Balancing Everyday Life with the Creative Life, Part 1

Well, here it is springtime once again! After an overly busy last year, I spent the early winter months of 2012 quietly. My goal was to hibernate – something that I found hard to achieve and took quite a bit of determination and persistence to pull off. Nevertheless, I intentionally slowed down the pace of my life for a few months and I am pleased. During my time of quiet hibernation I did a lot of thinking, reading, writing, and clarifying my intentions for my everyday life and my creative life this year.  Oh – and I spent a lot of time in my studio as well. I feel a sense of renewal and my creative juices are flowing once again. 

One of my constant challenges is being able to keep painting in the middle of a very busy personal life and a full workshop schedule, and I’m always looking for new strategies for “balancing my everyday life with my creative life.” It’s one thing to be in the studio consistently when life is quiet and slow, it’s quite another to be in there consistently when things heat up and life is super busy. 

However, when I thought a little deeper about it, I realized that regardless of whether my life is super busy, busy, or not so busy – there always seems to be something pulling me away from my painting. I’ve come to realize that sometimes what keeps me out of the studio isn’t the time factor or my busy everyday life at all – it’s me. It’s that part of me that fears that after investing a lot of time and emotional energy in a painting, I might be disappointed – it might not be the masterpiece that a part of me expects and even demands. Or sometimes I fear that I’ll encounter yet another “missing link” that I’ll have to struggle with. That one often leads directly to the part of me that fears (and, by the way, this part of me is pretty sure) that I really don’t know what the heck I’m doing anyway. Then there’s that part of me that fears that no one will like my painting anyway, so why bother – it’s all just a waste of time. And my latest discovery is that although one part of me is totally committed to process-oriented painting and improvisation, another part of me fears entering into unknown territories unless I’m guaranteed successful results in advance. It really is hard to stay put and keep on keeping on when these dragons of fear show up and start wreaking havoc in the studio.  It’s much easier to become immersed in the distractions of everyday life than it is to stay and deal with the dragons that stand at my studio door.  

In his book Coaching the Artist Within, Eric Maisel points out that as a creativity self-coach, you are obliged to become your own fear and anxiety expert, and he shares these 4 tips for becoming that expert: 

  1. Begin by getting in touch with all of the stages of your creative process.
  2. Ask yourself, “What characteristically makes me fearful or causes me anxiety in each of these stages?
  3. Answer the question, “What can I do to effectively deal with these regular, predictable experiences of fear and anxiety? (Your answer might just take the form of “Just be aware of the fear or anxiety and choose not to flee”)
  4. Test your answer the next time you experience fear or anxiety during your creative process.

I’m pretty sure that everyday life will always be busy – there is no escaping it. However, I’m not so sure anymore that the key to a rich and meaningful creative life is balancing everyday life with the creative life. I’m thinking it may have more to do with choosing not to flee and learning how to confront those dragons that show up at the studio door.    

What do you think? What challenges do you face in your creative life, and how do you deal with them?

PS:  In my next post I will continue with the topic Balancing Everyday Life with the Creative Life, and I will also be making an exciting announcement concerning Eric Maisel and my blog. 

Happy Painting! 

9 thoughts on “Balancing Everyday Life with the Creative Life, Part 1

  1. Christy Lemp

    I love that it seems like you got right into my head. Art is like acting or the athletic field or any business deal. Your last successful venture nips at your heels and makes you anxious to keep going and the fear of a failure is in the way. Then I read Ira Glass’s quote which is taped to my desk (google nobody tells this to beginners Ira Glass) . I breathe easier and start and don’t worry about the next piece because every time you put brush or pen to paper you’re moving forward!

    Reply
  2. Ruth Armitage

    Great post Donna! I think we all deal with some of what you’re talking about here. Another thing that keeps me from being more creative is too many ideas. I think it is often hard for me (and many creative people) to focus on just one thing for a while. I want to sample a bit of everything: gardening, cooking, decorating, crafting, painting, etc. etc. But to get really good, one must focus their energies.

    Even when I’m totally focused on just painting, settling down to one theme or goal is often overwhelming. How do you choose? In the end I start by choosing what calls loudest to me. And I try to stay true to my artistic values and put them first in my life, no matter what. Not always easy…

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  3. Donna Post author

    Hi Ruth,
    Thanks so much for your comments! You are so right that focusing on just one thing – even for a little whie – is difficult. I think that’s why I’m having trouble with and rethinking my usual go-to thought, which is “I just need to find a better way to balance my everyday life with my creative life.”
    Donna

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  4. Jan

    I just call it house magnet, or internet magnet, whatever draws me away from painting. Sometimes it’s just that my painting space is a mess and needs to be organized. As for the fear factor, what helped me was reading Art and Fear by Bayles and Orland. On page 5 they say, “The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is to simply train you how to make the small protion that soars.” I have that printed out and hanging over my desk. It takes the fear away and gives me permission to play.

    Reply
  5. Donna Post author

    Hi Jan,
    Magnets – Great visual – and how true! I love the book, Art and Fear, too. Having encouraging words like those in our head when the going gets tough is so very helpful. Also – I like your idea that it gives you “permission to play”. Thanks for sharing that quote – I love it!
    Donna

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  6. Margaret Godfrey

    I love this: “Or sometimes I fear that I’ll encounter yet another “missing link” that I’ll have to struggle with. That one often leads directly to the part of me that fears (and, by the way, this part of me is pretty sure) that I really don’t know what the heck I’m doing anyway. ” Just the other day while teaching a workshop, one of my participants asked me when and how I stopped doubting my own artistic ability. I just had to laugh and respond, ” It hasn’t happened yet, and I doubt it ever will.” Your post only confirms that.

    BTW, thank you so much for listing my blog as one of the 15 to watch. I’ve gotten so many views since then.

    Margaret

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  7. Donna Post author

    Thanks for commenting, Margaret! I love what YOU said: “It hasn’t happened yet, and I doubt it ever will.”

    I’m thinking that if there were no more “missing links” to find, there would be no more mountains to climb, and painting would quickly become pretty boring. Easy to say! It’s not so easy to keep that perspective when I’m in the studio struggling!
    Donna

    Reply
  8. Evelyn Dunphy

    I admire your honesty, Donna. Do you think women experience these feelings much more than men? When I read the art magazines, the guys always seem just so assured, confident, unhampered by the daily responsibilities that women live with. It’s probably not true; some of them are balancing family and work, but I think many of them have wives who hold the whole home front together and some even manage their husband’s business matters.
    I do agree with you that it’s often us that keeps us out of the studio. My “word for the year” is discipline. And I’ll see if that makes a difference.
    Wishing you a happy and rewarding New Year with dragons falling by the wayside!

    PS and I haven’t started a blog because I’m sure I’ll get behind with it!

    Reply

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