This week’s post is the result of several recent conversations on the subject of time management and how difficult it can be to incorporate your career in art, and your artistic impulses, into the rest of your life. It’s evidently a problem that many artists worry about, and getting it right (or at least finding a reasonable balance) can be the work of years, and remain an ongoing challenge.
The nature of the problem varies a little depending on whether you are a full-time artist, or whether your art is something that must fight with other work commitments. Maintaining both a job and your art can be difficult, of course, because both together can place significant stress on both your time and your energy, particularly when both are important to you and are things you take seriously. There can be advantages to such an arrangement, for experiences and discussions from one aspect of your work can contribute to the development and interest of the other.
However, it is likely that at some point you will struggle to devote the resources you want to your art without giving something up elsewhere. When this happens, it can be helpful to sit down and work out a rough schedule for your week, trying to work out where the time goes. Try to see where there is space to put aside for your art, and when you have set time for it, be diligent about making sure that nothing is allowed to take over that time unless really necessary, but use it to the full as time given to art. If you cannot do this as often as you would like, try not to become too frustrated, but frequently re-evaluate your daily routine to see if you can make more time available for your art. It is usually a matter of priorities; if it is really important to you to spend more time creating art, you will eventually find a way to make it possible. If you are not yet at that stage, then don’t worry about it – very good work can be done over long periods of time, and there is nothing wrong with the decision to make art a less intense part of your life if that is what you want. By keeping it as part of your schedule, though, you will make sure that it is still there and still an active part of you when you are ready to pick it up again as a more major element of your life.
If you are a full-time artist, there are still often a number of obstacles to get over in the attempt to give your work the time it deserves. Other commitments will prevail if you allow them to, and at certain times it may be especially tempting to do so – such as when you hit a period of ‘artist’s block’ and have trouble finding the appropriate motivation or inspiration to help you in moving forward in your work. Similarly, when you have finished with one project it can be difficult to compel yourself to start thinking about another. But, whilst it may be true that you ‘deserve a break’, letting it go on too long can make starting once more seem like an insurmountable burden. This is not to say that taking breaks is always a bad idea – on the contrary, the occasional vacation from work can be vital in ensuring continued energy and enthusiasm whilst, on the other hand, circumstances may sometimes arise that make it imperative that you leave your work for a time. However, as a full-time artist, it is critical to remember that working on your art is something that has a strong claim on your time and thoughts. It should have a significant portion of time allotted to it in your daily or weekly routine, and even when the going seems tough and inspiration to have run dry, it is important to persevere rather than give up in exasperation and hope that the problem will solve itself. Self-discipline, though difficult, is a valuable and necessary quality.
How firmly you choose to organize your week depends on your personality, temperament and what you know from experience works best for you. You might prefer to do a lot of painting, and then concentrate on other things for some time before returning to it, or you might find that having a very set schedule works best for you. The important thing is to make sure that your art is a regular and natural part of life, and to work out a routine that suits you and it, to achieve the best effect. It is not always easy to find the right balance, but making your work a solid and regular element of your week, and being constantly on the look-out for new sources of inspiration, will make it easier to work out the best way for you to ensure your art is an important and influential, but not overly demanding, aspect of your life.