You have to wait until you get there.

The early days of motherhood were not graceful for me. Let's get that out of the way up front.

There were a lot of factors to my struggle, chief among them breastfeeding through 3 excruciating weeks with tongue tie. There were the usual hormones + sleep deprivation... but I could point to a hundred things, some small and some big.

I remember reading a blog post while I was pregnant, a new-ish mom talking about having reached the other side of the postpartum abyss. She described it, "I feel like I spent the past few months upside down being violently shaken." (Elise Cripe, this post) I read that from the naive, safe place of a first pregnancy, and I thought "SHIT." And then I thought, "That sounds terrible. But it won't be like that for me. It won't be like that for me. I hope it's not like that for me... it won't be like that for me."

It was exactly like that for me.

I thought of that line so many times during my first days, weeks, and months as a mom. I wished I could find another way to describe it, but nothing captured it quite as well as "upside down" and "violently shaken."

Plenty of our days were good days, but I had trouble enjoying it. I felt adrift and unsure what to do. I was always certain that something was about to go wrong and I wouldn't be able to handle it. I couldn't figure out how to shower or feed myself among the baby's constant feedings. I felt panicked. I needed to know how it was going to work! Who am I now? What will my days look like? I wanted to bring order to my life by finding my new routines. I wanted to make it make sense.

Looking back now, I realize how desperate I was to just settle into my new life as a mom.

But I was grasping for something that didn't exist yet. Having a newborn is not the same thing as "your new life as a mom." The newborn phase is one long transition.

It's like moving across the country, the kind of move where you need to take a week to drive your U-haul to your new home. You want to know what your new life will be like. You want to know where your new favorite grocery store will be, and where your new neighborhood coffee shop is, and what parks you'll like the best. But you simply cannot discover those things until you get there.

You can't panic on Day 2 of your drive because you don't know where that coffee shop is. All you can do is keep driving.

But I was panicked in Week 2 of motherhood, because I didn't understand what the rest of my life as a mom would look like.

I didn't realize that the newborn phase was, well, really just a phase. Hazy but ultimately short. I didn't understand that I was in a time of transition. I thought I was already "there," but I'd only just begun my journey into motherhood. All I needed to do was keep going.

Thoughts on a Year of Creative Habits, 7+ months in

It's August, so I'm well over half-way into my first Year of Creative Habits: a goal I set for myself to draw (or paint) every day in 2016. Seems like I should share an update! (I updated before in January and February, so it's been a while!)

First, I must admit: I missed a day, just last week. I don't feel bad about it, at all. We were traveling home from visiting family, and I thought I'd draw on the plane. We were flying late at night, and I thought *surely* Julian would sleep, haha... ha... instead, I had to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to him approx. 448 times. So I missed a day, I saved a plane full of people from a toddler meltdown, and everything's ok.

The MUCH more remarkable thing is that I haven't missed any other days! I'm on track to hit 365 out of 366 ;)

It makes me happy and so proud to have made it this far. When I set this goal, I knew it was theoretically doable—Crystal Moody was my inspiration, and she’s on her 3rd year—but “theoretically doable” is not the same as actually, physically, literally possible. It really seemed like a fantasy to think I’d still be drawing daily. AND YET! I'm doing it!

And I love it. This has not been a chore for me, it’s something I look forward to (almost) every day. That’s not to say it’s been EASY every day, just that making this time in my day is a joy rather than a chore. Some days, I’m stressed because it’s late and I haven’t gotten to draw yet, and drawing after Julian’s bedtime is definitely not my favorite—but it’s still something I want to do, even when the timing is not ideal. Some days, I don’t know what to draw, and that’s stressful, but I push through because I know that I want to do this.

I love it so much that don’t want to stop at the end of the year. In fact, I hope to draw, or paint or otherwise make art with my hands, every single day for the rest of my life.

Every. Single. Day. for the Rest. of my Life.

I never thought I’d feel that way about anything.

Thoughts on Praise and Compliments

I’ve started to get compliments from friends and acquaintances, “Oh, I had no idea that you had artistic talent!” I usually respond with some sort of awkward “thank you” (and I really am grateful for the kind words). But what I really want to say in response is, "I DON’T." I don’t have talent! I just do it every day. That’s the “secret,” just to do it every day, over and over. Practice is the answer.

I suppose I can agree that I am creative at heart, and that’s a sort of natural talent. It’s not exactly as if I started from nothing. But I greatly dislike the idea that talent and art must go hand-in-hand. There is no talent without the work. The work is everything. The practice is everything.

It’s also awkward for me, when I get this sort of praise, because my work is still so (sosososo) far from where I want it to be. The compliments are heartening and appreciated, but I also think: how can you think this crap is any good?! 

Now I believe that my work WILL someday get as good as I want it to be. That’s the difference that this year is making for me. It used to seem impossible that I’d ever be any good, and god but I hate doing things when I’m not good at them. So it always seemed better to just not try. Now I trust in the practice + the process, and I believe in my heart that all I have to do is to just keep doing the work. I think maybe in another year or 2, I might finally get to a better place in my work. I'm ok with that. I'm in it for the long haul.


I am heartened by that famous and fantastic Ira Glass quote about struggling through the creative gap. It really is the single most important concept for any artist or writer or creative. You can read it here or even better, listen to it here… in fact, I recommend for any aspiring artist to listen to Ira Glass speak those words, like, weekly. Go listen, then come back, I'll wait...

There's also an interview with Lisa Congdon on CBTV, where the topic is Creative Happiness. She says: 

Most artists, we look at our work with a certain critical eye. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing—it’s a bad thing if it paralyzes you from doing anything at all. You want to have this balance of knowing that you haven’t arrived, or that something could always be better or more interesting, but also not let that prevent you from putting anything out into the world at all.
— Lisa Congdon

Knowing that Lisa feels that way, when I admire her work so much, really helps me have perspective. It's always going to be a balance of striving and improving, and not letting anything stop you.

Look below for some samples from my sketchbook from the past few months :) If you want to follow along, I post my sketchbook most days on Instagram, with the hashtag #emilydraws2016 :)