Creativity and motherhood – Sara Alexander

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By Sara Alexander

Giving birth is as creative an act as you can perform. It’s alchemical (yep, totally a real word, or else should be). I have had the experience twice. My body was ransacked by the sheer force of nature and I was / am at once humbled by its power and fortified by becoming a vessel for nothing short of a miracle.

Then the babies appeared. Real, fleshy, wailing babies. Those magazine images of relaxed, spit up free mothers were nowhere to be seen, least of all in the mirror. The expressions of my family members streaked with concern and helplessness, as they watched this woman shuffle around the house, dazed, tearful, barely clothed. I reached the frays of depression. I met its cliff edge. My sense of finite time piqued. I gazed down at those dark waters. Then I grasped at survival, at the heart of the act that had spawned this new life: creation.

I escaped into my writing. I snatched time whilst the toddlers slept. Not every day at first, but over time, like them, the practice became woven deep into the fabric of our lives. In our household, we developed code “yellow mask”. Like on planes, reminding one another to attend to ourselves before saving those around you.

My creative life is the only place I can fortify myself for the twists and turns of motherhood. It’s the place I can swim in the unknown, unchartered waters of a chapter, choppy and changeable. Writing, like parenting, requires real life to hone it and a great deal of endurance. I develop this whilst working on a manuscript, permitting me to experience the brutality of a ten-year-old in meltdown, sending venomous tornados my way, and know that it will only feel like it’s breaking me. Like when a chapter is swerving out of direction; after the panic and the disappointment comes deconstruction and imaginative solutions.

I am indebted to my husband who shares the rearing straight down the middle. He and I now know that if my creative life is not fed, neither are the kids; my mental health has a huge impact on the family. We model behaviour more than we’d like to admit. If I can pass on only one message to our noisemakers, I hope it’s that a creative life has value and must be fed at regular intervals.

Sara Alexander grew up in North West London and attended Hampstead School and University of Bristol graduating with BA Hons in Theatre Film & TV. She went on to study a postgraduate in acting at Drama Studio London. She has worked extensively in theatre film and television, including productions for the RSC, National Theatre, BBC and Warner Bros’ Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows part 1. Under a Sardinian Sky is her debut novel.

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