For the last year or two I’ve returned to the drawings for what should already have been my first children’s book and blamed its delayed completion on my dissatisfaction with them. The other night as I walked into Thing2’s still-messy room that inspired the project in the first place, however, I realized my frustration wasn’t with the drawings or even with the eternally messy room. The problem with the story was, well, the story.
Thing2 recently renovated his room. He bargained its cleaning in exchange for being able to swap out his bunkbeds for a “real bed“ and a coat of paint. He used money from odd jobs to add LED light strips near his computer, turning his room into his “studio“.
The other night as I was bringing in his laundry, I realized that the room, somehow still a mess despite our bargain, is actually a temple to his creativity. His guitars are in one end of the room. My old keyboard is a table, and, while he does a fair amount of gaming, his computer is set up and used for making and editing video montages and digital music.
And it hit me. I’m not living with a slob. I’m living with an artist.
One of the longest-running ‘jokes’ of my marriage is that I, at 5’3”, can turn a 6’6” bear of a husband into a trembling bowl of pudding by merely whispering the magic words, “I have an idea.” He knows that those words can be the beginning of a new painting or post, or they can be a red-flag warning of a manic house- and life-renovating binge that could spin out of control before, half-completed, it sputters out as a room half-painted and remade or a previous, perfectly fine renovation removed to make way for the new idea. Those words, given life, have the power to turn large portions of our house into Thing2’s room, sometimes for weeks or even months at a time.
I write. I paint. Often, even though neither is my vocation, I like to consider myself an artist. Despite our inside joke and my frequent guilt about the chaos caused by my ideas, I am usually hopeful that my husband mostly enjoys living with one.
But chaos’s ugly offspring is doubt, and that doubt was playing out on the pages of the story book. The child in my story turns his room into chaos. His mother tolerates it, cleaning up after him, until she can tolerate it no more. When her best effort’s to get him to “Fix“ the space result in a bigger mess, she surrenders, rather than celebrates what the mess is.
I’m still going to police that room and my ideas. It’s one thing to fill a room in a house with sketchbooks and scraps of paper from DIY movie props, after all. It’s quite another to try to feng shui empty Doritos bags into something resembling an ambience. But, thinking about Thing2’s creativity, I realize I need to go back to my storyboard and think about how to celebrate the messy spaces and lives of budding creators of all ages.