Recently, a friend asked me how I balance writing and art in my life. She said that she never seems to have enough time to do both and can’t decide which one she should choose. I gave her a brief response and then decided to let that question stew for a few days while I considered it. I’d never really thought of it much before; writing and art are two things that I’ve always made time for in the past few years of my life. I’ve thought about choosing one or the other in terms of future career, but never as a choice I faced in my present life. But its a dilemma which I’m sure is faced at some point by everyone who both writes stories and draws or paints visual artworks (or who has any other two major artistic passions–writing and music? dancing and drawing? etc, etc)
Honestly, I think the answer is simply that you have to be diligent and form a habit of making time for both every day, if at all possible, or at least every week. I’ve been in the habit for years of writing as soon as I get up in the morning (or as soon as I get off work, if I have to work early in the morning) and drawing or painting in the evenings, during my nightly relaxation time. I don’t usually stress over it if I’m busy for some reason and can’t make the time to do both (or either) in a given day. I really just try to take a relaxed approach to it, although that isn’t to say that I don’t feel guilty and berate myself if I don’t get any creative work done! Anyway, to me, it’s all about being diligent. It is my personal opinion that it’s rare to find a life that is truly so busy that there is no time for art. Your life might be so busy that it’s hard to muster up the energy for art. But there’s almost always going to be enough downtime to spend at least an hour or so each day working on art, whether you want to spend it doing so or not. So, if you truly want to do art and have time for both, then you really just need to discipline yourself and make yourself do it. Maybe you can write one day and then draw the next, or spend half your free time writing and the other half drawing. Everything might take longer that way, but then you’re still pursuing both passions.
But even if you’re doing that, it’s almost certain that you’ll still, at one time or another, be faced with choosing between the two passions. I’ve gone back and forth so many times between writing and art that I finally just decided I had to do both, because every time I picked one I’d suddenly get really passionate about the other. I don’t know that I can really offer any advice for choosing one or the other. It’s very likely that your primary passion will switch back and forth a lot over your life. There have been times of my life where I was focused mostly on drawing, and other times where I hardly drew at all and spent most of my creative time writing. I’ve also gone back and forth a lot on which I wanted to pursue as a career. I wanted to go to school for illustration; I wanted to devote as much time as possible to refining my stories and searching for a publisher. It was and is very hard to choose.
But, speaking from a philosophical standpoint, why should you choose just one? The great thing about love is that it is infinitely expandable. One can never have too many passions. Something Robert Heinlein, the science fiction writer, said comes to mind.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
When I first read this quote, it really struck a chord with me. Why specialize? Why not do everything you want to do? Of course, there are good practical reasons for specializing, such as the fact that no one has quite enough time to do everything. But I don’t see any good reason why, if you have two artistic passions which you are equally fascinated by, you should have to choose one or the other.
I’m not sure if this is any better an answer than the rather brief one I gave to my friend, but hopefully it gives people something to think about.