“How can I make this all work?” is a phrase I try to get my daughter Abby to put into action as she struggles with balance around homework, activities, boyfriend, friends, and family. I thought about that a lot this past weekend, as she had a terrible time figuring out how to fit everything together during a state fencing tournament that she was part of. She is an introvert at times, which doesn’t help. I can see her shutting down before my eyes when she hits some internal wall of overload. Communication then becomes a huge challenge. To pull her back, I try to ask the questions about what she can do right now, what she can put off, what she must let go of, how she can structure her time to fit everything in.
I try to teach her that balance is a strength.
This is similar to the challenge of keeping our art going when life is, well, life. Today I am already chanting, “How can I make this all work?” because of the unplanned morning phone call from my son asking for help with his nine-month-old daughter Camille. I chose to say, “How can I make this all work?” instead of, “No, I’m busy,” because I see this as a call to put my own words into practice. I still have writing time. I can be on my laptop while Camille plays. Her presence will force me to take breaks I’d need anyway. And she will probably make me laugh while her family all gets to do what they need to do.
Maybe this is why the sentence that stood out for me last week in Chapter 8 of The Artist’s Way was this one: “Art is the act of structuring time.” The biggest challenge for most of us who do creative work out of a studio at home, besides getting paid, is structuring our time. There are loads of articles about that talk about drawing boundaries and making appointments just like any other business. And those would all be correct. Still, there are discussions to be had around this issue that recognize gray areas and tap into ways we draw on the strength of all our connections to make a life that integrates our artist selves with everything else. Being disciplined is a good and necessary thing to get the work done. Balancing that discipline by asking, “How can I make this all work?” is the other piece of the equation that allows us to have a full life.