Are you getting your ‘Work-Life’ balance right?
I have always been puzzled by that question because it seems to suggest that ‘Work’ is one thing and ‘Life’ is another! Is this the way most people think of their work, as something separate from and in opposition to their ‘lives’? Maybe. But I doubt if artists and others who make their living being what’s generally termed ‘creative’, look at it that way. For me, and I suspect many others, my ‘work’ is a vital part of my ‘life’.
In fact I would go so far as to say that drawing and painting and some kinds of writing are often more like ‘play’! They involve the same elements of curiosity, imagination and experimentation that we all had in abundance as children. And this is a very necessary part of my life; it makes me feel right. feel like I’m being ‘myself’ more than almost anything else that I do.
'The only time I feel alive is when I’m painting.' Vincent Van Gogh
This has caused a few awkward moments as it’s so difficult to explain convincingly to friends who don’t feel this need to do ‘creative’ things on a regular basis. On several occasions I’ve excused myself from social visits if they coincide with time I’d set aside for myself to paint. I generally give ‘work’ as my reason, preferring the ‘tut-tuts’ that suggest that I’m being branded a workaholic, to having to explain that I’m more desperate for some ‘play-time’ than I am for company.
I wonder why it’s so hard to admit to needing time to play? Playing is so good for us and we’d probably all be a lot happier and healthier if we did more of it. But I think that for many of us - and I venture to suggest this applies to women in particular - allowing ourselves time off to play when there are so many other things and people requiring our attention is quite difficult. This may have its roots in lingering traces of ‘puritanical’ thinking that suggests that we are not here to enjoy ourselves!
'To love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?' Katherine Graham
A great quote, as long as we haven’t been programmed somewhere along to line, to think of ‘fun’ as an expensive luxury that we probably can't afford.
But all that aside, for me, and probably for many artists, what prevents us from spending as much time as we’d like on our creative pursuits - that we may call ‘work’ or ‘play’ - is the fact that we need to somehow make a living!
I recently read a blog post about someone who had suggested that artists should not be paid for their work but take care of their bills by taking a ‘proper job’, making their art in their spare time. This, of course, provoked a great many outraged comments from artists and the common claim that relegating one’s creative pursuits to ‘spare time’ after a day at an unfulfilling job, was a good way to kill off one’s creativity!
But even if an artist makes it their full-time job, the whole business of bringing in some money from one’s art can be time-consuming and a drain on one’s energy. When I first began offering my greeting card designs for sale, I was told that I’d need to spend 80% of my time on marketing and 20% actually creating. And so it has been!
In fact, in the past few months, the ‘non-creating’ activities have threatened to squeeze the opportunities to draw and paint right out of my life. So for me, and probably for other artists, the imbalance is more likely to be between actually creating and all the time-consuming activities that we have to take on in order to make a living from what we have created.
I haven’t yet got the balance right – but I’m working on it, trying to find a way that I can spend at least 25% of my time on my art. I'm hoping to take a step back over the Christmas holiday period and learn some lessons from 2010 that I can put into practice in the new year. Because, quite apart from how it makes me feel to have no time paint, if I’m not giving myself time to produce the artwork, am I not, in a sense, ‘killing off the Goose that lays the Golden eggs?’