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!)