3 Tips to Balancing Art & Life
For many artists, myself included, art is not what pays the bills. We split ourselves between a day job and our own creative pursuits. I know from experience what a difficult task that can be: a year ago, I began working one full-time job, one part-time job, and publishing a comic online. I cannot say it was sustainable in the long-term, but I learned a lot about balancing what I need to do with what I want to do. If you find yourself torn between the two, maybe these tips will help!
Set Big Goals with Realistic Tasks
No matter where you are in your creative journey, you need goals that will give you something to aspire to and push you to keep going. Good goals will point you in the direction you need to be heading to accomplish what you really want. Don't be afraid to plan big things in your near and distant future! Want to finish a book, gain 1000 followers, and earn a living off what you already like to do? Then go for it!
But when it comes to deciding what to do this month or this week or today, you want to be realistic. Start by figuring out your workflow and knowing your limits. Assigning yourself too much is basically setting yourself up for failure, and you want this to be something that brings you joy. Keep your goals in mind, but focus on things that you can finish and take pride in right now.
Set big goals for yourself that you can break down into a manageable task list.
Know that your goals do not need deadlines, but your to-do list can benefit from some. Come up with broad strokes for the month plus things you can do today. Just don’t punish yourself if you need to extend your timeline! Unlike a day job, you report to no one but yourself so be as kind to yourself as you expect your boss and colleagues to be. (Note: I said how you expect them to be, not how they really are.) Plus, it's perfectly okay for your balance to include a few breaks.
Prioritize by Importance and Enjoyment
When you have limited hours for your personal work, you need to use them very wisely. There are certain things on your to-do list necessary for accomplishing whatever goals you set for yourself. There are also hopefully some items on that list you’re really excited about! Try to consider both when deciding what to spend your time on because filling your schedule with things you absolutely don't want to do is a surefire recipe for burnout.
To be perfectly honest, you might not be able to fit everything in. It's okay if some goals need to sit on the back-burner. Speaking from experience, I had big plans for my online presence before I started working two jobs. I came up with a schedule for daily posts that I hoped would increase my following, my Patreon support, and the audience for my comic. But between everything else I was trying to juggle, it just didn't happen the way I had hoped. And guess what: my comic didn't really suffer for it! New readers still managed to find me, I gained a lot of patrons, and I chose to be proud of what I did instead of worrying about what I couldn't.
Set Your Schedule
Once your priorities are straight, you will need to figure out how to divvy up your time between work, leisure, and creative pursuits. This will look different for everyone, but start by assessing your free time and deciding when you can squeeze in some productivity vs. when you need to rest. Consider your mornings, your commute, your breaks at work, your evenings, and your weekends.
For example, your commute could be a time for podcasts that teach you useful tips & tricks for reaching your goals, or a time for audio-books that let you unwind so you’re ready to do great things when you walk through the door. Maybe you’re an early riser who needs to dedicate an hour in the morning to what you want to accomplish, or maybe you do your best work in the evenings. Personally, my lunch breaks gave me the time I needed to work on pages and keep up with my comic's update schedule. This is where you really get to personalize your day-to-day to-do list and decide when you plan to do what.
Bonus tip: celebrate what you are doing
Whether you work full-time or part-time, one job or three, in the creative industry or not– when you add freelancing in the mix then you are setting yourself for a challenge. Take pride in all of the things you manage to get done in addition to the work you’re doing for someone else. You are incredibly dedicated no matter how little effort you think you’re putting in, and even the smallest things will add up if you keep at it. Cheers to your creations!