Creativity in a Dustbin

Tonight I watched a creative genius at play. And I was humbled.

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Over the summer, I’ve been writing a book proposal about motherhood and creativity. Most of my focus has been on women who are creative in the arts—writers, songwriters, dancers, and the like. I’ve included the occasional chef or body worker and paid homage to the ways in which we express ourselves less professionally, such as in journals or gardening. Though I know that creativity is a vein that runs through the best-run businesses, schools and nonprofits, I’ve shied away from focusing on these arenas. “They have so many of their own books,” I think, seeing heavily weighted shelves in the business section of the bookstore, “We have so few.”

What I haven’t sufficiently explored, however, are the creative gifts that women bring to motherhood and, dare I say it, domesticity. Partly, this is for lack of language to talk about domestic work in a way that is interesting, much less inspiring. Women’s work has been degraded and so has the language and images that surround it.

Multi-tasking is probably the most heralded of women’s domestic skills. Sarah Palin appears to be the wunderkind of this: A baby on one hip as she schnoodles the snow mobile dude, reels in a fish and signs a bill. It reminds me of a story I once heard Cokie Roberts tell on NPR about her mother, a former Republican Congresswoman, who was watching over a house full of kids while canning pickles and talking to the Senate Majority leader on the phone about an upcoming vote. No matter what your politics, you’ve got to admit, we are sort of incredible compared with our tunnel vision, one-thing-only-and-take-your-time brethren. Continue reading