A recent conversation with Philip Bloom got us thinking: How do other artists find balance in their lives? We scoured our archives and pulled out the best pieces we could find. While a lot of the thoughts here are consistent, they’re certainly not uniform. Balance is something everyone has to find for themselves — and usually through a painstaking process of trial and error. There’s not an easy answer.
Some people, like Jared Hogan and Eric Owyoung, believe balance gives them creative freedom, the ability to distance themselves from their work, the confidence to fail. Others, like Vincent Laforet, admit that, “Sometimes people create the most amazing art when their life is completely out of balance.” And then there’s Eliot Rausch whose interest in understanding film pales in comparison to his interest in understanding life.
Wherever you land, it’s safe to say that balance only comes to those who look for it — although probably not right away, and not without a struggle. Here are seven perspectives on finding balance in an artistic life.
On your bio page it says, “I am a husband, I am a father, I am a lover of Jesus, and least of all, I am a filmmaker.” Do you really feel that way?
It’s another one of those daily things, reminding myself that I’m not defined by what I do. It’s hard. It’s hard to remember that. Sometimes it’s how I feel, but sometimes it’s how I want to feel. If I’m honest, I guess it’s probably more often on the side of what I want to feel.
We did a teaching at my church a couple years ago called, “Don’t Put Jesus First.” It sounds shocking, but the idea is that Jesus should be part of everything you do. Instead of ordering your priorities in a numbered hierarchy, Jesus is in your marriage, Jesus is in your family, Jesus is in what you do professionally. That’s how I try to operate as much as possible.
I try to be a good dad and a good husband. I try to live a life that reflects what I believe. And I just hope that ends up affecting my art in a positive way.
I think it does. Because it’s not everything to me. When I screw up, I don’t have to collapse. My identity and my worth are not wrapped up in what I do. I’ve got a wife who loves me, kids who love me no matter what. More than any of that, I’ve got Jesus who paid the price for me. I’m not relying on me. It takes the pressure off, which frees me up to make creative choices I might be too afraid to make if everything was always on the line.
I think I approach the craft differently than most directors do. I’m not a technician. I’m not someone who studies other films and other filmmakers and tries to assemble my career based on other people’s trajectory…My work isn’t always the best because I’m not always trying to perfect my craft. I’m usually looking for some way to better understand life.
I hear you’re taking time off to be with your family.
I always try to do that. This past month and a half I was literally on the road solidly. I just wrote a blog post about that. I’m also trying to refocus in general because there are so many incredible distractions. It’s very easy to get lost in that. I try to limit checking my email and go back to doing the more creative stuff that I used to do before all of these electronics. It’s one of my goals right now. It’s far too easy to fill up all of your free time and your creative time by living in this new social media world. It takes a lot of discipline to stay focused on the prize and on what you want to accomplish.
For people who are creative, I think there’s sometimes this tension between doing good work and living a good life.
And that tension never goes away. Balance is the most important thing in life and in film and in art. Of course, sometimes you create the most amazing art when your life is completely out of balance, and sometimes it takes finding balance to be able to move forward….Balance is the key to success in many ways. But, ironically, sometimes it’s when you’re out of balance that things happen as well….There’s no easy answer other than the fact that all experiences are creative, and we all deal with them differently. You’ll see some people who seem to have it all together and are successful, and then you’ll see some complete wrecks who also produce brilliant work. I think that’s part of what makes us creative. We’re all striving for something, and we won’t feel good until we get there.
Do you feel like you’ve found a way of sustaining the life that you want as a musician and a creative person?
I do. I really do. It’s been this amazing full-circle effect….I feel like I’m in control of being able to decide when I work, which is an amazing place to be. I think, for a long time there’s sort of an expectation that you have to say yes to everything. Now I feel like I’m able to be really specific about what I’m doing and who I’m working with. The perks of that are when I’m not making a record or writing or touring, I have a home life with our friends, with our community, and most importantly with my husband.
We’ve learned to balance. It’s not easy because we’re apart from each other for long increments of time. That’s really difficult. But we have our tricks. We have our ways of preparing for that.
We just had a baby recently, and I’ve started questioning my motives for everything. I’ve started wondering, Why do I care about any of this video stuff? I’ve started wondering why my identity is so wrapped up in what I do as opposed to what I have, who I am — my family.
Four months before we had the kid, I really started thinking about identity, about whether I could be a father first and foremost. I realized I’d never really thought about what it means to be an individual, what it means to be happy. For me, it had always been about the work I was doing. And then all of a sudden you have a kid, and you’re not making so much stuff anymore. You see so many people creating amazing stuff around you, and you start thinking, Well, I haven’t done anything in a while. It starts messing with you. It’s easy to forget where your priorities are.
It’s this journey of figuring out exactly who you are and being OK with that. For me, it’s being a dad, being a husband — these are the things that are really valuable, you know? Those things are going to last longer than any project.
I really like being grounded. This past year, I took the whole year off from touring, which was really life-defining for me. I think a lot of artists are just out there on the road, and it’s a very, very interesting and dangerous place to find yourself. There is nothing to be grounded to when you’re on tour except really unhealthy things.
What did you learn during your year of not touring?
I think I began to define myself without the word musician. That’s been the healthiest thing for me. If you identify yourself as a musician, and you see your occupation as musician, and you’re worried about writing the next hit song and becoming more popular, those are things that can only get in the way of bringing out the true music that’s in you.
When you’re thinking about all of those things, you’re not writing from deep within. But when you get rid of all that stuff, you’re like, “You know what? This is what’s inside of me, and I just want to create because that’s what I want to do.” I think it’s a really different process.
I feel like there was a lot of junk in my life surrounding being a musician that I was able to push out of the way and get rid of. I started seeing myself as just a person. Whether I was a musician or a doctor or a jobless person, there was still a “me” in there.
Can you identify what’s changed? Have your habits changed?
I used to worry a lot. I used to work long hours. My wife — she’s a visual artist — she once said that people’s creative abilities have a lot less to do with the muscle and time they put into their art, and more to do with the freedom they have….If you give me a whole month to sweat it out and work on an album, just trying super hard, that effort may produce nothing compared to one hour of absolute freedom.
Whenever I come home now, I know there are projects I need to work on or prepare for or edit. There’s always something to do. There’s never a moment in my life when I feel like I am completely done with everything I need to do. Never. I got to the point where I was working too many hours at home. I’d get back from a job and be editing until two or three in the morning. I was in a relationship at the time, and it wasn’t good for the relationship. That’s the problem of working at home. It’s too damn tempting to keep on going.
The truth is, I want to have kids. I want to have a family. I thought I’d found the right person. When she left, it was devastating. I had tried; but as often happens in every area of life, you don’t make changes until it’s too late. Hopefully you learn for next time. You’re going to make mistakes. We are human. As long as you learn from those mistakes and don’t keep repeating them, you’ll become a better person. I believe the most important thing is having balance. Spending time with friends. Playing Xbox. Whatever makes you happy.
Here’s to happy, creative, balanced lives. Whether balance means spending more time with your family or less time on social media, we hope you’re finding it. And we hope we’re finding it too.