Work/Life Balance for Creatives: Healthy Aspiration or Myth?
I will preface this blog by saying: I’m a professional musician and I also have a 9-6 job. I spent the majority of last week juggling my day job with juggling my music hustle. If you think that looked like composing, practicing, and praying to the Muse… you couldn’t be more wrong. What my life looked like for 9 straight days was booking my fall lineup with other bands. I was chasing people down, in constant back-and-forth with bookers and making graphics ASAP for shows. I was my own manager, administrator and it was exhausting to desperately try to squeeze in practice or time at my instrument. It also couldn’t have looked any other way, because all of those things actually had to happen.
We have recently adapted the seemingly healthy notion that we should be seeking “work-life balance”. What does this even mean? What does this look like? For most people, this often looks like splitting their already stretched time and energy out even further. Headlines scream: “Give 100% at work! Be a supermom/dad! Make home cooked meals! Make sure you have a thigh gap! Be your best self now!” Perhaps even more frustrating, is the alternative which is to take a little energy from everything so that all of your activities are done (albeit at a mediocre level).
Not only do I disagree that this mythical “work/life balance” is the goal, but I have an alternative that is far more manageable to make happen and more forgiving in the execution.
Most businesses have natural cycles, including the arts. One of the easiest, most obvious things we can do is begin to view the scope of our life in cycles - just like a business. This gives us more breathing room and more flexibility. It is very difficult to have multiple #1 priorities in a single three month cycle, so pick one per cycle. Is this the season you need to be out networking and making contacts? Is it the season you need to be focusing on your family? Or is it time to go inward and make your next album, EP or focus on another creative project? Intentionality is everything. When we are clear on our priorities, we don’t have to freak out when we missed one workout, or had to order takeout in order to “make the thing” that is our number one priority. Sometimes, our calendar demands are much less dramatic and we just need to juggle priorities month to month. Maybe this is the month you are preparing shows, writing, or dealing with a health challenge and so you are doing the bare minimum at the gym. The important key here is to not neglect other priorities, but to turn down your own internal sense of urgency about them.
I would be remiss in writing this blog if I didn’t mention something that I see happen with myself and others at least once a year. Sometimes LIFE is demanding we focus on one thing, and we are trying to make something else our priority anyhow. When my husband and I were moving back to NYC, I desperately wanted my #1 priority to be networking and playing shows. The reality? Life demanded that my #1 priority was finding a job and a place to live. It’s better to go with the flow in scenarios like this, instead of kicking and screaming through it. Sometimes family things come up, sometimes unforeseen health circumstances throw us off balance, or something just ends up being harder and/or taking longer than we planned for. What then? It becomes imperative to do just a little. Take one step forward. Set a timer for 20-30 minutes and write, paint, compose, or do “the thing”. You will not only be a better human for others to be around, but you’ll approach life in a calmer way knowing that you are still moving towards your goals.
What is this season of life asking you to focus on? How can you align with it, rather than fight it?
In light & love,