A few weeks ago in a couple of the online homeschool groups I’m in, moms started posting a very similar request: “Help! I’m a first year homeschooling mom and suddenly nothing is going right. The kids won’t do their work, they’re fighting constantly, and the house is a disaster. I’m questioning my choices of curricula, our schedule, even my decision to homeschool at all. What am I doing wrong? Should I push them harder? Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this and should put the kids back into school.” I think at least five or six messages like this come through every year, and we respond with supportive and really useful advice that can be summed up like this:
I don’t know how those moms in cyberspace react to this helpful piece of news, but when I came in my despair to my homeschooling friends, pleading for the magic cure when I was overwhelmed and frustrated, and they said this to me, my response was to blink a few times, stare at them blankly and then reconsider my choice of friends.
But honestly, they were right. In September, all the books, the pencils and crayons and notebooks are bright and shiny and everyone is excited about all the newness. October/November/December rev up and build into holiday frenzies and then January comes along with the promise of another new beginning. Then you get into February.Around here, the weather is often lousy, kids get cabin fever and no one except the mom really cares that “For Pete’s sake we’re not even halfway through your math book yet! If you don’t spend 10 minutes a day working on it we’ll be doing math all summer long!”
The cure for all of this educational implosion isn’t buckling down, enforcing strict work schedules, getting more things done. It’s the opposite; let go of the schedule, play more games, take some of the pressure off. A week or two of that (plus a trip to a warehouse full of inflatable bounce houses) works wonders for everyone. March rolls around, and often it’s so much easier for everyone to ease back into their schedule of productivity and learning.
Now at this point, you’ve probably already checked to see if you’re at the right URL or wondered whether I’ve turned my blog into a homeschool tome, but creativity isn’t really all that different from a homeschool child. And Februarys happen to all of us.
Maybe you’re writing a novel and you’re 100 pages in and suddenly the plot point you thought would brilliantly foreshadow the ending isn’t going to work and you have no idea where to go next. Or you’ve booked time in the recoding studio in a few weeks and yet, you aren’t writing any songs because you are just too drained every night coming home from work. Or maybe you’ve been tackling a massive reorganization of your office and suddenly you have no idea what to do with anything and so it’s ending up in a huge “To Decide Later” pile in the middle of the floor.
This, my friends, is your creative February.
And it sucks.
And it won’t last forever.
And it doesn’t mean you aren’t any good or that all your ideas are used up and it certainly doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pursue your dreams anymore.
It also doesn’t mean that it’s time to push yourself really hard or punish yourself with thoughts like, “I am so lazy,” or “I must not really want this badly enough,” or “I just need to work a lot harder.” It actually means the opposite. Take a little bit of time off, and here’s the hard part, do it guilt-free. Truly leave it alone with out any self-punishing thoughts. Go do something that makes you feel really good. Rent a movie you’ve been dying to see, go hear live music, peruse a used bookstore, buy art supplies you have no idea how to use. Personally, I like to color. Treat yourself to a little shopping therapy – buy yourself a few new tools of your trade. Play with them and recapture some of that inspiration that got you moving in your creative direction in the first place.
The picture at the top of the blog is what I purchased recently to do just that. And yes, those are three different types of Flair marker sets; don’t judge me. If you can ease up on the “just push through” dynamic and remind yourself how much fun and enjoyable your creativity is, you’ll find yourself ready to get back to the work of creating. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Have a little fun. When you’re ready, plunge back into your work, it’ll be there waiting for you.