Over the summer I’ve been thinking a lot about balance. Perhaps because I’ve gone through equal stages of feeling balanced to quickly feeling overwhelmed. And while amazing ideas can emerge from adversity, this doesn’t mean that uncertainty, worry and being too busy are the best bedfellows for creativity and strategic decision making. For me, balance is the right amount of inspiration, challenges, paid work, fun and rest. These all work towards creating what I need to thrive, rather than survive. Here are what I see as integral components of achieving balance, and where I think the real home of creativity lives.
I think this is probably the most important, yet rarely discussed, part of achieving balance. The majority of us need to work to live. Not having enough money to live on — and I’ve been there multiple times — is extremely stressful and when you’re worried about money, it’s all you can think about. Because of the stress, you can often make poor decisions or start to undervalue yourself. This isn’t a good place to be. If you’re starting or not yet making an income from your work, or you’ve been impacted by the cost of living crisis. There is no shame, and why should we even think this, in having another job alongside your business or creative practice. In some ways, it can give you the freedom to work on self-funded projects, meaning you don’t need to work to always work to a brief, and have the freedom to choose clients that you have a great synergy with. I’ve recently done this myself, and I’ve also got quite a few friends who are doing this. The trick is to choose a job that you’re not going to lose yourself in: care enough but not too much. Think lazy girl job. And know that it’s not forever. Have an idea of when you’re going to leave, or what the next step is. You might also find yourself, because you’re no longer worried about money, being able to be more strategic in your business, with less of a focus on the immediate and looking more at mid or long-term opportunities.
Creating the right environment
Virginia Woolf was right when she said we all need a room of our own; however, it’s not always possible. If you’re like me, you might share many of the places you work with other people. For me, environment covers both time and space. The morning is when I feel most optimistic, but by the evening my ideas have had time to settle, and it’s about finding the right space — and activity — to bring out the best in me at these times. So I move around. I might start the morning in my kitchen writing, move into my home studio once it’s warmer, and usually end up in the evening before bed doing a 10-minute collage to wind down. Moving myself into different spaces during the day means that I’m usually comfortable, which for me is my biggest priority. And I always have my headphones!
A growth mindset
Just like balance, our mindset isn’t fixed. We are emotional creatures, feeling is what we do. A growth mindset is being ok with finding things challenging, and sometimes not knowing what to do, but having confidence that you’ll find a way. I feel this way now but it wasn’t always the way as I wanted everything to be perfect. Over the last few years of Common Exception, I’ve worked to try to let go of my ego, and stop thinking about whether or not what I’m doing is good or bad. My question to myself is does it feel good? and let it guide my decision making.
Finding the right processes
I’m quite a methodical person and like to focus on one task at a time, but I also need a deadline to work to so don’t mind leaving things to almost the due date to finish them. But how you work could look vastly different. Maybe you thrive on having a few projects happening at once and need that energy to do your best work. What’s important is to find what works for you.
It’s also important to remember balance isn’t a destination. It’s a journey. You won’t suddenly get there and go ‘I’m here! I will no longer change a thing!’ It’s one of adjustments, like a see-saw. I also lean into the idea that what works now, might not work in the future as our rhythms can change throughout the year, and throughout our life, so being flexible with yourself is a good thing — and if it feels like it’s not working, that you don’t quite have the balance you need, try shifting until it feels right.