Sometimes life can be a frantic race. Everyday obstacles of work projects to complete, people to take care of, pets to feed, errands to run, home improvement projects to tackle. But hopefully at the end of the day – or maybe during the little breaks between checked off tasks – you have some precious time that is yours alone. What are you doing with this? Do you have a creative hobby that you fit into that core time?
On March 30, I’ll sit down with author Grace Farris at Laura’s Library to discuss the idea of daily creative practice — specifically, what creativity can do to make life more fun and fulfilling. Farris has a busy life. She’s a doctor and a mother, and between the many claims on her time, she’s written articles and done interviews for The New York Times, NPR, Vogue, Huffington Post, and Buzzfeed, among others. She also has a new book coming out, “Mom Milestones,” full of her hand-drawn comics exploring different facets of parenthood.
Before his visit, I asked the people I work with at Westbank and Laura Libraries about their creative habits. The library has amazing staff who are talented in many things besides helping our customers find the right books.
Take public service assistant Bree DiQuinzio, whose artwork you’ve probably seen on windows and coloring sheets in the library. She makes it a point to write or draw something every day, “even if it’s just a little scribble or a hundred words”.
“I imagine it’s kind of the same satisfaction as gardening,” she said. “There was nothing, and now there is something, and it exists because of me.”
When asked what advice she would give to others looking to be creative, she said, “Everyone should give themselves permission, in Mrs. Frizzle’s wonderful words, to take risks, to make mistakes, to get dirty! Everything you do is a learning experience, so it doesn’t have to be perfect to be worth it.
Erin McLaughlin, the library’s newest recruit, also does artwork on the library’s windows and chalkboards. Erin is an accomplished illustrator, having attended Montserrat College of Art. Asked about her creative practice, she said she tries to draw as often as possible, while admitting that “it gets harder as my life gets busier and busier”. However, she tries to work on drawing at least once a week.
Mary Beth Widhalm, known for her skills as a library reader advisor, is also a talented cellist and singer-songwriter. She said one of her favorite songwriting quotes is Townes Van Zandt’s response when asked how he got the song “Pancho and Lefty” wrong.
“He said something like ‘I was just sitting in the right chair.’ While touring through Dallas, he decided to sit in his hotel room and not get up until he wrote a song, and it was “Pancho and Lefty” that came out.
She reflects on her own composition.
“My best songs come to me when I’m out there with half an idea and picking out a few chords. In “Big Magic”, Elizabeth Gilbert explains how we tap into a creative plane of existence, often through rituals and practices. To me, that’s what it means to sit in the right chair.
There’s something to be said for having the discipline to sit down and work on something.
Roxanna Macaraeg, coordinator of public services and library programs, learned to knit as an adult in New York City. She knits a little every day and has knitted toques, socks, mittens, shawls and sweaters, among other things.
“Although I follow patterns, I can choose the yarn, the color and modify the patterns to match the idea I have in mind.”
Macaraeg is interested in the link between creativity and stress relief. Starting in April, she will be offering library patrons three monthly crochet creations to take home, inspired by the Yarn Council’s national Stitch Away Stress campaign.
Community Librarian Cristen Darcus, the genius behind many of the library’s take-out crafts, is a true Renaissance woman. She does everything from needle arts and quilting to painting, collage, scrapbooking, soap making and many other creative hobbies. She usually has at least two projects going at any given time.
“Different projects lead to a variety of feelings,” she said. “I love the sensory experience of mixing scents and ingredients in soap making. I rejuvenate from the sense of zen peace I get while sewing something. The fun, messy surprise of tie-dye. Watch the way whose shades blend together in the watercolor paints.There is a real feeling of putting a bit of your own spirit into the creations you make.
She extends her creative spirit to her work.
“I encourage everyone to explore their creativity and then spread that encouragement to others,” she said. “Creativity is one of the best gifts we have as humans. Maybe you haven’t found the outlet that speaks to you the most, so keep trying new things. Do a Zentangle , try macrame, write a poem, there are so many ways to be creative, you might even create a new one.
Join our conversation with author Grace Farris on Wednesday, March 30 at 1 p.m. at Laura’s Library as we discuss daily creative practice.
Maureen Turner Carey is the Public Service and Public Relations Librarian at the Westbank Community Library District.