Writing- Three Ways Life Gets in Your Way
Across the world, most artists are fighting to make space in their busy lives for their art. Certainly there are artists who make a living with their art alone, but the vast majority have day jobs. Even those who make their living as artists have periods where life issues take precedence over art. However, this post is written for those of us who have to try to fit time for our art into whatever space is left after the job, the kids, the leaf raking, and the myriad of other thing that take precedence over what we most want to do.
Even when the job is done, the kids are asleep, and we finally have the time to sit down at that keyboard or in front of that blank canvas, life gets in the way. We are going to explore some ways to stay focused and also some times to forgive yourself for not being productive.
Too Many Things:
Your sweetie is sick and needs chicken soup and NyQuil from the store, you’re boss asks you to stay an hour late at work, the kid has to be dropped at dress rehearsal for Oklahoma and picked up afterwards, ant the cat just puked up a hairball on the carpet. How in the world are you going to make time for your art?
Yes, it is important for you to be dedicated to your artistic work and do your damnedest to find time to fit it into your life on the daily. It’s not going to happen every day. Even if days like this end with you watching a half hour of TV before you fall asleep on the couch, you should not feel guilty for that half our of “I don’t have to do anything” me time. You need time for yourself, away from all the things you have to do, even your art. Take the time, and don’t beat yourself up about it.
If you exercise two hours a day, play WOW with your guildies every Tuesday night, go to Bridge Club on Fridays, and then there’s your shows that you just have to watch… You get the picture. If what’s keeping you busy are activities that are voluntary in nature and you want your art to be important, then you need to do some pruning and make time for it. You have to scale back all the other things that aren’t mandatory and make quality time to work and grow in your artistic pursuit. I’m not saying ditch them all together, everyone deserves some time to have fun, but you have to scale them back if you want your art to be important. Make a commitment.
My fiancé and I have been together nearly a quarter century. We don’t have kids, we have pets, and we have lots of them. Mostly cats and ferrets, but there’s been rats and rabbits too. Years ago, we had some bad luck with the babies. Some were old, some were ill, but in the space of six months we lost five of our babies. Two were in the same week. One was a new baby that we’d had less than a month, but he was a rescue, and had a serious issue the vets missed. I felt like all of my children were dying. I know it isn’t the same as losing a human child, but emotions are fuckers. It felt the same. I stopped writing completely, and it was months before I could write again. The same thing happened when I lost my father two years ago. I loved my Dad like only a daddy’s girl can, and when I was dealing with that, I couldn’t write at all.
Take the time you need.
Everyone deals with grief in different ways. Some people may lose themselves in their art, and not want to do anything else. If that’s what happens, then do it. If you can’t face your art, then give yourself permission to grieve and take the time you need. I don’t care if there’s a deadline, or a contest, it doesn’t matter. Grief doesn’t fit into nice little pigeon holes with start times and finish times clearly labeled. It’s wildly variable and messy. Do what you need to do.
Don’t use grief as an excuse to give up on your art. When you can, get back to it. Try every now and again, while you are grieving, to take your art out and see if it’s time to take up the journey again.
The boss is a jerk and they have singled you out for extra negative attention. Work is fast paced and it seems like everything is coming down on your shoulders. Deadlines are approaching and you are the only person who knows how to get things done. You’re working too much overtime, or you’re working too many jobs, and even when you are not working, you are so mentally drained that you can’t string two words together. You just want to quit and dedicate your time to your art.
Don’t Quit that Day Job Yet:
A day job pays the bills. A day job is necessary for most writers, I imagine it is needed for other branches of the arts as well. A lot of actors wait tables, work in retail, and other jobs when they aren’t performing. Many of them continue working a day job even when they have a gig. Unless you are in a branch of the arts where what you do is in huge demand, and there aren’t too many other people doing it, it’s a small percentage of artists who make enough to live comfortably on their art alone. There are certainly authors who made enough money, consistently enough, to live comfortably. Most published writers don’t.
If you hate that job, if it’s eating your brain, maybe it’s time for a different job. A less stressful workplace might give you the peace of mind you need to get back to your art. Another option is to quit, if that’s possible financially. I am not working at the moment. It may not be forever, but it’s doable for now. My fiancé makes enough money that if we scaled back our lifestyle, we could get by without me working, at least for the time being. I take care of things at home and help my mother who is getting older, and I write. It can be frustrating to have less money, but if the sacrifice is for your art, sometimes it’s worth it. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m lucky. Not everyone can quit their job and have time for their art. Not everyone has a partner that is as wildly supportive as my sweetie. I’m lucky and I know it. If this is a possibility for you, and you are willing to make the financial sacrifice, consider it.
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