Finding Balance

Sometimes, I feel like a circus clown riding a unicycle across a tightrope while juggling fireballs and, lately,  I’ve started wondering why I’ve taken on so much and what I can possibly let go.  I mean, how does life get so crazy in the first place?

Then, when I consider cutting something out, I panic.  I love all the projects I’ve taken on, but is it in my best interest as an artist?  Would I be happy if my life wasn’t as crazy busy?  Today, I would yell, “Yes!”  Tomorrow, I’m not so sure.

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Thinking ahead to New Year’s and all that has me wondering about (fantasizing really) finding the perfect balance.  See, I’m worried that dividing my focus (librarian by day, writer by night, and mother 24/7) is draining my creative energy.  But, is there anything I can do about it?

My day job is not exactly a creative endeavor and, sometimes, switching gears is difficult.  All day, the characters from my book are begging to get out of my head and onto paper and I’m doling out customer service.  There isn’t enough creative brain space left over while I’m at work to entertain my characters.  Some days, by the time I get home, fix dinner, and shuttle my children to their various activities, I’m lucky to get 1,000 words written.  I’m sure I’m not alone in this and, believe me, I’m grateful to be working.  But, I need more balance, more creative time.

At first, I was sure that organization was the answer.  With a little scheduling, my life could run smoothly.  Only, life doesn’t fit neatly on a calendar all the time.  I’ve even got a color-coded calendar.  It’s so fancy it has one color for each family member that details appointments, activities, games, performances, and so on.  Too bad it doesn’t come with a chauffeur and a cook.

For me, being able to sustain the same income with my writing as I do at my day job is crucial.  I decided long ago that when I’m fully financially stable through writing alone, I’d leave my day job.  But, I can only become a better writer by producing mass quantities of writing-which takes time-lots of time. Sigh.

So, while I’m snowed-in, I’m taking a little time to ponder my responsibilities in the hopes of bringing more balance into my life.  My day job has been a life line for me, a safety net of sorts.  Truth be told, I’m afraid to let it go.  But, I’m to the point in my writing where I’m actually considering it.  It’s either that or ship the children off to boarding school and I kind of love my busy little mess-making offspring.

After all is said and done, art is what keeps me going and I can’t imagine a life where I create less.  I see a giant leap of faith looming in my immediate future and I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll be brave enough to just jump.

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As a creative group, writers and artists are natural problem solvers.  In essence, it is what we get paid to do.  We’re able to navigate the choppy, uncertain waters of conflict and emotion and to set a course of action for our protagonists.  So, I’m sure I’ll figure things out…eventually.

Have you ever felt as though you lead a double or triple life and what do you do to maintain your creative balance?

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14 Responses to Finding Balance

  1. Joe says:

    Amen to that! This is something I struggle with daily. I’m self-employed and more often that not work from 6:00 a.m. to midnight. Days go by with no writing. It’s very frustrating and disheartening.

  2. I hear you, Larissa! I am having some major juggling these days: a tight deadline on picture book illustrations, helping with the birth of my first grandchild last week, and the regular domestic maintenance of family, house, car and dog. I have decided to cut my Christmas to its bare bones this year, and look forward to a big blowout next December.

  3. Susan Mannix says:

    Great post, Larissa! Striking that balance is hard, even on days when you’re not at work. By the time I get mom/family/horse manager duties finished the window is small or nonexistent to write. I get it in when I can, sometimes falling asleep at the keyboard late at night. And I agree, giving up any one of these aspects of my life, including my writing, would be akin to carving a piece of my soul out. So, we keep on keeping on….

  4. Ron Smith says:

    Wow, what a thoughtful, honest post. Thanks for sharing it. We have to find the time when we can, don’t we? I’m sure you’ll find what works best in the new year. Sometimes we just have to leap and know that what we’re doing is what we love, and we have to be serious about it.

    On the surface, I feel pretty lucky. I work from home for an ad agency in Chicago, where my wife and I used to live. My mornings are spent writing fiction and then I write advertising crap for the rest of the day. I have a hard time mustering the creative energy at night, which is why I get to the cafe around 6 am every morning and write for as long as I can.

    But then again, I recently was signed by an agent and my book will be going on submission soon. So now I’m like, I NEED to write FULL-TIME! Someone sees worth in my writing and I need more than a few hours a day! I need to write books! As many as I can!

    Anyway, sorry to devolve into my own issues, jeez.

    I wish you the best and hope that you find that balance. I’ll be sending good vibes your way!

    • Larissa Graham says:

      Congratulations on getting signed with an agent. Seriously, woohoo! I wish you the best of luck and thank you for all the encouragement.

  5. Having a family is good for material, but terrible for concentration and alone time. I never found a good time to write at the end of the day: too many interruptions and my mind too full of the day’s events. But I’ve found the sweet spot now. Everyone in my house is a late sleeper (but me!). Five a.m. is what time I start writing. I’m fresher and the house is utterly silent. Best of all, none of the day’s obligations have taken over.

  6. Pam says:

    It’s very hard to juggle all that life throws our way and have a job and be a parent and cram the time in to make art/write. (And don’t forget to eat right and exercise!) I find that I vacillate between writing 24 hours a day to writing not all all (depending on what’s going on at Casa Smallcomb). It’s crazy-making, but then we’re writers and artists, and we’re already there. 🙂 Great post!

  7. Sue Poduska says:

    Sometimes, lack of balance is the answer. I’ve heard walking described as controlled falling. You have to take the risks to move forward. Priorities seem like a good idea, though. Thanks for making us think!

  8. Lois says:

    You’ve thoughtfully laid out the dilemma we face daily as authors and illustrators. Unless you have a blockbuster bestseller it is difficult to live on the meager money our art brings us. Thanks for reminding us we have each other to commiserate. It’s not easy, but it is what we love.

  9. Mike Karg says:

    I would develop the metaphor in the Leap of Faith picture further and suggest building a bridge between the two places. It takes longer, but is surer, and there is a pathway back. Scaling back on the regular job to part-time can allow time in that wonderful other world without fear of falling to calamity below. And, then when the creative world is sustainable without the old job, you could put a gate on that bridge, or even set it ablaze!

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