Workin' that 9-5..
I always get asked how I manage to create art and work full time in a corporate field. It wasn’t an easy decision to come to before high school graduation. Being as passionate as I was with art, in my mind, I could either spend a few years at OCAD and *hope* I get a job somewhere that is creative and aligns with what I’ve learned, or I could go into a job field that I’m interested in (and that pays me well) which allows me to create art on the side rather than it being my main source of income. As difficult of a choice as it was, this was a choice I do not regret making. My worst fear was that my art would become such a task, such a “job”, that I just wouldn’t enjoy it anymore. I went on to graduate my law program in 2013 and have worked with an amazing firm in Downtown Toronto ever since. Now, I can still hear you from my last blog post: Sarah, you’re an artist! How can you work a 9-5! In your same Jerry Seinfeld-ish type of voice. Well, let’s take the pin out.
I agree, the 9-5 life is not for all artists. A lot of creatives worry about how to manage their time and energy between their job and their work (job being a 9-5, work being your art). As I gained more experience doing both, I was eventually able to find a balance which I found helped me so much. Being able to find a job / work balance is the most important thing to keep your creative energy flowing. After an 8-hour day at the office, I would come home, wind down for the day and begin to create art. There were no demands nor deadlines to the art (unless it was a commission) and with a set schedule, I was able to create art even after a day at work. With the pandemic happening this last year, however, these balanced scales started to tip. With 2020 bringing everything to a screeching halt and things came to a close, it opened a lot of other doors. When I got back from my last art showcase in New York and learned of Ontario’s first lockdown, of course the first reaction was not a positive one. Trying to run a law office as the only legal assistant / office administrator / accountant from home for almost six months was tiresome to say the least and it definitely had its challenges. At the beginning, I would wake up as if I’m going to the office only to just walk from my bedroom I shared with my partner at the time to my art studio space I had in our apartment. This space was supposed to be for my art, but instead I was made to turn it into an office space where I would spend 8 hours a day in, 5 days a week. By the time my day was done, I was so over being in the art studio that I didn’t even have the energy to create. For those first few months, no art came out of me and I was very blocked artistically. Not having a separate space to work and to create art was such an imbalance that it made me stop making art all together. I say all this to say, if you are an artist looking to create art on the side while working full time, finding a work / art balance is one of the most important things to be able to handle both, but so is making sure you have dedicated space to create. As soon as the job scale in my life started to gain more weight, and the work scale started to lighten, I could feel myself losing the motivation and will to make any art. My only focus was my job, above all else, and it took a very hard emotional and mental toll on me which was clearly portrayed through my lack of work.
I eventually moved into my own apartment and as time went on, I was able to dig deeper into myself, my needs and my wants not just as an artist but as a person. I took myself “off the grid” (all the while, working from home still) and really got to know who I was and the direction of which this new person wanted to take. It was a year of reflection, shadow work and just over all getting in touch with my higher self to be able to fully embrace who I am telling you about today. I made my entire space look like an artist gallery. There is creativity flowing throughout the entire 660 sq feet of my space and I am constantly motivated and inspired. I dedicated my “dining” area to being an art space and I was finally able to separate my job and my work for the first time in months. It may sound silly, but doing my job at my dining table and doing my work at my art table really made an astronomical difference to my mentality and how I felt about doing both in the same space. Even though the spaces were still one, that separation between the two brought a new spark to my creativity that now carries on to this day.
However, before getting to this point, I took that break from making art, doing shows and everything in between. From 2015 to 2020, I pushed myself so hard to be the best I could, even when I didn’t have the gas to keep going. Sometimes I pushed myself past the point that I can handle, and even though things still got done, I was not taking care of my mental nor emotional health in the in between. With this pandemic, I was forced to stop, take a breath and remember what is important and necessary to be a better more rounded version of myself. I made sure to take as much time as I needed to achieve this and for those who have been following me and my art journey already, you know I was away for some time. It was a rollercoaster, but the overall thrill of coming out the other side a different and better person and artist has made the whole ride worth it. As I started to plan what was to come ahead for ORANGEinal Art for 2021, I felt my past-self putting this pressure on me – you need to create! It’s been so long! Get going!! To which I said – Daddy, chill. I know myself and my high self well enough now to know when it’s time to take time and when it’s time to use it to create.
If you start to feel overwhelmed at your day job, make sure to dedicate some “you” time to be able to regenerate the energy you’ve lost from those 8 hours. Find a balance between your job and art that works for you and make sure to stick to that schedule. Dedication and determination goes a long way. Dedicate a certain amount of time to art a day or make a weekly schedule that works with your timing. Do not stress out by putting pressure on yourself to create. A well-rested horse can go so much further than a horse that runs itself to the ground every single day. So find your balance, because you never know when an imbalance will begin. And you really have no idea how far it can go as it can literally change your life. In order to find true balance, however, it takes more than just time and energy. Find balance within yourself as a person to be able to know when it is time. Time to rest, time to meditate or even just time to turn your mind off for a bit, whatever that looks like for you. Knowing what you can and cannot handle and how much of either can be handled is important to be able to know how to manage yourself and your energy when it comes to playing both sides. It can be done and it can be enjoyable! Exercising this advice can help you master your energy in your job / work balanced life.
For more great pointers on how to navigate through the job / work life, please read How to be an Artist Without Losing Your Mind, Your Shirt, or Your Creative Compass: A Practical Guide by Author and Artist, JoAnneh Nagler.
Thanks for reading and stay ORANGEinal!