Four years back, this room smelled of acrylic and turpentine. Stained brushes fanned out in jars, bouquets of spotted color on horse hair. Canvas after canvas leaned against these walls…Summer Yellow Wheat, Reading Tree, Starbursts…all windows to imagination.

An artist lived here, made her mark on this space before I came along. One of her prints leans even now in my room, a framed still-life of a pouty poppy left too long in the vase.

This community knows her as an artist, and so the question always comes, “What have you been painting lately?” A painter paints. A singer sings. A writer writes. To be…you have to do. Isn’t that the way it goes? She tips her chin down and gets eye-to-eye with the baby boy who lounges in the hammock of her arm. The older brothers rush up looking for something to munch.

These days she’s putting her creative efforts into something that feeds her soul and feeds family and friends. She watches the leaven do its work, studies how the dough rises in stages, how it becomes more than it was…becomes the other thing she will be known for.

People are starting to ask about the bread, too, these rounded loaves that make you think of the old country…or the country to come. Steam rises. Crust cracks. Aroma floats through the air pulling everyone to the kitchen. She watches them enjoy her work.

She can’t paint right now, so she bakes artisan bread.

The artist’s room is mine now. In place of ready canvas and paint brush, there is blank paper and pen. The desk is lined with writing books and scribbled lists for someday.

But this fall, I am the flower dried in the vase. My writing hours have been sucked into earlier bedtimes and mismatched afternoon schedules. I put the youngest down for a reluctant afternoon nap just minutes before the oldest starts making his way home on the school bus. These are long days with short breaks. The changes stilt my words, leave me chasing after thoughts mid-sentence, make me homesick for my craft.

One evening, the kids wrestle with Daddy upstairs. There’s no time to string a line of words, but in the muted sound of their happy play, an old song comes to me, raises me from the couch and ushers me to the piano. I play the music without words this time, letting my fingers feel the pattern again, even closing my eyes.

This particular night, I may not be able to pen a story, but I can put my fingers to the keys and feel the tension leave my shoulders, let this other art knead that aching spot at the base of my ribs.

{What do you do when you’re feeling stifled in your primary area of creativity? Which secondary creative passions inspire you during dry phases?}