5 Ways to Weather the Different Seasons of Your Creative Life

Melissa Bergstrom

  • OnStage Massachusetts Columnist

The phrase "work-life balance" has been talked about so much these days that it's become almost meaningless. Does balance in the life of a theatre artists even exist? Each day is so different from the one that came before it and the one that will follow that it seems nearly impossible to set out to strike that fabled "balance" we all seek. Over time, I've become less interested in balancing my creative work onstage and my personal life and more curious about how to make peace with the different seasons that my life in the theatre brings.

Here's a few strategies I've found helpful when trying to navigate my life with the different parts it contains--my work as a theatre artists, my day job, spending time with people I love, and being a healthy, whole person:

1. Accept that perhaps "balance" doesn't even exist.

I always start off with good intentions about how to keep things "balanced" and sane during a month of intense rehearsals or a tech week, but have to admit that often times, the quest for striking that "balance" only makes me more stressed. I set myself up to do the impossible--during a busy rehearsal schedule, if I try to also exercise as I do when I'm not rehearsing, continue to make home-cooked dinners, and be in bed by 10 pm, I'm bound to fail. Instead I've experimented with embracing the idea that life has seasons--some allow us to binge on Netflix and be in bed early and others mean that we lose a little sleep, eat a bit more take-out, and take a bit longer to answer our emails. And that's ok. 

2. Reach out to creative community to chat with others who share the unique experience of balancing theatre/life/day jobs.

When it comes to self-care during busy seasons of your creative life, there's not much that beats making connections with friends and colleagues that know the struggle is real. If possible, make a coffee date en route to a rehearsal to share some quality time with a fellow artist. If that's not realistic for your schedule at the moment, even sharing a daily text with a creative pal near or far can help make you feel supported. 

3. Unplug.

If you're like me, you like keeping up with the latest arts related news, podcasts, articles, books, music, etc. But when you are living through a full season of your theatre life, allow yourself to fall off the wagon for a bit. Often times when I'm running from a day job to a rehearsal to an audition, I find that I both love and need some silence as a way of staying relaxed and focused

4. Turn to some of the best books out there on creativity when you need some additional support/advice.

Don't reinvent the wheel when you need support! There are so many wonderful books out there that discuss the topic of creative/personal/work balance and offer practical tips that you can implement RIGHT NOW to help you glide a bit easier through the creative seas. A few of my favorites include The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind edited by Jocelyn K. Glei, and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. 

5. If you do still find yourself needing or wanting a bit less of a packed schedule, try being pickier about the projects you take on.

In the theatre, we're taught that to get anywhere, we need to be working all the time, on any work we can get, always and forever. We're told that we don't dare have the right to turn down a project or a role until we've become Tony material. I'm going call this conventional wisdom out and challenge the norm. I've started to step off that treadmill of "act/direct/write/design/produce as much as you can (even if it kills you)!" and my goodness, the relief is sweet. Am I working more often? Not necessarily. Am I starting to find myself choosing projects that I truly love and am willing to spend more time on? You bet. Believe you are worth being choosy for. 

I'd love to hear from you! What keeps your creative clock ticking during the very full seasons of your theatre life? Do you have any tips to share for readers who are looking to find a bit more "balance" and joy during all the seasons of their artistic pursuits?