Creativity Is Play - Illiah Manger MotherHustle
“MotherHustlers, know that you elevate your craft when you say, ‘This work can wait.’ Your other work, your play, sustains the hum.”

What does creativity really mean as a creative? It’s breathing.

It’s the ability to innovate and bring something to life that didn’t exist previously. At times, I feel my mind physically shift and nothing else exists. An energy takes over, and it feels as though grace from God flows from my fingers. As Shonda Rhimes says:

“This thing. This buzz. This rush. The hum is more than writing. The hum is action and activity. The hum is a drug. The hum is music. The hum is light and air. The hum is God’s whisper right in my ear. And when you have a hum like that, you can’t help but to strive for greatness. That feeling you can’t help but strive for greatness at any cost. That’s called the hum, or maybe it’s called being a workaholic. Maybe its called genius. Maybe it’s called ego. Maybe it’s just fear of failure.”

It’s also ego and a fear of failure mixed with a fear of greatness. It’s all-encompassing. It’s a practice.

When I started my design business, I felt the hum for the second time. The first was with my college roommate, Dru, when she taught me the difference between Warm Black and Cool Black with acrylic paint. This description of the hum was everything I felt. It WAS magic. It WAS the world turning to technicolor rainbow again. It WAS fulfilling and inspiring. It was all I wanted during undergrad when I first discovered and explored graphic design.

It was how I knew that repeatedly drawing 100 straight parallel lines with a needle-thin pen until the craft was pristine had purpose.

During the nine years I worked for nine-to-fives, I missed the hum. In my business, I found the the hum again, and it made sense.

The hum is a powerful feeling. The struggle to keep this hum, this energy that manifests from the practice of creating, and be a good mother, a good wife, a good sister, a good daughter and a good friend was overwhelming. It consumed me.

There were more times than I care to admit when my living room matched my mindset with paper – and toys – strewn in every corner while I was rushing frantically to complete a project at four in the morning. I never could fulfill my husband’s needs well enough. Our house was always a mess; there was always another project to complete. I was always telling the kids, “Wait until…”

I felt conflicted in every aspect. My husband told me I had to stop. It felt like I slowly filled a water balloon and realized it filled beyond capacity too late. That water balloon burst in my face. Everything I worked for, frozen for a year, while I waited for C to start kindergarten the next fall.

Do you believe in failure? This was it.

I fought this decision with everything I had, but it taught me that creativity continues regardless of your plan. Creativity is ingrained in the fabric of your soul. I learned that my creativity is sparked and sustained by my girls, my muses of C&V. I feel most creative when I turn off the Mac, named Marc, and the TV, and figure out what to do with the little green eyes staring at me with expectation.

MotherHustlers, know that you elevate your craft when you say, “This work can wait.” Your other work, your play, sustains the hum. Give yourself the space to let your creativity and your hum come to you. Don’t forget to create for fun. Involve your kiddos in your creative life, and you will feel the hum harmonize itself.  

Paula Sher says: 

“My work is play, and I play when I design…. And, the definition of play, number one, is engaging in a childlike activity or endeavor and, number two, is gambling. And I realize I do both when I’m designing.”

When I stop, focus on my light and joy, and take the time to paint their nails or listen to their words or build a paint catapult from Kiwi Crate, C&V teach me again and again the meaning of creation. Sometimes a water balloon fight erupts. It’s a constant reminder that creativity and design (they are one and the same for me) aren’t solemn endeavors. They are serious and vibrant times of play.

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