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Work/Life Balance For Artists: Five Tips

The Work/Life balance is tricky under the best of circumstances. But, balancing “work” and “life” as an artist can be even more challenging than for those with a 9-to-5 conventional job.

First, there are the added stresses of freelancing. Paychecks are unreliable. Benefits are non-existent. And the thought of saying “no” to a gig in order to have downtime throws many of us into a panic (what if no one ever offers us paying work again?)

Second, artists have a lot of “work” that isn’t immediately recognizable as “paid.” We practice our craft, without compensation. We write pieces we have to pitch, with no guarantee of finding a home. We paint, compose, craft, and build projects that may never earn us a dime. We take classes and workshops that not only are we not paid for, but which often cost us a small fortune, but it’s how we improve. And writing all that off on taxes? Sometimes we don’t earn enough for that to matter in a substantial way.

Lastly, we love what we do. Not in an I’ve-got-such-a-great-job, I-love-my co-workers kind of way, but in an I would do this every day for the rest of my life for free kind of way.

Except, we can’t, because we have bills to pay just like everyone else.

Plus, no one lives by art alone.

So, how do we take all of that and still figure out how to balance out life and work? Here are five tips to keep you happy and balanced and centered, which in turn, will help you make better art.

1. Have a hobby you love that is unrelated to your professional life

Artists have to perform their craft at the highest levels. We are always striving for perfection in our professional life. Hobbies are for doing something you love without the anxieties of being perfect. Hobbies are for us.

For me, it’s time with my horses. I love working with them. My time with the boys is my favorite time of the day. I also spend a lot of time reading and educating myself about horse health, horse training, and horse behavior.

I will never earn money with my horses. I’ll never show or get paid as a trainer or win a competition. That’s not what my relationship with them is about. My relationship with my horses keeps me grounded. It brings me happiness.

(Many of you know how important my animals are to me. My most read blog post to date included my cat Coal Train interviewing #NotMyCat, a cat who owns a well-known mystery author . . . Click here to read.)

2. Have something you enjoy that gets you outside

Getting outside is more than just a change of scenery from your office, studio, or workspace. Most people know sunlight provides Vitamin D, but it also helps with our mental health as well. You don’t have to believe me, there is plenty of research on the benefits of sun. For example, this article here on Healthline.

Fresh air can perk you out of an afternoon slump. A quick walk has the benefits of low-impact exercise and increasing your heart rate and metabolism. And though weather can be an issue, even fifteen minutes can help. So bundle up, or head out early before the heat and get those steps in!

I’m lucky, I live on a river. But even I can forget how beautiful it is in my own backyard. Sometimes I have to remind myself to go out and have my coffee there. Listen to the birds and the water and stay centered in nature. Even if you live in the city there are usually local parks nearby where you can find the beauty of the great outdoors. You don’t need a forest, but find yourself a tree.

3. Never devalue the time you spend on your craft, and don’t let anyone else devalue it either

Whether you are practicing a new technique or drafting up a short story in a new genre you have been dying to try, every moment we spend with our craft is valuable. It’s easy for non-artists to think that because we “love” what we do, it’s always “fun.” We all know sometimes we’re sitting at our computer when it’s NOT fun. It’s also easy for non-artists to think that because something doesn’t “work” and we don’t “sell” it, it was unimportant, and didn’t have value. But we know different.

Every “failure” teaches us something to apply next time. It’s how we find our voice, improve our style, perfect our craft. If your significant other or close friends or family devalue the time you spend on your craft or want you to stop what you’re doing because “you can do that anytime” or “it’s not like you’re getting paid,” they are devaluing you. Stand up for your artistic self. Value your artistic time. Show them that you view it as your profession, and they will view it that way too. (If they don’t, that’s another issue that might have you rethinking your relationship with that individual.)

4. Never feel guilt over not working for free

Most artists work for free on occasion. We donate our time or a project. We help out someone who is just starting in our craft. We provide constructive feedback and instruction to others, just as others helped us when we were new. But there’s a huge difference between offering up our skills and services and being made to feel guilty over our rates or the value of our work.

No one can devalue your work without your permission.

Customers aren’t buying your work, they are buying the thousands of hours that led up to the product they want to buy. That’s the value. If you don’t see that, no one else will.

5. Have a work wife you can vent with, but also prop each other up

It’s important to have someone in your life that fully understands the challenges of an artist’s life, who isn’t your significant other. Someone who works in the same industry, faces the same ups and downs. But along with the (necessary!) venting about what’s hard, make sure you are also celebrating each other’s success. Having someone you can turn to for the good and the bad can help you weather the storms and share the moments of triumph. I’m lucky to have a crew of amazing writers who I can turn to for advice and kudos.

Whether you are a writer or an actor or a painter or any other kind of artist, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with building a following, perfecting a craft, and maintaining romantic and personal relationships. But working to include these five tips into your daily or weekly life can help make things a little better.

Leave me a note about what YOU do to keep your life balanced.

We’re all in this together!

Header photo from Pixabay.

Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.

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