Divided Loyalties

Do you struggle with how to spend your precious free time, where you have to choose between two or even three of your creative life practices and passions? Where in your mind, a hand points at you saying ‘you must do this’, while another points at you saying, ‘no, you should do that’? Can you really apply yourself diligently to more than one of these creative practices per day? Or the divided loyalty may come from a different direction. Do other life matters such as paid work jobs, social commitments, or family issues, threaten or prevent you from holding on to your creative space?

This divided loyalty does seem to crop up for me pretty regularly, where I have a tug of war between my writing and painting, where I find one of these has to take the upper hand with my free time in any one day. Whether it’s doing the actual writing or painting or doing online promotion of some kind related to each. At the moment it’s writing that is dominating (as you probably will suspect from the last post) because I’m at the stage when I have to press on to the end of my current novel, while my current painting sits on my painting desk with reference pics all ready to go, but no drawing or brush action going on. I don’t expect sympathy for this conflict by the way, this is the path I’ve chosen, and just because you find one art form you want to do, doesn’t mean that has to be exclusive. It seems highly natural to me that creative people have a variety of passions and abilities in the arts because they are by nature so fluid and inviting of diversity.  I’ve put years into my painting, I love it, it taps into a very different part of me that relishes beauty and the visual. But now I have my writing, all that lovely human psychology to use, all that crafting of a fictional reality that totally absorbs you, that challenges you, and I’ve worked just as hard at that now too. And so there’s the inevitable issue of divided loyalties that comes up. I know I’m one of many, having spotted ‘artist/writers’ in groups, and even today I came across someone who also puts their time into dance, where they were drafting up a daily timetable to incorporate all three. Now there’s no way I can do this. Well I could draft a timetable, but it would be pretty much superfluous and simply serve to point an accusing finger at me every time I fail…so I thought I’d look at why it is so hard to logically and happily divide your time up like this?

Firstly though, I want to look at how creative people view their creative space. In my own case, I feel very selfish, because second to my partner, it’s pretty much the most important thing in my life, and just like my partner, I can’t imagine my life without it. It is my life. I think the feeling selfish may be a form of self-protection that comes from knowing that many people, including family, have no idea just how important my creative life is to me. I happen to be the only creative person in my small family, so I don’t get this understanding much at all. An artist friend and I were chatting a while back now about being on family visits, where family members never ask us about how our work is coming along, or what we’ve been up to lately. We get nothing, while we are expected to be interested in their lives, which we are, but it just seems out of balance. And I think we were both rather shocked to discover we were both having the same experience. So I’m going to make a leap here and assume this is a common occurrence. This isn’t me appointing blame, because non-creative orientated people naturally don’t get it, but I’m just saying that it can be a fact that this imbalance happens. Now when some family commitments come up it may mean a lot more than they assume, for us to down our creative tools and turn up to do whatever it is (after all, we are probably the ones who aren’t working 9 to 5, five days a week). Which brings me to looking at how we can handle these divided loyalties. And once again it seems to come down to matters of the head and heart.

Conscience, morals, and ‘the right thing to do’ are probably uppermost with the divided loyalties to do with family. But of course love is hopefully involved too, so it really can be a matter of both head and heart pulling at you. If the heart wins, it’s tug of war over, there may not even be a need for a war at all depending upon the circumstances, emergencies being one example. Family comes first at that time before your creative space. But what if it really is more of a head matter? What if there is nothing urgent going on, just strings being pulled? What do you do then? One strategy might be to logically consider the consequences of putting your work first, from the perspective of later on, and the potential ramifications or accusations that you ‘weren’t there’ or ‘didn’t do your part’. How will you feel about it later on? Will you be able to withstand it? Will you be able to fully justify it to yourself? Or will you feel guilty? That you were downright selfish and you should have put your family first? So thinking of consequences may help you choose which you are going to give your loyalty to in those particular circumstances, so that you can go ahead (or not, as the case may be) with the family choice with no hidden seething resentments because you’ve made your decision and you’re sticking to it. But apart from that I think following the loud shout out from your heart OR the loud shout from your head can help you make your decision – it’s the strength of the feeling or the strength of the logical argument which is being employed here.  I know this is very difficult stuff to think about, and there are no easy answers. I think what I’d ideally like is for family to understand just how important our creative work is, so that they do get what it actually means to put it aside. That would be such a welcome experience.

So going back to looking at why it can be so difficult to divide our time between our two or three creative passions. What’s going on with this can be destructive. Where you end up spending time on art A only to turn around a week or two later and blame yourself for not having done any art B, forgetting that you had your reasons for neglecting it. That’s a powerful word to a creative person – ‘neglect’  –  because there is so much inside that we want to express, more than one lifetime can cover most likely, and it can feel like a kind of crime not to get this work done. So you have to get used to this switching from A to B and back again without blame and that can take a little practice. As far as deciding which is the most important to you at any given time, I think it’s a case of listening to that inner voice, that comes from a deeper place than the two hands pointing at the surface of you. You have to tune into that voice. It can tell you which is really the most important to you right now and when you do make the choice, you should commit to it fully in the here and now. This takes some self discipline  – but we’ve got plenty of that, haven’t we? Otherwise we’d get nothing done ;>)

Here is a link to a post I found discussing the kind of juggling and struggle that can go on when you do more than one kind of art:

‘How to choose when you do more than one thing in art’ by Jessica Peterson

And a wee extract from Jessica: ‘Jack of all trades, Master of none? That phrase tormented me. Could it be true? I had to know. I asked my teacher one day, “Do you believe in the phrase, ‘Jack of all trades, Master of none?’” I believe in kicking ass,” he said. “Do it all. Everything works together.”’ And a nice line here : ‘If we focus on only one thing, we never find out what else we are capable of’.

Now since ‘the arts’ can encompass all of the following: ‘music (instrumental and vocal), dance, drama, folk art, creative writing, architecture and allied fields, painting, sculpture, photography, graphic and craft arts, industrial design, costume and fashion design, motion pictures, television, radio, film, video, tape and sound recording, the arts related to the presentation, performance, execution, and exhibition of such major art forms, all those traditional arts practiced by the diverse peoples of this country. (sic) and the study and application of the arts to the human environment. (source here ) and since they are all human expressions of creativity by their very nature, then there are bound to be multiple interests and blurred boundaries for creatives, so the issue of learning how to handle divided loyalties must surely come up –  whether internally just within yourself and your art practice, or externally, where your attention is required elsewhere by properly paid work or others who are very important in your life.

As I’ve said there are obviously no easy answers and any thoughts on this are most welcome :>)

(pic from pixabay)

News alert: In line with my previous post on marketing, I’m currently reading a lovely take on this theme with lots of tips and advice on how to rethink our assumptions and expectations concerning this usually dreaded subject for writers. But I feel it has a good deal of applicability to artists in general too…

Lauren Sapala’s  ‘Firefly Magic: Heart Powered Marketing for Highly Sensitive Writers’  is just brilliant, and as she says herself it is for ‘any HSP, INFJ, INFP, introvert writer who knows they need to learn more about book marketing but also feels huge resistance to it. If you’re a Highly Sensitive Writer who “hates marketing” or feels you don’t naturally have what it takes to get good at it, Firefly Magic can help.’ And I for one am loving it! (no weird behind the scenes endorsements or anything going on, just one firefly buzzing around to share the light  –  with a fervent wish to actually see some real life fireflies one day!)

  

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About lynnefisher

Writer and visual artist living in Scotland, INFJ type Writer's blog: lynnefisher.wordpress.com Art: lynnehenderson.co.uk Twitter @writeartblog Writers page Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lynnefisherheadtoheadhearttoheart/ Artists page Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lynnehendersonartist/
This entry was posted in On Art, On Craft, On Life, On The Creative Life, On Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Divided Loyalties

  1. Rick Ellrod says:

    I know what you mean. I’ve been trying to get around to completing the writeup of a new (filk) song when I have more pressing galley proofs and similar tasks to do on the story side . . .

    Thinking through the ramifications is good, but I became a little concerned when that was parsed as “How will you feel about it later on? Will you be able to withstand it? Will you be able to fully justify it to yourself? Or will you feel guilty? That you were downright selfish and you should have put your family first?” We certainly have to listen to our feelings: they are, I think, one of the ways we have of apprehending good and bad. But they’re not always utterly reliable. Some of us may have an unfortunate tendency toward self-centeredness, or pleasing-the-otherness, or timidity about approaching something new — et cetera — and these traits can systematically skew our emotional responses. And of course we can always be having a bad day, or an unusually ecstatic day, or be depressed about something we’ve read — we may need to wait out the mood of the moment to uncover what our deepest response really is. So I’d want to re-stress what you said just before that — “logically consider the consequences” — and make sure that, as your title indicates, we have both our heads and our hearts fully engaged.

    Rick

    Liked by 3 people

    • lynnefisher says:

      Yes, Rick, very good points, thank you. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you say this ”we may need to wait out the mood of the moment to uncover what our deepest response really is”. That’s exactly it, immediate emotional responses can be misleading and not for the longer term best. Many thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. This is so good and true! I have always believed creative folks tend to have at least two passions/arts/interests going at the same time. No, there are no easy answers, but for me (right now anyway) I have to focus on my writing because that’s what is bringing in income. Plus it’s where I am in flow most often. I give fair time to my family, but I also respect my creative time and place protective boundaries around it. You are also right about family members/friends who aren’t as interested in hearing about creative work. That is a common occurrence. I also believe in kicking ass—when I have the energy:) I must check out Sapala’s book. I’m an HSP INFJ. I’ve read a lot of her writing; she’s good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      Thank you Cheryl! That’s reassuring to know that you have experienced the same kind of difficulties and it sounds like you have sorted your boundaries well. Yes, I’m HSP and INFJ too, and if you haven’t already read Lauren’s book on the INFJ writer, personally I feel it makes a perfect companion to the marketing book. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. galenpearl says:

    I was feeling stretched thin a couple of months ago as I began a new writing project. I decided to clear my calendar for one month of everything I could so that I could make that project a priority. Setting a finite period of time aside seemed more tolerable and doable than making an open ended commitment.

    About the family stuff, that’s hard. My sister is an artist and I think has dealt with that through her whole life. Since she does not work outside the home, everyone always assumes that she is free to do other things. It sends a message, even if unintended, that her artwork is not important, or at least it’s not important to others.

    Great post on the internal and external juggling we all have to contend with.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lynnefisher says:

      Thank you for sharing this, Galen. Setting a time slot to devote to one’s project is an excellent idea, with just keeping externals to a minimum and maybe letting people know this is what one is doing. Food for thought then. I can identify completely with your sister – it’s that assumption of being freely available that gets to me and the sending of the message, almost subliminally, that what one is doing is less important – this is exactly how I can feel sometimes. No, there is no easy solution, but good to be aware of the problem. Cheers!

      Like

  4. I do this too when faced with multiple options: I trust my Inner Voice and just go with it – no regrets. Yes, it can seem to others like we are doing nothing, but it is not true. In the world of art, whatever it may be, there is a long learning curve before the Shazam!.

    I’ve noted Lauren Sapala’s Firefly Magic as well. Yes, I’m a HSP INFJ so I need ideas to put my ideas forward.

    Thanks! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • lynnefisher says:

      Thanks for sharing! Yes, it’s about the inner voice and no regrets. It’s very reassuring to me that others can find ‘others’ thinking we are doing nothing much at all. And another INFJ! – I’ve finished Firefly Magic now, very useful indeed with a whole different mindset to adopt which resonates well. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. inkbiotic says:

    ‘If we focus on only one thing, we never find out what else we are capable of’. These are comforting words! I can certainly relate to the battle for creative attention, a push-me-pull-you. Do you find when you’re struggling with the writing you can escape into painting for a while? Or that they suit different moods?

    And thank you for recommending that book to me on Goodreads. I’m trying to throw myself into promotion, I can almost find it fun when it’s going ok, but when it’s going badly, I hate it. I know ultimately it’s better if I take responsibility for selling my book, but I’d still like to dump all of it onto someone else and just spend my time lost in imaginary worlds. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • lynnefisher says:

      Thanks, Petra. I think writing has the strongest pull because I’ve been painting for years now and my creative painting ‘me’ knows what she is doing. Writing is more challenging, more brain work required, especially novels. I’m working away on my second one, and crawling along at a snails pace, trying to handle the intricacies that seem to be coming at me around the 70% mark, still a long way to go. Painting is far more relaxing and sheer pleasure, so when I’m being pulled around it’s the one that feels like an indulgence. Writing is more of an escape, albeit it an intense one! On the whole though, I love the combination of the two in my life that express different parts of me, as I expect you’ll understand yourself.

      Yes, happy to let you know about the book on marketing – its more about mindset than technical, and so refreshing. I’ve already tweaked my keywords on Amazon. Also Lauren mentioned Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur, he has some free info too and presents it clearly https://kindlepreneur.com/ I know how you feel about marketing though – the thing that gets me the most is that there is too much information to digest, too many different opinions and you can be left feeling in a whirl and inadequate. This is the kind of thing Lauren talks about…best of luck with everything, Petra, sounds like you are tackling it well enough :>)

      Liked by 2 people

      • inkbiotic says:

        Yes, kindlepreneur is great! He puts things simply which I really appreciate.
        Is the new book a follow up to the first? Or a totally new story? I’m looking forward to reading it either way.
        I’m getting used to promotion, it offends me less than it used to 😉 My problem at the moment is that I have new writing (two different books I think) crowding my head and I want to just focus on them. But I just need to keep my attention on getting everything ready to publish. At least if this book doesn’t work out (most likely to be the case) then I know there is something new to get excited about.
        Good luck with the last 30%! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • lynnefisher says:

        Yes, kindlepreneur seems just right – I’ll certainly be using him (Dave) in the future and I’m going to check out some of his links in the meantime to see if I can do some tweaking. The second is a totally new story, tho I may come back to turtle beach some time (I do miss the characters). Like you, by the sound of it, I want to try out different themes. It’s a good feeling to have two back-ups that you want to get on with, I’m working on the present one, while wanting to get on with the third, but these were put on the back burner while the first was ‘getting ready’ and being published – there really is only so much you can do with your head at any one time…. . It’s funny because I’m going to see if I can get a trad agent/publisher for the current one, and while I’m waiting (time will be fixed for that waiting time) I can get on with the remaining work in progress (3 chapters in). Good luck with your publishing, Petra – it’s a steep learning curve isn’t it? Your novel honestly really sounds like a great theme, I’ll be reading it for sure. Cheers!

        Liked by 1 person

      • inkbiotic says:

        Thanks for all your support, the book will be on Kindle Unlimited, so if you’re on there it will be free!
        Good luck with the rest of your book, and with the trad publishing. I reckon after self-publishing you’ll probably have a better idea how to go about it – I feel like i know more now after only a bit of research. Anyway, keep us posted 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • lynnefisher says:

        Will do, thanks Petra!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. So many threads and thoughts here as usual Lynne… I’m always glad the family aren’t interested in anything I do!!!! because I feel that talking about the book/painting etc slightly dulls the edge or creative force…
    I can write a whole book and never mention to anyone, or tell my former husband about it! It’s as though some energy or magic leaks away or is lost by talking about it, for me…

    That word ‘selfish’! My feelings now I’m older is that putting oneself first ( unless it’s a child or baby needing attention) is our spiritual duty – Hillel’s words – “If not you – who? – If not now – When?” are my motto, as also those wonderful words from Ibsen’s Dolls House, when the husband is telling her that her highest and most sacred duty is to her family, and the wife replies that her most sacred duty is to her own soul… those words have sustained me in some dreadful situations, and though few understand or accept them, they are a spiritual imperative I can no longer ignore.

    A propos the marketing thing, when I said I hated having to market myself when self publishing, and you replied that established authors have to market themselves too, I totally understand…but when for example, Collins published one of my books, and required me to help market it it was they who organised the speaking engagements and booked the hotels and paid for the air fares! That helps a little !
    And please help me out – what is an HSP ???

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      Hi Valerie, yes, I get what you mean about family being disinterested being a good thing – I felt like that for years. Not my parents as such, they were fine, but outside of them…no explaining to do could keep the creative me separate and protected in a way. But when it feels like there are certain pulls on your time, or even just the threat of them in the offing, it’s then I wish there was some indication of appreciating where you are coming from. It might just be making assumptions of course, but my instinct is usually correct. Which brings me to HSP, highly sensitive person. A lady, Elaine Aron, wrote a book about it http://hsperson.com/ , and it took off from there in people becoming more aware. There is a test you can take (isn’t there always!) But for those, like me, who have frequently been told by family (again outside of my parents) that I am ‘too sensitive’ – it certainly fits, and though I don’t see much point in waving a flag around to declare it, its good to be aware of it in myself.

      I love your quotes which challenge ‘being selfish’. To be honest, I always have put my spiritual needs first. It was just in me, because I got circumstantially ‘stalled’ when I was a young adult, so that set me up for wanting to live my life my way from there on in. Sometimes, though, it is right for family matters to come first, they just need to be calmly assessed first!

      Marketing for published authors – well, I think the big publishers probably do organise signings and appearances, especially for big names, but i’ve been told that no longer happens as such with many other publishers. It’s the expectation that we have that if we get a publisher they will do all the marketing, but these days it simply doesn’t seem to be the case. This is mentioned in Lauren’s book. So nowadays, that side of it has to be done by the writers to a large extent whether traditionally published or self published. Your experience sounds like the kind of thing writers dream of – what a wonderful time you must have had (though it was probably hard work too).

      Thinking my next post will be a simple one – we’ll see!

      Cheers, Valerie

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Idle Muser says:

    Here comes a wave from your unfaithful reader, Lynne. I get so stuck with my own stuff that it takes me weeks to realize how I keep on missing the articles/stories I should not.

    This is another helpful and insightful post, which I could have missed, like many others, if I had not pushed myself to open your blog. As you must be aware through my ‘Big Magic review’ post, I am also planning to include sketching in my routine (which, by the way, I’m yet to,) this post has saved me a lot of time by making me aware of the situations I can encounter in coming days.
    In fact, if it is possible, I feel this tug of war happening even while sailing in one boat; it happens between reading and writing, which are a part of one art form.
    I will try to go through the other link and the book (mentioned in the last) too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      Thanks, Aditi…yes, I can have the pull between reading and writing too. Good luck with planning your routine. Its starting to seem to me that to have a schedule might be a good thing to clarify for oneself the varying loyalties :>)

      Like

  8. A.P. says:

    One thing you touched on is something I identify with very strongly, concerning the response to my “artistic news” at family gatherings. My older sister (God rest her soul), went so far as to inform me that the reason people in the family were having such a difficult time relating to me was because I “did not talk about the usual subjects.” It took a while for me to grasp that most of my birth family members were simply unable to relate to the excitement I conveyed when pleased with a creative accomplishment. Not being creatives, they would rather I discuss the price of gas, the newest dish washing detergents, random crushes on the postal mail carriers, and so forth.

    However, in my acquired family (artistic partner, artistic daughter), I have often run across a opposing frustration, in that each of us may be more interested in sharing their own artistic achievements than responding with reciprocal exuberance to the achievements of another. This is most pronounced between my daughter and me, specifically with regards to our musicianship and singer-songwriting. My lady friend is much more receptive to my achievements than is our daughter. Somehow my daughter competes with me for the artistic approval of her mother, who doesn’t have a jealous or competitive bone in her body.

    So while the members of my acquired family understand the creative experience, they don’t always resonate with the individual achievements of other family members, being as they are themselves imbued with creative fire — and fire is being fought with fire. The members of my birth family, not being creatives, only draw blanks. They seem continually to wonder “what kind of strange trip is he on?” This of course can be very discouraging, as they combine disapproval with a sense of being misunderstood.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      Thank you, Andy! This is fascinating…yes, I think we can all agree on non-creative birth families as such, not asking about, and not getting, where we are coming from, and yes, its feels demoralising at times, if not alienating. Topics are as you have described perfectly! As for the acquired family creative sharing, this kind of makes me realise why I’m glad I didn’t marry someone else creative. My hubbie, thankfully, is fully supportive so there is no competition – all he gets is me trying to suggest something he could do if he fancies it, but he says he gets too bored too easily to see a creative project through. So I think if he had been creative (he is in his own way, in small flurries, and in this way he has helped me enormously with my projects) we would have ended up with the fire versus fire scenario, that you experience with your daughter . It’s lovely that your partner is creative but also non-competitive in this way. Cheers, Andy!

      Liked by 1 person

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