Striking a Balance



I often look with envy at my friends who have managed to make a living freelancing, or who have found full-time jobs in art professions. They spend hours on end in their basements recording their songs, in their studios wrestling with the light and shadows of their compositions and writing grants for their art installations.

With a limited amount of hours to dedicate to creating art, I feel the pressure of making those hours count. And instead of facing that possible failure, I often just decide altogether to create nothing.

Those days turn into weeks and months, and as time goes by, the pressure to make something worth all of the time wasted grows even more.

  • Illustration by Jennifer Delgadillo

On a an average day, I clock out a la Fred Flintstone from my cubicle job at IUPUI and head home, where I am another person. There I am someone who is free from the constraints of a human resources department -- someone who is better understood without employee performance reviews.

In my preferred element, I am better understood by what I make, and I find value and meaning to my life through it. So when there is no time for art-making, there is not only a gap in my sense of identity, but also in my self-worth, because art is what I am really good at. But for many artists, the day job increasingly takes over their lives until the the time for making art is bumped off of the schedule.

“I don't make time for it, because I am too busy during the day. Work is too mentally taxing,” says Deanna Hensley, who works in sales and is an artist with a penchant for glittery and shiny still lifes.

She echoes the thoughts of a few other of my many classmates I've run into post-Herron.“If I start painting then there is no time for cooking dinner or cleaning, but, again, there’s some people who do that,” she says.

Tchaikovsky once said, “a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood.” His words sting profoundly. But perhaps the solution begins without allowing Tchaikovsky’s postmortem bullying to affect me (or you, uninspired procrastinator). There is something to be said for enjoying the small ways in which creativity informs not only our attitudes, but also our seemingly monotonous paycheck-making experiences. There is grit in finding pockets of space and time to incorporate our creativity, even if it is just by remaining attentive, yet drawing doodles during meetings. As Charles Bukowski said in Air and Light and Space and Time, “if you’re going to create you’re going to create whether you work 16 hours a day in a coal mine or you’re going to create in a small room with three children while you’re on welfare."

  • Illustration by Jennifer Delgadillo

If you need motivation, you can find solace in the fact that several writers famously had day jobs. Other art mediums make it harder to squeeze art minutes here and there, but that is where sketchbooks come in handy. They can turn any meeting into a figure study, and any coworker into an impromptu muse.

So here are my tips for curing the creative block of the average salaried person:

  1. Carry a sketchbook, or voice recorder or camera, etc. (some portable idea collector) -- draw, capture or take your own version of notes whenever good ideas strike.

  2. Make an appointment with yourself. You're a busy person, so marking your calendar might be the key to spending quality time with your mind.

  3. Set short-term goals for yourself to build a body of work to draw from for when you do get time. You could even collect the sketches of the most interesting thing you see each day. Or practice five celebrity impressions in front of the mirror after brushing your teeth in the morning and before bed.

  4. Be your own fan -- many creative types suffer from a immense hunger for validation and approval, be realistic and mindful of your own accomplishments regardless of who’s watching! You have to like it before anyone else will. If you don’t like it, what’s the point?

  5. Sleep -- there is nothing more refreshing for a creative mind than sleep. Bonus: you can draw inspiration from your weird dreams.

These tips help me maintain a balance and at times have really dragged me out of long creative dry spells. So how do you fit art into your busy schedule of selling insurance policies, caring for the elderly, waiting tables or carrying a briefcase with important contracts around? I'd like to know.

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