Friday, 9 November 2012

creative quandary

dining table with printmaking equipment

It feels slightly ironic that I have come here to the Mumsnet Blogfest when my two kids and my husband are back in Germany! Still, it is the first time I have been away by myself for ages and I get precious time to spend with my friends and family back in London. But the question remains: How do you balance your creative ambitions with family life.

I am staying at my mum's who is a printmaker. Her studio is in the house. When I was growing up it didn't strike me as odd that there were trays of acid in the bathroom (for etching ), for example. There were plus and minuses from our perspective that her work space was in the home. Us kids were encouraged to make lino cuts and etchings, which was fun. On the other hand, I felt it was hard for my mum to switch off from the work, especially if a print wasn't going her way. That is the problem of having your work space at home. It is hard to create a divide between your home and work life.

If your job involves being creative like an artist, where the measure of your success is not so easily defined and the output is more personal then this can be even harder. You may also have to justify to yourself and to others that what you are doing is valid, especially if you are not earning much money through your art. If you can manage that, then you may need to find the headspace in order to be creative. I have read with admiration about authors who have written books during their babies naps, for example. (I was napping through my babies naps, though!)

litho press and bookshelf
I would like to do a survey amongst people who are artists and who have families. How do they strike a balance with their art and family life? Can they involve their kids in the process, or do they need for "a room of ones own", like Virginia Woolf. Also, how do they manage between creative thinking, where you really need the luxury of time to develop ideas and the hectic schedule of family life. A female friend of mine organises family life as well as teaching at a University and developing her own art work. Her husband, who is also self employed, is away with work a lot. She said she doesn't touch the housework until the kids come back from school. It is the only way she can get things done.

Another artist friend of mine has recently taken a self imposed sabbatical. When she originally told me this I said, rather insensitively I think, I"ll believe it when I see it. I meant it in a positive way, because she is one of the most dynamic and energetic people I know. She came to Bielefeld and in less that two years embarked on a PHD, attended conferences and formed an art group. This kind of drive is often what helps you to survive as an artist, even when you have two young kids and are a trailing spouse with an uncertain future. I can imagine that it may be difficult to put aside this drive to focus on other priorities. You can read about her sabbatical here.

It is very hard to strike the balance between work and family as a freelancer or an artist.

I  discovered this when I was working from home as a translator. If you don't respond to requests and opportunities from the outside then you may kick yourself for missing out. But if you take everything on then it can easily get too much, and your health suffers and this effects your family.
printmaking table arial view

I question myself on a regular basis. How much is too much? Will I overstretch myself if I take on this job.  I also love writing my blog, which I see as being a creative outlet for me. I also question the time taken to write it, as I now question the time I have taken to come to London on my own. 

At the same time I am glad that I have a mum who has followed her artistic career, despite being a divorced mother bringing up four children singlehandedly  and can see if you fulfil your own creative ambitions then you can still be a good mum or precisely because of that you are a good mum. 

prints in progress

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