Women who make dolls could be accused of thinking of our own needs ahead of all the demands of family. Creative Selfishness could sound like a scary term. We women have been taught to always put others before ourselves. Men, too, are trained to be the bread winners, know all the answers, and not complain. Those of us who are doll makers are definitely artists. I don’t care if you only use other people’s patterns, each of you is an artist in creating something new from raw materials. Artists are traditionally self-centered (usually male) creatures, who will do anything, sacrifice everything to further their passion. We know how much we have to struggle to carve out even a little bit of space and time for our own interests separate from all the time sinks of a job, family, and keeping everything flowing smoothly at home. I am writing this today to start a new movement: IT’S ALL ABOUT ME, THE VIRTUE OF CREATIVE SELFISHNESS, and I hope you will all sign up.
As a health care worker (occupational therapist in rehab) I see over and over again how closely the mind and body are connected. If we are nicey-nice and self-sacrificing on the outside, always putting our own interests LAST; but on the inside, we are seething with rage because no one even notices that we are giving up our own loves to support theirs, the feelings go inward. All that festering anger attacks our cells and organs, leading to stomach pains, head aches, and all kinds of other bad impacts to our mental and physical well being (you can quote me to your families on this). My conclusion on this hot topic is that we are actually making dolls and giving ourselves time to play as a FAVOR to those who love us and want us to stay healthy. It is a wonderful example to set for your children, family, and friends, that it is OK and even desirable to set aside a reasonable amount of time and money and space to follow one’s own creative muse. Don’t you want your daughters and sons to grow up healthy?
Creative Selfishness can certainly extend to time--such a valuable and scarce commodity! I know that I don’t function well in my life unless I have a certain amount of alone time. It may not look as if I’m doing anything, I may be wandering in the woods, the library, my studio, or a store, picking things up and looking at them or just drifting. This is time when my subconscious mind is taking in images, shapes, forms; shifting and examining them, experimenting with new combinations, solving problems, renewing creative energy and building up the raw materials for my next working session.
If you don’t yet have the courage to demand your own space and time, start with baby steps. Call on one or two friends to join you in founding a Creative Selfishness Support Group and meet once a month for lunch and to discuss successes and failures—or meet online. We all need validation from people who really understand what’s important to us. If your significant other is as stressed as you are, he/she may not be the best person to offer support. Why is it that we women understand each other so well? In the case of Creative Selfishness, a friend can keep you healthy.
Start with a very small space that is yours alone, even if it’s only a shallow box under the bed, in which you can keep your current project and materials undisturbed. 15 minutes is not too short a time to devote to yourself--if you have a young child or a demanding job and are taking care of both your parents and children, as many of us are, finding 15 minutes a week that is yours alone, may be a super-heroic task.
Life is too short to deny ourselves the pleasure of being all that we can be. Our friends and families will appreciate the happier, calmer people we become, and our artistic productions will benefit in both quantity and quality. The next article in this series is Just Do It—How to Get Started!