art, stress, life balance, & art

Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.” — William Gibson (novelist)

Gibson’s quote popped up on facebook recently. It was useful reminder that it is emotionally draining to notice the world, and that feeling sad and stressed regularly has legitimate environmental causes.  It’s tempting in our medicalized culture to medicalize our emotions rather than stopping to feel them and implementing the systemic lifestyle changes it would take to actually eliminate stress and anxiety.

This is something I’m thinking about a lot lately as I’m dealing with the ordinary stress of making financial ends meet while leaving myself enough time and emotional energy to make my art. The main trouble seems to come from the fact that my part-time job is surprisingly (or maybe not at all surprisingly) draining because it requires working one-on-one with remedial college students for ten hours at a time. So in addition to taking up my art time in the most straightforward sense, my part-time job also seems to require that I now take days off to rest and recuperate from it– which cuts even further into art time, but without which my nerves and immune system (apparently) crash and burn.

Ok, maybe the main trouble is that I’m a workaholic with no absolutely boundaries between work and life. I’m not used to this idea of “days off”. Just thinking about it feels like peeking over the edge of a cliff. I grew up on a farm where there was never, ever a full day off. This every day work routine is deeply embedded in me, and yet it is unsustainable in my current life configuration (as a recent minor illness reminded me).

So, freshly admonished about the importance of taking care of oneself, I’ve been doing some number crunching to figure out a new schedule/lifestyle. In terms of days spent not making art, my part-time job has become a full-time job because it requires “off” days where I sleep and recover and do whatever people do on days off. My concern is that this new, healthy life balance I’m trying to achieve, relegates my art days to just two or three a week. If I’m being candid, the piddly income generated by this part-time job (which I like doing and excel at) starts to not seem worth it compared to what it costs me and my art career. However, drum-tight finances necessitate that this small trickle of income continue.

Occasionally, I feel like a brat when I get cranky about lost studio time; I don’t think of art as optional and as such I take it very seriously. Still, it’s difficult to know how hard to fight for an art career in the face mounting bills. Frankly, making conceptual art is a great way to spend all your time going broke, and yet I can’t imagine doing anything else. I have come to understand why it is that many successful artists have come from wealthy families, or starved for their art; it’s all about making sure there’s enough time for art. That’s the key. But since I’m neither wealthy nor willing to starve, there has to be a middle ground that will work for me. After some brainstorming, possible solutions include: getting a large art fellowship (possible if I maintain the hustle in my bustle), finding a pot o’ gold (chances slightly less good than the fellowship), getting a platonic sugar daddy (could happen), or hiking up my panties and getting on with finding a sustainable life balance (sigh) while accepting that working more slowly is not the end of the world.

Or I could keep working nonstop till I die.



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