I’ve been on a podcast kick lately. At some point or another they all approach the topic of work-life balance. And honestly, it’s a little maddening. They all give solid advice, but I never feel as though they speak to my life situation.
If you read my last blog, I am an aspiring comic book creator. Key word being aspiring. I have definitely not achieved my goal yet, and it may be a long time until I do. That means I have to have a full-time job. This is where all the podcasts and Youtube videos leave me out to dry.
I listen to podcast by people who have already made it though. When they talk about work they are talking about their creative careers. When I talk about work, I talk about my desk job. So, I need work-life-creative life balance. How do I juggle a job that is at least 40 hours a week, my life with family and friends, and my life as a creator?
I’ll tell you right now, I haven’t found the answer.
I would guess that a lot of up-and-coming creators are thinking the exact same thing. How do I find the time to create when I’m exhausted from work? How do I tell my friends I can’t hang out because I need to draw?
I’m am going to give a few tips that have helped me since I started on this journey, and hopefully you can find some value in it.
Figure out your priorities
One important thing I’ve realized that “balance” does not mean trying to fit everything in. Instead what are your priorities in this season of life. This can be different for everyone. Someone who just had a baby will have drastically different priorities than someone whose kids have all moved out of the house. Priorities will also shift. What was once a priority may no longer be a priority five years from now. Two years ago, my priority was to graduate grad school. Now my priority is getting better at my craft to get into the comics business. Whatever you decide your priority is, shift your actions so they take you towards it. With this mind set you will make time for what’s important, and whatever else you get accomplished is just icing on the cake.
Multi-tasking is the enemy of the creative person. It takes an incredible amount of mental energy to create a piece of art. If we are distracted by our phone, the tv, or even our kids, it is impossible to create to our fullest potential. That is why it is important to have boundaries. One skill to learn is how to say no. I am terrible at this. I am a people-pleaser and an extravert. If a friend wants to grab a drink, I’ll more than likely say yes, whether or not have something I need to be working on. By learning to say no, we open up time to work on our craft. This doesn’t mean we always say no. Our relationships are important. But if being a creator is something you are serious about, this is a way to make time.
To go along with this, make sure the people in your life know and are on board with your plan. If you need two hours every morning, make sure your spouse knows that and is okay. Even if you are not married, tell your friends that you may not to cut back on hanging out so that you can focus on your art. Basically just be a good communicator.
Make a schedule
This probably sounds obvious, but I struggle with this. I don’t want to place commitments on myself, that way I cannot fail at meeting them. If I say I’m going to work on art for two hours a day, that lends itself to the possibility of failure and disappointment. I challenge you to push past this. Once you get a routine going, it becomes a part of your rhythm. One thing I did was a time audit. To do this all write down everything you do for two weeks. This will give you an idea of where all your time is going and what things you can cut out. Then create a schedule. Since I work an eight-to-five, that part of my schedule is taken care of. Then figure out how much time you want to spend with friends and family. Then art. Figure out what times you are most creative. For many people that’s first thing in the morning. Maybe wake up early before work and get an hour of drawing in. Whatever it is, create a schedule and stick to it. Discipline, just like anything else, is something that needs to be practiced. It’ll take time to get good at this, but after some time, this will become your new norm and anything else will feel weird.
It’s okay to not be perfect
Lastly, it’s okay to not be perfect. Being a creator and having a full-time job is extremely difficult. There are going to be days when work was exhausting and you just want to watch Netflix all night. There will be days when family life is stressful and you have to put art on hold. We all have limitations, we just need to be aware of them and work within them. The artist’s that we all look up to are not juggling work, life, and a separate creative life. It took them years and years to get to where they are, and they had to deal with their own set of setbacks. Hopefully with that in mind we can all be relieved of some stress and not feel so guilty when we take a day to do nothing.
Sorry this was so long-winded. It’s a topic I’ve been thinking about lately and wanted to get it all out. What do you do to keep a good balance? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Would love to hear from you!