Against the odds

Attempting to live life as a serious, full time writer is always going to be difficult. Despite our best intentions, we are often caught up in the day jobs that promise to pay the bills; the family and friends wanting attention and other things that seek to keep us away from our true calling. If you’re lucky enough to be able to give your full attention to your art, to be able to set aside large amounts of free time to your work, I envy you. For many, like myself, creative time seems to fall last on the list. Often being pushed aside for more pressing chores and engagements. Often for the mere necessity to eat and sleep. Creativity doesn’t choose an appropriate time to come calling, those ideas often come at the most inconvenient time. Only to be pushed to the back of our minds or hurriedly jotted down on a shopping receipt between tasks. When there is time, it is often at the end of the day, when tiredness creeps in and threatens to kill any seed of an idea before it reaches it’s full potential.

I was talking to like minded friend recently about this issue. As an artist, she shared my concerns of the pressure a full time job puts on creative output. While the money may be more reliable, it leaves little time for inspiration or practical creative tasks. We talked about the need to dedicate regular hours to an ongoing project, the continuity that is so important to a finished story or painting. Also of the lack of time to see friends and family, to travel and do things that inspire new ideas. I once read that doing mundane chores or tasks can aid creativity, because our brains are not actively engaged with what our bodies are doing, therefore freeing them up to work away on an idea that may be waiting for development. But I believe this only works if a balance is achieved between the time doing the mundane tasks and the free time available after to develop the idea. (The irony is I’m editing this in between paying bills and making dinner!) Writing, like painting and other creative arts, is a workout for the brain, just like any other muscle. So the more you do, the more time you have to dedicate to the exercise, the more you will build that muscle and the more effective it will be. Perhaps too much creative exercise can actually be more harmful. We all know of the Shakespearean phrase ‘too much of a good thing’.  Maybe it’s not so much an issue of writers being able to do what they do full time, but rather a question of what they feel capable of. Every writer, like every artist, works differently.

Sometimes that decision is not in your hands. The Arts are one of the most difficult professions to make a career out of. Which is why so many established writers also turn to day jobs, albeit media related, as well as regularly running workshops and promotional events. In a multi dimensional media world it helps to have multiple skills.

When it comes down to it though, surely any output of creativity is positive. However many minutes or hours you find. With this in mind, all you really need is a quiet room somewhere, a full belly and a good night’s sleep. The rest will come naturally.