The Balancing Act of an Artist

From “ONE of THE GUYS”

When people ask me what I do, I say, “It’s simple. Imagine a jar filled with rocks. The jar is everyday life, the rocks are my kids and my wife.”

“But what about you?” they say.

“I am the sand that gets poured in to fill all the cracks,” I say.

And you know what, that’s exactly what it’s like! I am a musician, writer, and teacher. Basically an artist as one would define it. This pursuit allows me a lot of flexibility in my schedule, so I’m able to make our busy lives a little less crazed, and metaphorically “fill the jar.”

To be an artist and do it “right” you have to immerse yourself in your chosen field, whether it’s composition, painting, writing, pottery, performance or whatever. You have to live and breathe your art. And you have to be open enough to say yes to every possible opportunity. If you don’t allow yourself the freedom to go on tour, or work whenever the muse hits, or move to a new city because you found a better environment to do your work in, you have to figure out a way to enjoy the small victories.

I’ve chosen to live a more “normal” life; one with a family that I actually spend time with on a regular basis. So I am not doing it “right.” In fact, being a  father and husband is diametrically opposed to being a true artist, mainly because of the time and commitment constraints. So, I’m forced to become as malleable as a young child’s mind and say yes to every little job that comes my way. Like this to a prospective student:

“Sure I can teach you. What time? 2am? No problem, I’ll be there after my gig.” When I say yes to something like that, I feel like a cheap whore, willing to turn any trick just to make a buck.

I would argue that anyone who’s living through, or has lived through, the trials, victories and defeats of raising children has much to bring to his or her art. It’s just that there is no time to actually bring it. Sure, some people can do it, but it’s not easy, and it feels contrived somehow to try and fit it in. That doesn’t sound very romantic and certainly is not what a “real” artist would do. A “real” artist sleeps until whenever. Works all day. Meets up with the rest of the local artists at the cafe in the late afternoon. And then after drinks and discussions, resumes working until the wee hours of the morning.

Of course I know that’s total BS and just the way I envision it to be. The world really isn’t like that anymore. The reality is, living costs money, and whether you have kids or not, the bills need to be paid and food has to be bought. So maybe, doing it “right” is all a matter of perception. Hmm…….

So fine, I can live with small victories. A cool gig here and there. A fun recording session; that actually pays! Some great comments here on The Guy’s Perspective, or releasing a CD or book. Because I don’t write this out of bitterness. I made my choices and I’m generally happy with them. I love my family and wouldn’t trade them to be famous.

But damn, it does seem like every time I have something interesting scheduled, something comes up with my kids, my family or just life in general. I mean it’s uncanny, like the fates are conspiring against me.

I know many of you reading this are also struggling with balancing your artistic endeavors with your domestic responsibilities. How do you make it all work? How do you balance things? Do you feel like a cheap whore too?

Well gotta run. Master calls. I got a sick kid who’s ringing the bell for me. Ahh, the life of an artist. Isn’t it grand?

26 Comments on The Balancing Act of an Artist

  1. For me, life comes before art. That’s why I write aphorisms and why until 6 months ago I never even showed them to anyone. I want to be free and flexible to do whatever the moment calls for, not be tied down to one thing as if it were the be-all and end-all of my existence. The way I see it, everything in my life has equal value, whether it’s writing an aphorism or going for a walk or spending time with friends or even brushing my teeth. The last thing I’d ever want is to live and breathe my art, to have that kind of obsession. That wouldn’t be freedom or happiness to me. Breathing the air is good enough.

  2. Life does get in the way of my creative flow as well.

    I am forever responsible for taking care of my family first – which does not always allow me, or afford me – the time to really WRITE. Thus, its been two years and I’m still working on the rough draft of my first book.

    But, much like you said, I wouldn’t trade my family for ANYTHING.

  3. My husband’s mantra is “Life is about finding balance.” And it’s so true. Even when your children become adults, parenting in one form or another remains. It sure sounds like your are on the right track, and I know that isn’t easy. Just be aware that those of us who know you through your work admire your artistry. And those of us who know you through your blog admire your candor, sincerity and great writing abilities. So you see, you have fans at home and fans here. Voila! Balance.

  4. I just decided to make my family part of my art. I still haven’t found balance but they are such a part of my creative life whether being part of my blog or my book. I do understand how the fates seem to conspire against you. Without fail when I have a meeting with a client or worse a potential client one of my kids will get sick, usually the one who can’t be left alone all day long. I figure I will really get my act together in about 12 years when the little one graduates.

  5. Very well put! I love how you describe yourself as the sand, but remember it is the sand that also holds all the rocks together. So you should be very proud of you life of a ‘normal’ artist. And yes, life always seems to get in the way of the fun stuff ~ and sometimes the fates are against us but one day fate will go our way! 🙂

    And PS I love the fact your sick kid is ringing the bell for you! You are now a slave 🙂 lol

  6. Life just gets in the way. Period. And, I don’t even have kids. But, then again, life inspires art 🙂

  7. I’m still working on the balance of creating more time with family and friend and yet cashing in. Perhaps, life wants to test us on how determine we are too.

  8. I feel like I’m doing a balancing act between career woman, aspiring teacher, fiance, and housewife, all in one! I know I want kids too, so then I’ll be wearing the Mommy hat as well. But I think that’s the fun part of life, the balance. I’m not sure I’d want just one job. It sounds to me like you’re doing a good job of balancing, and as long as you have some time for yourself and your art, you’ll be a better dad/husband/musician/teacher for it! Keep up the good work, whore! 😉

  9. Alas, guys. You know that this subject is hitting me particularly hard right now. After a blissful year of unemployment, which gave me time to start my blog, I am now once again in the office doing what I dread most: accounting.
    I must say, I don’t have it as bad as you. I don’t have kids at least. I honestly can’t even imagine it. Three cats are kids enough!
    I, too, dreamed of a beatnik life of discussing poetry and writing over cups of espresso and writing whenever the urge struck me. But like you say, this isn’t reality. My year off was like a dream come true; but unfortunately I always knew it was only a temporary dream. (Of course I had dreams of my life turning around and being paid to write, but this didn’t happen!)
    I still want to make time to write, and I was happy I updated my blog last weekend.
    I, too, am involved with music. We have music every Friday night and have various guests over to perform with my boyfriend and I. Because my boyfriend is involved with it too, I’ve kept up with that. And we even hit a recording studio ourselves and did a demo while I was off work. A great accomplishment! But while I’ve always done music, my true passion is writing.
    I find the balancing act a little depressing, actually. Thanks for the post.

  10. I think that whether your passion is art, music or even business you will have regrets about your professional life when you have a family. That being said, I think that these regrets are still nothing compared to the regrets you would have if you felt you were neglecting your family life. The founder of Walmart said on his death bed that he was a failure because he had a son who wouldn’t speak to him and other family members thathe meant nothing to other than a big inheritance. Look at Michael Jackson, the most successful musical artist of our time, but one of the loneliest men ever.

    You’ve got it right with the focus on family.

  11. Thanks for your support Tina. I’ll try to keep that in mind when I get frustrated. Your story about the founder of Walmart hit home!

  12. Yes, I can feel your frustration. Me too. We just have to keep going for our small victories. Very cool about your music!

  13. Thanks Date Girl. Funny! You’ll be a great mom I’m sure.

  14. @BK…..I’m not sure it’s life testing us, but yes, those with determination often achieve all their goals.

  15. @Brooke….so true! And yes, I realize that. It’s just difficult sometimes.

  16. @E…..I’ve been a slave for a long time. Thanks for your kind words!

  17. @Jen….yes, it never fails. But you’ve got the right attitude for sure. Such a positive outlook!

  18. @Cher……you are so sweet. I’m blushing!!

  19. @meleah……yes, we agree on that. But sometimes it’s just so frustrating.

    @nothingprofound…… have such a unique and refreshing outlook on things. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Hang in there! LIve long enough so that they can take care of you hand and foot. Heh heh. That’s the best -well, not revenge- but I think you know what I mean. That’s what my dad is doing for me and has been for the last four and a half years. Zippity-doo-da! But anyway, I can’t imagine dealing with that type of dual role -unless you want to count my Dad as a dependant of sorts.

    See ya around.

  21. Wow. Very well said. Loved the way you expressed yourself. I would have assumed myself to be the lid of the jar which is empty. And that is because, I am not married and nor do I have kids…
    Anyways, have a wonderful weekend…:)

  22. Let me tell you buddy… I feel like a maid, waitress, cook, butler(or whatever the fuck the female version is!), a chauffeur, I have to play porn start in bed, I have to play ‘nice’ with all the stuck up mothers in school… SO YES I feell like a fucking cheap whore!!!! And people wonder why I’m a crazy bitch??????

  23. Writing, being a single parent, struggling with physical and mental illness… when you find the answer to finding balance between artistic endeavors and domestic responsibilities, let me know, I could use the advice!

  24. @Ashley…Raven…..yes, we all have to wear many “hats.” Tough to juggle for sure!

    @Kelly….Mr. Stupid….thanks and yes, see you around.

  25. The jar is never full without the sand, and hence life is not fulfilled without you!
    Your balance act is art in and of itself! Thankfully there are those who think outside the box! You are one of them!

  26. In real life as well as in real art… everyone’s process is different; the experiences individual; the outcomes beautiful in the eye of the beholder (which is all that freakin’ matters.)

    Carpe diem!

    The Balance Beam Babe

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