Read any career resource and there’s bound to be something in there about work/life balance, reminding us that no matter how busy and important we become in our jobs, we still need to make time for ourselves, our families, our health, relaxation, exercise, hobbies, holidays, etc.

Ambitious people sometimes need to be reminded that these things are important. As I said in my last post, it’s easy to forget to have downtime when you’ve got goals to reach and dreams to make real. But for many people trying to form careers in the creative sector, the ideal of work/life balance is overshadowed by a bigger hurdle – finding some work/work balance.

Tell me if this sounds familiar. Until recently I was working in your typical, full-time, 9-5 job at the boring end of a creative industry (publishing). At the end of each day I would come home and switch on my laptop, aiming to produce some writing but ultimately playing games because I was too tired to think. The weekends would fill up with life stuff – shopping, laundry, family, friends – and come Monday it would be back to the grind, no close to ‘being a writer’ and disheartened by how little I had achieved outside of work over the past week.

Work/work balance is about one thing – finding a balance between earning a living and having time and energy for your ‘real’ work. Personally, I find full-time work too draining to allow me to make any serious progress on my writing. So, a couple of months ago I approached my boss about changing the terms of my employment to a four days a week instead of five. Naturally this came with a pay cut, but I now have a full day each week to devote to my writing goals – and I no longer have any excuses.

In that example, I had to trade in some money in order to gain time to work on my own projects. But I’ve also experienced the opposite problem – too much time and not enough money. For a few months in 2006 I was unemployed with no savings, trying desperately to stay afloat with temping jobs. But at least I had time to write – right? Wrong. Without a stable income I found I was too stressed to create anything. I needed a job in order to achieve that balance.

Maybe you are lucky enough to earn a living doing exactly what you want to do, but for most of us our creative careers are a process of juggling paying and non-paying roles. Stay tuned for more discussion of work/work balance and different approaches to the traditional ‘day job’.