A (Passionate) Balancing Act

Welcome to Tuesdays with Chel.

Each week Chel Micheline of gingerblue dot com will offer her perspectives on our Bliss Habits. Please enjoy the wisdom and clarity she offers.

photo by David Milan

Lately, my problem with “passion” is finding time for it.

I have a lot of passions- writing, painting, creating art, gardening. And when I do find the time to attend to passion projects, I struggle with how to balance everything. There’s only so much time in the day, and for those of us with families and work, it can get complicated. But because it’s *really* important to devote time to things that make us feel passionate, I’m determined to figure this out.

I tend to work in cycles- several weeks on one passion, then a few months on something else, then maybe a third thing will occupy my time for an entire season… And while I do that one thing, the other projects are put on a complete hold, filed away out of sight until I am ready to cycle back into them.

Many people work like this, and they do it successfully. But it’s difficult for me because I find that my creativity *isn’t* like riding a bicycle. It doesn’t come back to me right away.

For instance, when I paint, I get into this “flow”. I start being able to sense how much paint to use and how much water to use and what colors work and after a while it becomes less of a thought process and more of a meditative state. I spend a lot more time creating and a lot less time figuring things out.

I’m sure it’s like this for most any passion- cooking, gardening, writing, decorating, being creative with your kids, even crunching numbers. After you do it for a while, you fall into a state of mind where you start *feeling* your way through it as opposed to *doing* it. It’s this beautiful flow, this ease of doing that sets in. And when I leave any of my passions for too long, I completely lose that flow. It takes me a while to find it again. And it makes me feel like I’m not only wasting time, but it also frustrates the heck out of me.

One of my intentions for 2012 is to find a better way of working. I’ll admit, since I’ve been struggling with this for most of my adult life, I probably will continue to struggle with it in some way. But there has to be some solution- some compromise, some negotiation, some way of meeting in the middle.

The past few weeks, I’ve been doing research and testing out a few things. Here are a few things that have worked for me. I welcome your suggestions and comments, as well.

1. Find a way to bridge the gap.
I discovered a good way to move between passions is to find the bridge that links all of them. At first this seemed like useless advices because my interests (in and out of the art studio) are really all over the place.

But as I gave it thought, I realized that a lot of my passions involve color. I use different mediums- dyes, inks, watercolor, beads, flowers in the garden- but it all comes down to putting colors together and making them dance, in a way (excuse my fanciful language here, but I couldn’t help it!)

So I use that as my “bridge”. I try to start with color every time I switch to a new project. It’s something that links me back to what I was working on, and it helps me tap into the “flow” once again.

So ask yourself, are there any common threads in the different passions that you have? Can you find at least ONE thing that links them all? If you can, use that one thing as a constant and don’t be afraid to go RIGHT to that thing when you need to switch gears.


2. Force yourself to switch gears on a regular basis.
I actually hate this advice. HATE IT. But it *really* works.

The last few weeks I’ve been painting a lot. It’s been a while since I painted, and it took me a while to get back into it, but I finally found the flow. Now all I want to do is paint. I feel a little obsessed, actually.

The problem is, my other projects (which are ongoing) started to languish. And I knew if I didn’t at least dip in and out of them, I would hesitate to return to them, and then feel frustrated when, and if, I finally did. I have way too many abandoned projects that found their way into the trash because of my habit of cycling in and out of things for weeks at a time.

Earlier this week, I got a glorious chunk of free time- two whole hours! And what I wanted to do was paint. Instead, I worked on collage. I was really grumpy and resentful about it because I wanted to paint, I wanted to feel and experience whatever it is that I’m getting out of painting right now. But within a few minutes I was fully invested and interested in the collage project.

While I worked on the collage, I did a little “bridging the gap”- I painted a little bit. I played with color. And in the process, I proved to myself that I can move between things and still get the same “buzz” that I’m getting from painting.


3. Re-evaluate your passions on a regular basis.
I hate this advice, too. But one thing I have learned this past year is that passions change. I’ve also realized that just because you are great at something, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily something that you feel passionate about.

A passion is something that calls to you, speaks to you, and makes you feel a certain way. It’s not necessarily going to be something you are good at right away. Talent and passion are two very different things.

So every so often, make a very quick list of your “passions” . Don’t think about them- just list them quickly. Then go through the list and see which ones call to you, appeal to you.

This process is NOT easy, especially if you are a creative person. Disengaging from a passion is like a break-up, in a way. But it also gives you the opportunity to explore new things, keep your brain fresh, and make new connections. Plus, it doesn’t have to be permanent.

After Gracie came home, I gave up bead making for a while. It seemed stale to me and I just didn’t have the energy and time for it. I wrote instead, pages and pages of fiction.

As Gracie grew, so did my interest in making beads again. And I found the break was actually tremendously beneficial because I was able to approach making beads from a completely different perspective, and not fall into the comfortable crutch of doing things the way I had grown accustomed to. I started from scratch, in a way. And it reignited my passion.


So, how do you balance your passions? Are there any common threads between your different passions? Are there any passions that you are hesitant to give up? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

2 thoughts on “A (Passionate) Balancing Act

    • Thank you! I so know what you mean. Just this week we shifted our schedule back a few hours and it’s put me into a tailspin. I had to remember to slow down and look at the “list of passions” and figure out what I wanted to do most with the limited time in my current schedule. Just figuring out what to do with small chunks of time can be paralyzing, at least for me…

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