Ten years ago I wrote on this very blog a bit about balancing family and creative business. I also admitted to staying up all night to get my creative time in. Late night working was precisely how I kept up a wooden toy business back then and it was also how I wrote and illustrated Crappy Pictures for those years and wrote books at the same time. Neither one of those were sustainable for me for very long, leading me to disappear from the online world for long periods of time. Hello again, burnout. Stuckness.
Still, I tried so hard for balance. BALANCE! Was it like a seesaw or a teeter totter? Or was it more like a pendulum that swings back and forth? If I could just understand WHAT it was and how it worked maybe I could achieve it.
Turns out, it isn't a state of balance that I need for a sustainable flow of creativity, it's a state of wholeness that I seek.
Flow, 2020. FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified pine, handcrafted stains from indigo, earth clay and rocks. 12" x 12". Not for sale.
The segments of my symbol represent the non-negotiable elements of my life that must be present for the circle of me to be whole and happy.
My seven are: family & relationships, learning, health, home, nature, self and creative expression.
When all seven are in place I can stay afloat, or flow creatively. When a segment is missing, the shape is broken and I am no longer able to roll forward. I am stuck. I sink. Not in a place of flow.
The segments change size, they wax and wane based on what is going on in my life. They would look very different through the years, but the important thing is that they are present and being attended to, no matter how small a sliver they temporarily become. What I cannot do is let one take over others or turn my back on any.
Now that I have this Flow symbol, this visual representation for how I want to guide my life every decision is checked against it. "Does this decision nourish one of my parts of flow? Does it take away from any? Do any need attending to?"
This framework allows for much flexibility. Could I ever make the decision to stay up until 2am looking at knitting patterns online? Well, yes, it could certainly be a way to recharge (self/health) or to enjoy myself (learning/creative expression) if I haven't had a chance to do that in a while and that part of me felt like I needed it. Make sense? So what about deciding to stay up until 2am multiple nights in a row? Well, then it starts taking away from sleep too much, which is taking away from health, and my irritable tired self the next day would be taking away from family & relationships.
It is a method to keep in flow in a slower and sustainable way. This check in method reminds me to nourish all of me, not just the new project I'm excited about at the expense of everything else.
Side note: the brown segment was colored using clay that we found at the edge of the prairie when we dug our dog's grave last year - that is the family segment. The one that represents home was colored with indigo that I grew at home. Other colors were sourced from trips to Lake Michigan with my family, hikes and travels. The colors themselves and the process of obtaining them also connect me to the meaning behind each segment.
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