Creative Family Series | Such Small Steps

by , posted on April 19th, 2012 in creative family series

The more people I meet along this creative soul-searching journey, the more I realize how many of you out there are just like me. We have a burning passion for creating something, leaving the world more beautiful than we found it, or at least leaving our tiny mark in some way. We may not always know exactly what we’re doing when we start out, but we know, deep in our bellies that we are makers, doers, dreamers, sharers.

This creating can be anything. It can be seeing something in a new light, making mealtime more enjoyable, writing a post, sewing a pillow, taking a photo, playing with our kids, taking time for ourselves outside of the role of care giver. Taking those small steps.

Erin of Such Small Steps is doing those very things and sharing her journey with us. I’ve been reading her for a while now and have watched her navigate work/life balance. People, the woman has moxie.

What I’m drawn to most is hearing so many of my friends (and myself) in her voice—creatively juggling responsibilities and working to overcome feelings of insecurity so we can feel confident in our work and our family life. Her honesty is not only refreshing, it’s empowering.

Erin is strong. She’s smart. She’s kickass. In fact, I think that’s what we should call her from now on, kickass Erin.

How would you define creativity?

I think creativity is the expression of an interest or passion. The form of expression can be almost anything: words, art, music, food, or even just making a well-nurtured life. Over the years, I know my definition has broadened to include so much more than just the traditional concept of imagination expressed through art.

Have you always considered yourself creative?

Honestly, I haven’t. My mom has always had a gift for interior design, entertaining, fashion and cooking, and my sister was more artistic, so I think I labeled myself as “the practical one.” It’s only been in the past few years that I realized my passions for food, literature and writing were as valid creatively as art and crafts. And I think I’m a creative generalist. I have an abundance of hobbies I’m always trying to devote time to, like photography and DIY home improvement. It’s hard for me to limit myself to just doing one or two things really well when I want to be at least moderately good at many!

How do you nurture your own creativity?

I’ve always needed a fair amount of alone time to recharge. I love to take long, quiet walks or to escape for a few hours with a book. Those are usually the times I have my best creative inspiration. The only problem is making sure to capture those ideas in a notebook when I return! I also get inspiration from friends and blogs. Often I will find a great idea for a project on Pinterest or online, and it will spiral into something completely different.

How do you nurture it in your children?

I feel like my children inspire my creativity! I’m not sure that I need to nurture it in them, but I do try to create space for them to indulge in their interests. My five-year-old daughter loves to draw and write letters, so I leave a little table for her with her extensive collection of art supplies handy right in our dining room so she can paint and color while we’re nearby. And my almost three-year-old son loves music more than life itself, so we live with an entire drum kit and tiny guitar in our living room where he often has little jam sessions with my husband. My kids share a small bedroom and at least half the room is lined with bookshelves and book baskets. Since I work in children’s publishing, their home library is pretty extensive. My next project is to create a quiet reading space for Norah where she can find her own literary escape. I’m not sure where we’ll fit it yet, but I’ve been eyeing a downstairs coat closet!

What are some of your favorite ways to spend time together as a family?

Our weekends seem to follow a formula of sorts: one part socializing with close friends and their kids, one part downtime at home, spent reading, listening to music (we have a huge vinyl collection spanning all musical genres that we love to choose from), cooking together and napping, and one part exploration of our community: new restaurants, museums, musical events or festivals. There is also usually a fair amount of outdoor play time at our favorite nearby park where the kids climb, slide and ride their scooters. As much as we love being social, I find that when our weekends are too stuffed with obligations, we all end up cranky and overwhelmed.

We have also started taking more trips together as a family. My husband and I are firm believers in taking romantic weekend getaways without the kids from time to time, but now that they are a bit older, we’ve started traveling more with them, and we love witnessing their excitement at experiencing new places and people. This summer, we’ll spend a week at a lakeside cabin in Minnesota as a family, fishing, swimming and roasting s’mores, and the kids talk about it pretty much nonstop already!

Have you been able to integrate work with pursuing your creative passions? If so, how?

I’m truly fortunate to have spent the past 11(!) years working for Random House Children’s Books. It is pretty much the only job I’ve ever had out of college, and I plan to work there as long as they’ll have me! The job has changed over time, but I spend every single day working with the best editors, publicists, marketing team, sales colleagues and book accounts in the business to get quality books into the hands of children everywhere, and for that I’ll always be grateful. In an average week, I spend time traveling to independent bookstores all over the West, writing blog posts, interviewing authors, reading dozens of manuscripts, brainstorming exciting bookstore events with accounts, and meeting with librarians, book buyers and educators. It’s a dream, and the marketing and writing keep my creative juices flowing.

I’ve also been working on something new this year- taking my children’s book knowledge on the road, so to speak. I’ve been hosting “mom’s night out” events at local stores, featuring dessert, wine and a chance to discuss my favorite new books for kids. It’s so much fun and I hope to expand it to more bookstores and children’s boutiques this year. I love talking about books and meeting new people, so it’s a perfect fusion! Plus it is an easy way to highlight and support small businesses, which is really important to me.

What creative projects are you working on now?

I’m in the middle of a month-long online Photoshop class, which has been a challenge! I want to continue to improve my blog, so Photoshop and photography classes are on the agenda. I’m also inspired to try my hand at simple sewing projects after taking an intro class at Alt Summit. My mom is a master seamstress (third generation, at least!) and even sewed my stunning wedding dress, so I felt like it was time to learn some basic skills. Lastly, I’m always working on my house, which is a 1970’s generic box filled with mid century modern furniture we’ve collected over time. I have the overly ambitious goal of checking off one home to-do item a weekend, which can include anything from painting furniture to replanting my garden box to organizing the garage. Next on the list are finishing the kids’ art gallery in my office and adding chair rail in my hallway so I can hang photos above it.

Tell us about how you got into blogging. 

I started a children’s book blog for work with a few co-workers and as much as I love working on it, I found myself wishing for a place that was more personal, where I could write to my heart’s content about my kids, my hobbies and my passions (beyond books). Flash forward six months later, when I signed up for a social media/marketing class at UCSD and received the assignment to start a blog. Even though many classmates shut their blogs down after the class ended, I had fallen in love with the blogging world by that point and decided to keep mine going. I think another turning point was deciding to hire a designer to redesign my blog. Once the designer worked her magic, I knew I might be in this for the foreseeable future!

Did you pursue coursework in creativity in school (e.g. arts, etc) or do you come by this on your own?

I was an American Lit major at UCLA, so I definitely pursued written creativity and wrote extensively during that time. I think growing up in LA and going to school there also inspired me. LA is so chock-full of artists, musicians and actors that creativity abounds. When I met my husband, I was interning at a movie production company and he was interning for a record label, so our first dates were full of movie screenings and concerts. It was a wonderful time.

I think the way my sister and I grew up also led to creative personalities. We did very few “activities” and only played team sports in high school, so our weekends were our own. I don’t remember being bored too often- we had so much fun exploring our yards, planning and cooking meals, putting on plays and musicals for our family, and reading stacks and stacks of books. My parents gave us plenty of space to just be and imagine and I’m very grateful for that.

From time to time everyone’s creative juices wane. How do you handle that? Does it cause you any anxiety or do you just let it pass?

Once I let go of the idea that I had to blog on a set schedule, I stopped feeling pressure or anxiety about being creative. It’s that idea that I have to “produce” something or compete with the overload of craftiness and creative output that I see online that can make me feel stuck. Instead, I try to just blog about what comes out naturally. That might lead to a less-polished blog, since I don’t have regular thematic columns, but it feels right for me. And at home, if I’m not feeling a particular project, I just take a break for a bit, get outside, hang out with my kids and wait for inspiration. The more I travel, attend live concerts, try new foods or spend time with friends who challenge me intellectually and spiritually, the more I’m open to expressing myself creatively.

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5 Responses to “Creative Family Series | Such Small Steps”

  1. Torrie @ a place to share... Says:

    April 19th, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    so much that i can relate to with erin (here, and in her blog!)… i have only been following for a short time, and i’m amazed at how often i will read a post, or a thought, and feel as if i wrote it myself. seem to be on the same track in many ways :). (she’s on my list of “must-meet-someday!”)

  2. Jennifer Says:

    April 19th, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Such a great and true description of yourself and your life. I have always enjoyed how honest you are to yourself and others. I too enjoyed growing up with your family-making fruit soup, eating cartons of ben and jerrys with no regrets and participating in the many crafty ideas your mom always had up her sleeve.

  3. Karina Says:

    April 19th, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    I too am a fan of Erin’s blog. She is a lovely, creative woman that is always looking to understand, grow and expand. She views the world creatively and has the perfect combination of quirkiness, moxie & savvy that draws people in. Great series!

  4. katie//salt+pine Says:

    April 20th, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    I think Erin is my long lost sister. :) I related to so much of what she said. She and her blog are fabulous. I love reading her blog because I always leave it feeling inspired…

  5. Lisa Says:

    April 24th, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    What an inspiring interview! I loved reading it and was able to relate to so many things Erin said. Erin, your life looks and sounds so beautiful – thank you for giving us a glimpse!

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