are able to get most of our “book work” done in the morning, have lunch, and then everyone goes outside for a while. Then we usually come inside for some read aloud time. We crash on the couch and read books that relate to our science or history studies as well as fun fictional books. We still read tons of picture books as well as chapter books. Then I send the kids to their rooms for at least an hour of quiet time. The baby naps. I try to get in an hour and a half of writing time before dinner preparations start.
~ What projects are you currently working on?
I write monthly for two websites, so I often have an article due. I’m also working on that mysterious thing called “platform building.” All of last year I worked on writing and editing a book proposal and last fall I signed with a literary agent! It has been exciting to work with her to get my proposal ready to be sent out to various publishers.
~Can you tell us a little bit about your writing life?
I've wanted to write books for as long as I can remember. I wrote fiction all the time until going to college, which is when I began to love literary criticism and creative non-fiction. My degrees were in English and Graphic Design and my post-college job was heavy on the design side. Once I stopped working full-time after having twins, I decided to delve into writing more seriously again. I've focused on non-fiction for most of my adult writing, although I’d love to get back into fiction. I’m always “writing” in my mind. Madeleine L’Engle wrote about how writing is like cooking soup or stew. You have various pots on the burners and you drop a carrot in here, a potato in there, and let it simmer. Writing is a lot like that for me. I always have ideas going for a new article or chapter.
~What measures do you take to protect your creativity?
For me, it’s important to “protect” my writing time. If I didn't plan to sit down several days a week to write, I’d probably get distracted and side tracked by house projects instead. I’m too tired at night to write and mornings are still too unpredictable with a baby. So afternoons work for me right now. Time slips away so quickly and I've realized writing is like a muscle. It gets stronger the more I use it. I don’t wait until inspiration strikes. I love that Picasso quote that says, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” So even on days I don’t feel inspired or like I have anything to say, I often discover that I do have something to share or develop.
~Do you need absolute quiet to write, or do you prefer noise? And how does that impact your day?
I prefer quiet. If I have a well-developed idea already in my mind I can write with noise. I don’t mind the kids watching a movie in the background. But constant interruptions distract my flow. So that’s why I choose to write during our down time in the afternoon.
~Do you create alongside and with your children?
When it comes to art, I try to. I’m trying to do a better job at that. I have wanted to paint and sketch more, so I’m trying to do that more with my kids. Next fall my goal is to do nature journaling alongside my kids.
~What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer and a homeschooling mother?
Having my kids home all day! Seriously, sometimes I envy moms who send their kids to school and then can focus most of the day on their profession. But I wouldn't trade it for anything. I love watching my kids learn and grow and being part of that. Also, I was homeschooled myself for all 12 years of my education prior to college and I loved it. I think that really feeds into why I’m doing it for my kids. I flourished as a homeschool student and so I really want to give my kids the educational opportunities and freedoms I had as a child. But it is challenging to make that concentrated time to write at times. I hope I’m teaching my kids to respect my time writing though, and that when they’re older they’ll look back on that and be glad I took time for myself to continue learning about and pursuing something I’m passionate about.
~Has your creative process changed due to homeschooling?
Homeschooling has forced me to narrow down my professional creative pursuits. When the kids were little before we started homeschooling I did graphic design and then this morphed into a photography business. I did this along side writing. But once I started homeschooling it became too hard for me to juggle photography, writing, and homeschooling. My mind felt fractured and pulled too many ways. Maybe this is because I’m a perfectionist. But it caused me to take a hard look at my limited time and pin down what I really wanted to do. And I wanted to write professionally more than photograph professionally. So although this was a bit painful, it also helped sharpen and narrow my focus in terms of how I spent my creative energy.
~Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Whatever creative interest you have--even when you might not be able to create at this time or season--be a consumer of what you’re interested in. If you want to write, read! If you want to paint, look at lots of paintings. If you want to be a better photographer, look at photographs and learn why you like what one person produces over another. You will learn and gain knowledge just be looking and being aware of what’s out there. Then when the time comes to really create you’ll be better prepared. Be a connoisseur of whatever creative endeavor you’re interested in!
Danielle - thank you for sharing your thoughts here. So much resonates deeply with me, as I'm sure with many of our readers. I especially love the bit about what Madeleine L'Engle wrote about writing being similar to cooking a stew, what a perfect bit to tuck away in the "about writing" folder! Thank you again for your wisdom, your words. xoxo
Links for Danielle:
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.