It’s no wonder this is a hot topic in our crazy world of nonstopness. The hands of the clock seem to be going ever faster and the responsibilities we face grow ever more numerous. And as we think more about balance, we have to consider the flexibility we can allow ourselves. Whether you earn income from a creative business or you are thinking about your own job creatively, the question of how much flexibility you can afford (read: handle) is inextricably tied to questions of balance.
I recently spoke with Stephanie Fizer, a full-time artist & illustrator, about this topic.
Tara: You recently talked about the “Fine Art of Slowing Down” on your blog. You’re working smarter, working less, and producing more. I’ve seen a lot of discussion around this lately – and we’ve even talked about it on Scoutie Girl. Do you think the 12 hours and out of control work ethic are important at the beginning of a business? Or can you skip ahead to the “working smarter” part?
Stephanie: It’s funny because I was seriously just thinking about this the other day! And you know, I really don’t think you can skip ahead, I think you have to put in the long, hard hours to really appreciate the business that you’ve built and to really appreciate how wonderful it is to work smarter and work a bit less. But you know I’m one of those stubborn people that has to do everything the hard way first before I can really see the better way to do things.
Tara: I don’t think that’s stubborn! I think that’s just normal.
Stephanie: Well that’s good to hear.
Tara: That seems to be the consensus around the issue. Yeah, it’s good to talk about taking lunch breaks or 4 hour work weeks – but if you want to do something great, you have work your ass off first.
Awesomeness comes easier as you go along.
Stephanie: And you know even though I’m working smarter and all that, I still catch myself working long hours.
Tara: I think we always will. Comes with the territory of doing what you love – and ya know, I don’t think I’d want it any other way.
In reading your “Quit Your Day Job” interview, I found out your parents run a small business. It’s great to have that kind of support! Unfortunately, not everyone understands being self-employed or running a creative biz. How do you respond to others who don’t understand that you have “a real job?”
Stephanie: I can’t even count how many times I’ve had to explain to family–even to my parents–and friends exactly what I do on a daily basis and why I can’t just drop everything whenever they call. There is always a certain flexibility with this whole work-for-yourself gig, but if you give yourself too much flexibility, you’ll never get any work done at all! I’ve found that it’s helpful to set boundaries with those people who don’t believe that I actually have a real job, like letting them know that there are certain hours of the day when I am usually working hard and very focused and that during those hours, I can’t just drop everything for a three hour lunch or a dip in the pool–although as miserably hot as it’s been it’s hard to turn down a dip in the pool!
Tara: So true – both about the flexibility & about the HOT.
Stephanie: I had to have the flexibility talk with my parents too, which cracked me up because they are business owners too and have always dealt with the same thing.
Tara: It really makes me wonder what the line between flexibility and work is. As a society, we’re edging towards more flexible work environments but, as a work force, I really wonder if people can handle it!
I’m with Stephanie on this one. I need boundaries for those around me. My ability to have any sense of balance in my life is tied to my ability to rein in the flexibility I feel around my creative career. If I want to achieve balance, I have to accept a less flexible work arrangement (note: it’s still pretty damn good…). And if I want to maintain ultimate flexibility, I have to accept a less balanced life.
What do you think? Do you prefer balance or flexibility? Or can you have your cake & eat it too?
Read the first part of my interview with Stephanie on creative ownership.