How to make time for art when your personal life takes over

My personal life has been taking over my life for the past 4 or so months.  Some events have been joyous–weddings, celebrations, milestones; some have been distressing: losses, illness, seemingly insurmountable challenges.

When one’s personal life takes control of one’s life, occupying all time and energy there may be to spare, it is hard to find time to write, compose, illustrate, film, perform, or otherwise make art.  What time does one have?  What mental space does one have left?  What energy is even available?

Here are some ways you can make time for art and make that time fruitful.

Do it in small chunks.

Small steps can make it possible to create art, in the moments between, right before bed, or right after waking up.  Strangely enough, setting aside the little moments for art can actually create mental space, remove stress, and provide a source of energy.  Supposedly Elon Musk works in 5-minute intervals, switching tasks after each of these intervals.  Perhaps we as artists can learn much about productivity and sustainable projects from him.

Create your truth.

Make your art and your creation about your struggles, your pains, your sorrows.  Infuse it with the joys that can be found inside anything, and channel your situation into your art.  Perhaps you are experiencing economic or health uncertainty.  Perhaps you are experiencing family trouble, or legal issues.  Create based on the truth you know personally, the truth that you hold for yourself as your perspective, as best and honestly as you know it.  Let art be the vessel for you to deal, in part, with those struggles.

Get up and do the work.  No excuses.

It is easy to put off work.  It is easy to feel self-pity.  It is hard to make good art, no matter how good or terrible your life is.  What matters is that you put in the work, step by step.  There is a common practice in retirement saving that says you should start saving for retirement as soon as possible, no matter how little you can contribute compared to what you would optimally contribute.  By setting aside a little each month, you can help build a solid retirement future that is not nearly as hard to realize as trying to play catch-up a decade later.  Set your “artistic energy budget” to be fed every day.  By doing the work, even if it is not your best work, you grow and learn as an artist.  No one cares how you sound in the practice room.  What matters is that you were in the practice room, doing the work.  Maybe with enough work, you will produce a breathtaking result.  But breathtaking does not happen without breathing, day in and day out.

Here’s to more long nights, tired screams, and despair.  Life is full of misery, but that should not prevent, and in fact should only encourage, our art.  Just don’t forget about your art.  Do not regret later in life that you abandoned it because things were rough.

And, importantly, know that there are a lot of good people out there, willing to help both personally and with art.  The world is a dangerous place, but that doesn’t have to stop any of us.

Happy composing, writing, painting, dancing, performing, making art, and living.


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