By Shreya Shivashankar
For performing artists, their passion is turned into their profession. While many would find this fortunate, it does have negative implications on the way an artist estimates their work-life balance. When you do what you love for a living, it can be difficult to notice when you are doing too much of it! If you are an ambitious artist, you might feel like you are never doing enough and the idea of resting or taking a break is completely pushed aside. But it is extremely important for a performing artist to remind themselves that it is okay to take a step back in order to take two steps forward.
After speaking to performing artists about the idea of taking a break, I could deduce that there was one common factor that was brought about in our conversations. Each of them agreed that taking a break from their art boosted their creativity immensely. Creating continuously for a long period of time will eventually lead to burn out, so a creative rejuvenation is a must. Just how different sets of symptoms have different remedies, every artist is unique and they must find ways of taking a break that works for them.
Dossmode, a music director and keyboardist for the band Live Banned, reflects on his 15 year career as a performing artist and tells us how taking time off from his art has always come organically for him. He mentions that sometimes completely tuning out music altogether and enjoying the silence helps restore his energy and inspire him. This brings about an interesting idea that completely disassociating from one’s art could actually help induce new inspiration. He personally finds that his turnaround time visibly increases once he has given himself some time off, thereby making him work creatively as well as efficiently. When your mind and body are well rested, productivity is immediately boosted.
Narayan Sharma is a violinist who has toured with Raghu Dixit after which he became music producer working closely with Charan Raj (Music Director for Kannada Films). In my conversation with him, we spoke about how creating art can be an obsessive process. Every artist wants to make art or perform their art to the best standard possible. This can take up a huge amount of energy, leaving an artist completely spent. In instances like this, taking a break almost becomes mandatory to restore mental and physical health. Narayan tells us that taking time off should be acknowledged as a reward. One way that he uses to relax during a break is by going back to nostalgic tv shows, movies, and music. This is a great exercise since reminiscing parts of our childhood can be highly comforting to the mind and could freshen up an artist’s motivation. Another recommendation by Narayan is to spend time with friends and people from different paths of life. People themselves can be very inspirational, so I would think that, while taking a break, it would be beneficial for artists to surround themselves with friends and supporters who stimulate them.
Another interesting thing I discovered is that while a lot of artists may be lucky enough to have full-time work, to the point where they struggle to find time to take a break, other artists experience forced breaks. Meghana Gaonkar, a film actor, sheds a lot of light on this. She mentions that actors often have time off between projects whether or not they wish to, unless they are at the peak of their careers. Such compelled time off can be a very insecure time for an artist and could lead to a lot of negative emotions if these insecurities are not dealt with properly. Instead of focusing on the lack of work, an artist must learn to look at the glass half-full and use this time to indulge other passions. One such passion that Meghana has turned to is academics. Having a love for books and being an avid reader, she has gone on to achieve a Masters in Literature and is currently working towards her PhD. Dabbling in different areas of interest when on a break adds a newness to one’s own personality and could have positive effects on one’s art or creativity. Concentrating on other passions can also feel very grounding for an artist who is experiencing a forced break. It can bring a feeling of gratitude, fulfilment and peace at a very vulnerable and sensitive time.
Intriguingly, Amitha Athresh, a mental health expert in counselling and psychology, talked about standards that individuals set for themselves. A person’s energy is largely directed towards achieving said standards, so we must make sure that the standards we lay down are of quality and not quantity. She strongly recommends that an artist should practise two things: (1) self care; and (2) self love. Self care should be physical and mental. We must listen to our bodies and minds when it asks for rest. Self care practised everyday in small doses can greatly avoid burnouts. Whether it is a few minutes of meditation everyday, eating a well balanced diet or speaking to a therapist/counsellor, self care should be a priority to every person. Self love is equally important. In the midst of the hustle and having your art recognised, we must not forget to love ourselves. Celebrating the small achievements, accepting imperfection, being kind with self criticism or even allowing yourself a day or more to be unproductive are delightful ways to practise self love.
In writing this article, I have come to realise that it is not important how much work an artist does but the quality of the work itself. Consequently, it is the quality of work that suffers when an artist is overworked. Although creating art or performing art can be addicting in nature, it is paramount that artists prioritise their mental and physical well being before all. If we can accept that even machines need to recharge every now and then, then why not extend that same acceptance for ourselves.