This post is primarily an answer to a question that was asked of me.
It is not the first time I have been asked this question. In the past few years that I have embraced my art-making and story-making I have received incredulous reactions to my "productivity". The question is usually how am I able to make the time to make?
Last week I read a post by Joanne Harris on Twitter that basically sums it up:
Joanne even had another related post on how she gave up house chores and in the process she had a messy house but 18 novels.
It will vary with each person. Even for the same person, it can vary on what you can give up at a given moment. It's not just one thing. Maybe one or more major things and then a lot of little things that make up a day.
When I decided I want to be an artist it was a life decision. I was just two years into freelancing and still received employment offers because of my dayjob skills. But my desire to be an artist is a soul call that outweighed the call of financial stability and security. I gave up more than one dayjob opportunity. I stuck to being freelance. When I have dayjob projects I screen them for value in terms of money and time and energy. Even if it will pay me a lot (and they rarely even pay enough), if it will cost me too much recovery time because of the intensity of mental, physical, and emotional demands, I say no. (The saying no part is very hard. I believe one has to literally reach a certain age to be able to do it well.)
I gave up an old lifestyle and status that were largely based on the expectations of others. I became clear on what really mattered to me on a day-to-day basis. I overhauled my way of faith and trusting in the Universe (or God, or whichever belief system you subscribe to goes here). I redefined every rule I ever learned or lived by ever since I became an adult.
I gave up people and relationships. I kept those that are truly alive and that keep me authentically alive. This meant less obligations, less duties. And if I would really rather stay in on a weekend than go out for a meal (or even attend a reunion) I don't get judged or guilted.
I gave up traveling, and a lot of big-ticket spending. I have been working on zeroing all debts. I gave up the things that would keep me in debt (credit cards, home loans). This meant I don't have to work so much and for so long for a lot of money. This meant I can use time to make art. I still want to travel but I want to do it for the right reasons and with means that are true to the path I have taken.
I gave up "shopping" and "retail therapy". I buy what I need when I need it and I pay in cash. I still indulge from time to time but these are meaningful (and eventually useful) indulgences. Like books and art materials. Like a nourishing delicious meal. I've trimmed my closet and accessories to essentials that I get to wear every week and also feel and look good in. I have hopped off the trend train long ago. I buy items that will last as long as possible. I repair as much as I can. I buy local and from small business as often as possible to help out others who are like me. I also realised I don't need as much retail therapy when I am making art.
My dayjob work is very taxing mentally, physically, and emotionally. The nature of the work I do for money goes against many of my own values but I am also breadwinner for the household (parents and sibling) so I still have to compromise a lot. When I have a dayjob project there is a battle that goes on. The dayjob spirit tends to choke the creative spirit so I often need recovery days. I have been trying to find a good "balance" for the past six years but I have yet to find one that works more than once.
What's working for me now whenever I have a dayjob project:
It may also help to mention that I am very much an introvert. I don't have very active social circles or activities. I don't spend a lot of time chatting online either. My social media is mainly for sharing and creating content. I limit my online interaction and engage only when necessary. In real life I go out with friends less often than once a month. My own parents and sister are introverts so on weekends we also tend to be in our own spaces and get together about once or twice a month for half a day each. So all supposed "social" hours are instead put into creative time. That could also be a variable.
It's a bit funny because I often feel I am not as productive as I should be. I do Asian drama marathons as well as reading marathons (but I have to say, these do a lot to inspire my art-making). I spend time doing nothing -- when everything just goes blank and empty and needs to take a long pause. I like my sleep, taking my eight hours' worth at night and naps in the afternoon. I have my totally lazy days when I let go of all attempts at being productive.
My Instagram sometimes looks like I have an ideal life but I scrape by day to day. The not-too-hidden price of my creative productivity is also the occasional panic on whether I will meet next month's rent. Every year I think about taking back one of the biggest things I gave up -- the monthly security of a regular paycheck. It has been eight years so far.
I hope this post helps. :)