It comes the very moment you wake up each morning.
All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.
And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back;
in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view,
letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.
And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings
and frettings; coming in out of the wind.
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I certainly do not exist from nine to six, when I am at the office.
― Wallace Stevens
Balancing Work, Family and Creativity
There are times work consumes my life, other times it is family at the front. Creativity hovers around the edges of my week day life and tends to get the leftovers from me late in the evening. I have to be careful to nurture my creativity, to focus on it and it alone for at least a short period each day. That’s easy to say, harder to actually do.
Lately, I read more and more that it is impossible to balance one’s work and personal life and not even desirable. I disagree. We need to be passionate about what we’re doing at work, but so often it seem family and creativity lose out in that scheme. I use routines to help me get things done quicker and I try to remain aware if I’m spending too much time with one thing or another.
Each day though, is a balancing act to keep work, family, and creativity in balance and I cannot nurture my creativity when my life is consumed with one to the exclusion of the others. So when I’m working a lot of overtime, my creativity will suffer. Overtime doesn’t go on forever, but I need to plan ahead of things I can do anyhow or accept that my creativity will be on hold for a while. Sometimes I’ll spend 30 minutes a night editing photos or listening to a course on lynda.com. One year end, I took my camera and tripod and did night shots from the window of a conference room while everyone else was eating supper. The photos in this post are from that night.
In both Part 1 and Part 2, I used quotes from Wallace Stevens. What really caught my attention in Daily Ritual: How Artists Work by Mason Curry, was that Wallace Stevens worked a full-time job practicing insurance law. Stevens wrote poetry as he walked to and from work, jotted notes all day long and walked for another hour during lunch. I was envious that he could arrange his job around his poetry! Yes, times were different in the 1930’s to 1950’s than they are today in that regular hours were kept and when you went home, you were home without further interruptions. But still, being a lawyer at anytime is a challenging profession with many demands.
Stevens also was not immune to the conflict of balancing his personal life and creativity. The Poetry Foundation, in its biography of Stevens, notes that following the birth of his daughter, there were nine years of “unproductivity”, and Stevens “found that parenting thwarted writing”.
I laughed at that. Parenting, as rewarding as it is, does thwart creativity. There are simply too many things to do, too much fatigue, and too many demands when children are little. So while he didn’t find his job to be limiting to his poetry, apparently fatherhood was.
Today, work weeks are much longer and the stress is much more intense. I can sympathize with Wallace’s quote that his life ceases to exist during the workday. It does, but as my other two posts discussed, there are also benefits for it.
Mason Curry, whose book Daily Ritual: How Artists Work started this train of thought, had a great article on-line with Slate. He talks how having too much to do is a motivator, encouraging him to buckle down and get things done. He shares how Toni Morrison worked full-time as an editor. She was also a single parent, raising two boys. She attributed her productivity to not doing anything else in her life except write after tending to her responsibilities. Other authors are discussed as well, with how they did or did not work around their day job.
My job both decreases my creative productivity and makes my creativity easier. I don’t have the time to devote to it that I’d like, but I have opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise, from business travel that lets me explore new areas to learning technology to keeping balance and prioritizing my time wisely.
There is no one single answer, but since this is how my life is for now, I remain focused on how having a day job nurtures my creativity and work with it. I’m happier if I can balance between work and family, if I’m grateful for what I have instead of what I don’t have, and I try (as best as I can) to be open to all the possibilities I have at work and at home.
Click here to see my additional thoughts on balancing my life.
To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.
To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.