The Gift of Twenty Minutes | Vision Board Series Part 3

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Use it up,
let it go.

Whatever comes to you:
use it up
let it go.

If it comes back to you:
use it up
let it go.

Use it up,
let it go.
In that order.

This is how
to honor a gift.

Five years ago, in one of my writing groups, I was given once piece of sage advice by our mentor.

"Write for twenty minutes a day, " she said.

Twenty minutes is really a reasonable amount of time. Its the average length of a shower, the time it takes to cook boxed mac and cheese from pre-boil to finish, and a quarter of the typical time a Facebook user spends watching random videos and arguing with strangers on their local neighborhood group.

But twenty minutes to a bone-tired mom with two young children is precious, holy time. There is not enough for every twenty minute thing. So she must be choosy with her resources.

Much of my writing post-college has been sporadic. I usually wait to sit at my keyboard until "something comes to me." Waiting around for inspiration works when one or two dips in the pool of creativity has to be enough, but for me, it is not.

I am the kind of person who appreciates art in every shape and form. Poetry, music, painting, drawing, design, story, cinema - I love all of it. I've learned over the last few years that it is worth my time to pursue the arts for the simple fact that it brings me great pleasure. Not only that, but when I take part in someone else's creation, I've found hints and nudges toward my own purpose.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes in her book Women Who Run With The Wolves,
It is not the quality of our creative products we are concerned with... but the individual's recognition of the value of one's unique gifts and the methods for caring for the creative life that surrounds those gifts. Always behind the actions of writing, painting, thinking, healing, doing, cooking, talking, smiling, making, is the river under the river that nourishes everything we make. 
Women's eyes flash as they create, their words lilt, their faces flush with life, their very hair seems to shine all the more. They are excited by the idea, aroused by the possibilities, impassioned by the very thought, and at that point, like the great river[s of the earth], they are meant to flow outward and continuously on their own unparalleled creative path. That is the way women feel fulfilled.

When creativity stalls we lose the nourishment that its water's bring. My biggest challenge for continuously flowing creativity is the responsibilities of adulthood. I have allowed so much of my time to be eaten up by tending to my family, my home, my yard, the dishes, the bills, the mail, the unswept floors... One particular paragraph from Estes really spoke to me. She says,

I've seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write... and you know its a funny thing about house cleaning... it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman.
A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectability) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she "should" be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.

So it has been in my life. Writing only when dinner is made, the house is clean, the family is sleeping makes a dry well of creativity. After nearly seven years of trying to find time to follow my heart's calling, I've decided to change things up and make time instead. Twenty minutes is plenty easy to make. Estes' estimate of saying no to half of my "shoulds" list is pretty accurate. I am currently writing on a dining room table cluttered with twelve colored pencils, two bowls of cold pasta from my kid's lunch, a half-eaten tortilla from last night's dinner, and two dirty mugs of hot cocoa. I've let go of the myth that my space needs to be clean in order to create, or else I'm a bad mom, a bad housewife, a bad person. Whatever. I refuse to waste my life's purpose on waiting on my husband's schedule and my kids thirtieth request for fruit snacks. Everyone else is equally capable of helping. I am not solely responsible. Everyone can do a little so I don't need to do it all.

If I create only some of the time, I am not using my gift to its fullness. I am not using it up. I think about some of the female artists and writers I most love. What would we have if Mary Oliver only gave us stolen moments? We would not have her poem Wild Geese, that she wrote just to prove a point in a writing exercise. What would we be left with if Georgia O'Keefe painted only some of the time? I would not have seen Manhattan in such a beautiful light. What if Nellie Bly wrote just on her free time? Our mental healthcare would likely still be stuck in the 20th century. Women should not be expected to give stolen moments only.

Women deserve the freedom and ability to give as much time as necessary to their life's work and passion, independent of relationships,

just like men.

Make time.
If you've got a gift, use it up.
Use it all the way up.
Then, and only then,
let it go:
out into the big, wide,
wild world.

This is the way
to honor your self.

This is part 3 of the Vision Board Series.

Read Part 1 here.
The publication of Part 2, "I Participate In My Own Nourishment and Care", was live for a limited amount of time and has now been moved to my private collection.
© Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.