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I'm Not Prolific (and Other Insecurities in the Age of Instagram)


Less bitterness, more childlike wonder in 2024.


Motherhood is a timesuck. Or, maybe, real life is the timesuck from all the dreams I have for motherhood. Four years ago, I was in my third trimester and on my soapbox, sharing Instagram stories about how moms don't have to choose, we can have it all. And maybe that's true, but certainly there's a cost of entry I hadn't accounted for.

After three years at home with my daughter, we made the transition to full time preschool. This spring, I spent many days working from home with a wild toddler, fantasizing about the free time I'd rediscover once she started school. Now it's winter, and I'm starting to think that was a trap. Paying a second rent just for 12 straight weeks of viruses for one or all three of us? In this economy? I almost miss the days of being shut in.

I can't get anything done, unlike the rest of you on my timeline. Instagram trends make my stomach drop: how do you organize your racing thoughts in such neat and tidy carousels? Will I ever have the mental capacity to execute the half-baked ideas in my moleskin? How long does baby brain last? What will my next excuse be?

My recent rumination: noting how many artists I follow that fit the title of "prolific," seemingly cranking out a new idea every morning as I scroll in the preschool parking lot. I envy what must be their endless free time and their deep pockets that keep them perpetually motivated.

And then, reluctantly, I realize that I've lived that life of luxury. I've had peaceful morning routines, ones that never involved preschool drop off and racing to a day job. A member of the leisure class. I've cooked whatever I wanted for three meals a day. I've had an idea, gone to a coffee shop from open til close, and brought it to life that same day. No one's flowers to water but my own. I wish I'd known what a privilege it was. I thought I did, but hindsight is 20/20. Oh God, 2020.

In my most curmudgeon times, I think about what my mom was doing at my age. She did the stay at home thing for my sisters, but she was a full fledged career woman by the time I came along. She and my dad, two practical boomers, encouraged my creativity at every wild turn, never crashing my party with the harsh realities of the real world. Spoiler alert: ooh's and ah's don't pay the bills. I think they knew that all along, but I appreciate the protection.

I remember afternoons-turned-evenings at my mom's office, drawing castles and unicorns with my signature corner sun and fluffy pink clouds, using printer paper, a pilot pen, and some highlighters. My mom laminated my artwork at the end of her long work day. It made me feel like a real artist.

While I've always been more artistic than, say, practical, I'm also generally apprehensive. I've filled diaries with my woes and fears and big ideas since kindergarten, but I can't say the same about my sketchbooks. In order to face the thing in my imagination, I must have my head on straight. And that simply doesn't happen very often. "Prolific" is not a title I'd dare use for myself as an artist.

When my daughter shows us drawings she's particularly proud of, she instructs us: "Be amazed! No, be WAY amazed!" She doesn't share my hesitation or my self sabotage. The girl is prolific. Our apartment is covered in her doodles, using any medium she can get her sticky little hands on: crayons, paint, washi tape, sharpies she definitely shouldn't have access to... She loves exploring mama's studio. She calls me "the specialest maker", but I know it's really her.

And for her, I'm prolific where it counts: Butts wiped. Strawberries cut. Bedtime twists secured. Tummies tickled. Boo boos kissed. Appointments scheduled. Nebulizers administered. My stats are off the charts.

I'm not saying these caretaking tasks mean I'm unable to focus on my art. At least, I'm not supposed to say that. The modern woman, she can do it all without complaintbut maybe that's bullshit. Maybe behind a prolific artist's weekly carousel of new work is years of tweaks, fears, concepts revisited after proper rest. Maybe it only looks easy because it's a 12 second reel. Maybe that will be me one day. Maybe I need to touch grass.

Doodling with my girl forces me to model self confidence, no matter how fraudulent it feels some days. I've cracked open my mom's dusty old locket with my baby picture tenderly cut to fit inside the patinaed gold heart. I've given my inner child the reins. In an unexpected twist, rebranding this year has allowed me to take myself less seriously, embracing those long shelved castles and unicorn doodles as a grown woman with bills to pay. No longer questioning the big scary ideas, I'm moving at a pace I can maintain, however slow.

And as the years go by, it's getting harder for my inner critic to tell me I'm not prolific. 2024's calendar marks 36 original patterns, now available on 20+ products in my Spoonflower shop. My greeting card collection keeps growing, and this year I've dipped my toes into prints, ornaments, gift tags, and more.

If The Gram is giving you a case of the comparisons, you're not alone. 2024's resolution? Close the apps.


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