10 Best Practices for Balance

Are there any other creatives out there who struggle with balance? I sure do!

I imagine my efforts to hold onto all that I love as if they are balloons tied to strings that I’m grasping:

I found this reflection in my book, Refrain from the Identical: Insights and Inspiration for Creative Eclectics, and thought it was so applicable for this post about balance. I give 10 tips for finding balance in our artistic pursuits, but these best practices could apply to anything we are trying to add to our already full lives. (I added some photos for interest).

The Fine Art of Plate Twirling

            Have you ever felt like one of those plate twirlers at the circus? You know the trick: you get one plate spinning and then add another one until several are moving simultaneously. This is often the way us creative eclectics approach life. We cannot resist just one more interesting project, so we hoist it up in the air on top of another stick. Unfortunately, limited time and experience inevitably cause some of our ingenious creations to come crashing down. We lose perspective and have to pick up the pieces once again. 

            I have practiced the fine art of plate twirling over an entire lifetime. My brilliant teacher, Mom, twirled multiple interests and taught my sister and me to do the same. So in reminiscing the “how to’s” of this art form, I have come up with some helpful hints:

1. Accept mediocrity. Ouch! That will not go down well with those creative eclectic perfectionists out there but hear me out before you respond. The very nature of multiple twirling means you must be gentle with yourself when the product is substandard according to your critical assessment. Maintain a playful attitude—at least for some creative endeavors. Over time, it will become clearer which endeavors need your inner “grown up” to kick in with some discipline.

2. Know when to toss a dish (project) aside. Often what we start ends up not as we intended. For example, my daughter Andy and I recently decided to take a break from a five-year commitment of co-leading one of my school’s performing arts groups. A decline in commitment from the youth began to wear us down and we started dreading the practices. One day I heard one excuse too many and said, “That’s enough!” Remember the importance of play.  See Hint #10.

3. Although it’s ok to be a creative coach potato occasionally, try to get up and pursue something you think you might enjoy. Every time I watch “Dancing with the Stars” or “So you Think you Can Dance?” I get starry-eyed and want to dance again. Recently, Andy recruited me for a jazz/swing dance, and we have been rehearsing. Yikes! I get winded easily, teeter due to my equilibrium being off, and cannot get past looking at my fat thighs in the dance studio mirror. This experience is helping me to have more realistic dance expectations. Yet even though the rehearsals prove challenging, I’m proud of myself for having at least tried.

I can’t believe I thought I had fat thighs back then.

4. Only twirl what you cannot imagine living without. Although I pine over dozens of artistic delights, I cannot live without writing, blogging, photography, photo editing, and sketching. These are the main plates I will always keep spinning. 

5. Just because a plate falls and breaks into pieces doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t gather those pieces and glue them together. My first book about creativity meets this criterion. My sister, Gina, and I are in the process of a major overhaul edit, slash, and reorganize. I doubt the finished product will look anything like the original. 

6. Create a lifestyle model of plate twirling that works for you. Each of us has unique life demands that necessitate being flexible. I try to figure out how to fit all of my loves into a twenty-four-hour period (and still sleep) through a process of trial and error. A lifestyle model slowly formed that works for me. For example, I can write in the morning when refreshed. Editing happens during uninterrupted Saturdays. Evenings are great for photo editing and blogging while enjoying my creative coach potato prerogative. Vacations and long summer breaks lend to art exploration. 

7. Accept and defend your tendency to push multiple projects forward. My husband and I go round and round about this. He is convinced I’m not focusing on getting my first book finished with all the blogging. I see how they fit together and can envision the entire process. He cringes when I talk about starting one more manuscript. I give myself the leeway to have many open-ended projects. Yet even though my inner artist child enjoys some “free play” time, eventually the grown-up needs to tell that kid to come inside and finish the manuscript!

8. Be selective in sharing your plate twirling. Left-brained, sequential people will think you’ve lost your mind. In contrast, other right-brained, scattered creative eclectics will encourage you. And balance resides somewhere in the middle of both perspectives.

9. Resist the cultural pulls towards fame and fortune. We live in a worldview dominated by these prerequisites for stamping something worthy. 

10. Resist the pressure to perform. As soon as I feel like a project must be perfect, my interest wanes. I notice that children create for the very enjoyment of the experience. They do not think, “This has got to be perfect!”

Exercise: Take some time to sort through your creative plates. Mentally place them in different categories: those to keep, those to develop, and those to toss. If a plate provokes feelings of dread, it may just be the right time to stop twirling that particular artistic pursuit. You can always pick it up again at a later time. 

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