How to Manage Multiple Creative Disciplines
Creativity coach Mike Kavanagh provides top tips on the creative life.
Posted March 12, 2021 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan
Many creatives are juggling more than just their art and the rest of life. They are also juggling their multiple art interests.
How do you find time in a week to take care of all of your duties and responsibilities, work on your current novel, and also get to your painting and your guitar playing? Is packing so much into a week even possible?
Even it verges on a practical impossibility, artists nevertheless feel deprived, disappointed, and down if they don’t get to all of their loves and interests. That’s the theme of today’s post, from creativity coach Mike Kavanagh.
Jo was a coaching client of mine who practiced multiple creative disciplines. She was a writer, visual artist, and a performing storyteller. She also happened to be a busy mother and primary caregiver to two disabled children. One of her biggest challenges was how to manage not just the multiple roles she played as a creative person, mother, and caregiver, but also how to work with her multiple creative interests which seemed to be competing with each other for time and energy.
Jo had been trying hard to put all of these roles into different boxes and was feeling drained by dividing her time up between them. She also suffered from anxieties that she was sacrificing success in her field of storytelling when she spent time working on her visual art. These concerns plagued her to the point where she found it tough to make progress on anything. Initially, she came to me looking for tips on better time-management and productivity.
I suggested a different approach. Instead of getting more efficient at shifting between roles, I encouraged her to break down the barriers between her boxes. For example, how did her work as a caregiver and mother feed into her storytelling? How could her interest in storytelling feed into her visual art? We developed together a new metaphor to replace the idea of "separate boxes." We came up with the idea of her creative work being like a snowball. As it rolled around the different areas of her life, it picked things up and grew.
Jo realized her main problem wasn’t time management. It was her black-and-white thinking and rigid definitions about her different interests and responsibilities. Once these were broken down, she began to relax. As she relaxed, she came up with a whole new project — a storytelling performance that combined her visual art and focused on the themes of caregiving that came directly out of her life. This new project unified all the things that once plagued her under a single umbrella.
Jo still had some underlying questions about dealing with distraction. Naturally enthusiastic, she would get taken up with new "shiny" interests which took her away from her main project. We allowed for that by setting aside thirty or forty minutes of playtime with whatever interest had captured her imagination that week. This allowed her to further relax and enjoy her multiple interests. Some of this playtime ended up feeding into her main work as well.
Here are some reflection questions to help you work with multiple disciplines:
- What common themes can you find across your different fields of interest?
- What opportunities might there be to combine different fields into a single project?
- What is distracting you from your main project? Can you introduce some playtime to allow it into your schedule?