Getting things done when you’re an artist or any sort of creative person, can be a delicate balance. Often, if we find ourselves out of balance, it can cause us strain on our productivity, wallet, and ultimately our creativity.
You’ve just had an inspirational idea! This could be huge! An idea for a great screenplay, a fresh design for the age-old mousetrap, a new website that will help millions of people, a large-scale sculpture that would redefine the way we see art itself. We’ve all been there, but we’ve all hit one of the three same roadblocks: Time, Money, or Motivation. Regardless, the artist in us finds a way to make it work, and we always pay a price.
Lack of Time
After your 8+ hour work day plus commute time and basic biological needs like eating, sleeping, and hygiene, how much time do you really have left? 6 hours if you have no family or kids, 2-3 if you do. There is usually some time left to pursue you new idea. Eventually fatigue will set in, and your creative abilities will start to fade and suffer. If you push it too hard for too long you can actually suffer some real health effects.
The Price We Pay: Exhaustion.
It’s staying up all night writing a business proposal, and barely making it to your day job in the morning. It’s skipping a shower and hoping nobody at work will notice so that you can get in an extra hour of research. It’s doing poor work because you can’t concentrate properly from lack of sleep.
Lack of Money
You may work a regular job, but like most of us, you barely make ends meet month to month as it is. Or worse, you’ve suddenly found yourself without a job, but the upside is you now have all the time in the world to pursue your huge inspirational idea! Oh wait! How are you going to eat, pay your rent, or otherwise afford to live? It is possible to pursue your idea to your hearts content by simply going into debt. There is a fear that this debt creates, and this takes a toll on our creativity when we dwell on it. This is a very painful road that all freelancers and artists have been down at some point.
The Price We Pay: Debt.
It’s having to buy a bunch of raw materials to create a huge mind-blowing sculpture. It’s having to buy a new camera now, so that your new client can see the the quality of your ability, to secure future work. It’s taking that no/low budget gig because you know it will be a fantastic portfolio piece. It’s needing to hire a programmer to build your new service website, so that you can start charging for that service.
Lack of Motivation
Hard work at the regular job is providing plenty of cash flow, and you now have a 4-day weekend to start on your project! WOOT! But now… you just want to chill and take some personal time to catch up on some TV or read a good book. De-motivation can strike at the most unfortunate times. We can force ourselves to pursue our idea anyway, but our efforts suffer and often have diminishing returns. We know we can’t be our most creative when we’re forcing it… but slow progress is still better than none. This is half-ass-ing it at its worst.
The Price We Pay: Force.
It’s making yourself write another 1000 words in your next novel even though you’re not feeling it. It’s assembling the rough edit of a dramatic scene knowing you’ll probably have to start from scratch later with fresh eyes. It’s doing what we know must be done when we finally have the time and money to do it.
Many independent creative types have experienced some or all of these at some point. What if you can find balance? Well, I’ll tell you, it truly is the sweetest reward of creativity and productivity. Ever.
Ironically, I’m actually not suggesting that it would be ideal to have $1,000,000, a year off from work, and the best idea in the world. It’s not realistic. (Although, if someone wants to donate these three items, I’d be happy to try to prove this wrong, just email me) What I am suggesting is that we can truly be at our most creative when those items are all in balance. We have the sleep to do our best work. Our minds are free of worry about cash flow and we’re able to eat well to feed our bodies. Our mind is now happy and motivated to do it’s best possible work. It’s a very delicate balance, but when you’ve found it, you can achieve your best work.
The Price of Balance
So the real question becomes: what’s the price we pay to find balance?
It’s saving $50 this paycheck towards the new software you want to buy, but won’t be able to buy it for another month. It’s spending extra time with your kids the next few days, so when you tell them you want all day Saturday to yourself they will understand. It’s finding ways to capture micro-motivation when it strikes, by carrying a small notepad and then curating your ideas later when motivation may be lower.
In today’s lifestyle of instant gratification, it’s not what you want to hear, but it’s true. Find your balance and I wish you all the creative success in the world!