pulling in 2 directions

*Anyone who has read this blog for a few years knows two things:
1. I’m constantly trying to balance my creative life and my academic life.
2. My academic life is usually winning.

It used to be that when I was “doing school” I was constantly day-dreaming about all the creative things I wanted to be doing and couldn’t find time to do. But something shifted this year: some where in the middle of the spring semester, I ditched any and every thought of doing anything creative and became completely obsessed with my school work. And for the first time in my life, I’ve felt a true sense of fulfillment in my teaching and research–a feeling I have not had in the last 6 years of my Ph.D. program. Not that I’ve never felt fulfilled, but 2013 has offered me so many amazing opportunities for teaching and research that it’s common for me to lay in bed at night with my mind racing through all the exciting things I get to do and want to do with my research.

The hard part has been figuring out how to stay creatively engaged. I desperately want to graduate in May, 2014 which means life this year is going to be (and has been) completely nuts. I’ve never worked so much in my life and I’ve never enjoyed working so much in my life. I think that means I’m in the right place(s). But it means giving up any hopes of another madebyrachel collection this year, which makes me both sad and relieved. (Sad because I miss making things; relieved because I’m letting the sad-part go and embracing the exciting research that is filling up my time.) I’m trying to think of ways to stay creatively engaged through May 2014. I know myself well enough that saying that I have no time for creative pursuits is one thing but actually living that reality can leave me feeling tense and anxious. I think creative people get this way when they can’t make things, and I think of myself as a “maker” more than anything else. When I look back through my writing from the first few years of graduate school (both my masters degree and my PhD), I’m struck by how often I write about feeling disconnected from my creative side and the internal friction is causes, so much so that it boarders on resentment that academic work takes so much time that creative work falls away.

I’d like to find ways to not let that happen again without getting too invested in some big creative project. I tend to dive in and never come up for air, which is why I managed to put out a massive painted leather collection last November during a busy semester and why my academic life is going so well right now. I don’t want it to be one and not the other, but 2013 feels that way already. I’m trying to find ways to be creative in my academic work–to think differently about creativity and “making” in ways that will enable me to feel that the two directions I’m being pulled are not fighting against each other. I don’t know what this looks like, but for now, it just looks like working constantly and taking tiny creative breaks every few weeks to make something or engage in materials–to get my hands on something other than my laptop key board. Blogging here has always fulfilled some of the creative connection I want in my life, but when I’m not making much, it’s hard to post anything original.

I’m curious how creative people who work in academics balance their lives. I’ve always been told that I do a great job at this balance; usually by academics who have very very little work/life balance and find it amazing I have any. Maybe I need to shift a bit and think about how I might make things for our home now that the downstairs actually looks like there might be an actual kitchen, bathroom, dining and living room in there some day. Or maybe commit to making myself one thing every week so I can feel engaged in making something other than research proposals, manuscripts, and ethnographic fieldnotes (which I also love making!).

I got my motorcycle permit last week. Maybe I should learn how to build a bike…

*Special thanks to my snaggletooth kitty Mr. Mustard for keeping me company while I attempted to make gifs for this post.

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One Comment

  1. Lisa
    Posted May 30, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    I love the gifs, Rach! Sometimes when I want to be creative or do other things in my life other than academics, I actually have to schedule it into my day and completely remove myself from everything else – no computer, no phone, etc. I know that this year is going to be crazy nuts and already is – but maybe you should try to schedule at least 2 hrs on Sundays or one day a week so that you can have a creative break :-) So proud of you, and excited to read all of your work this year! <3

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