Saturday, July 26, 2008

Swinging on a Pendulum

A few weeks ago, I was running flat out-- I went from the Mariposa Festival, directly to the Haliburton School of the Arts (where I taught guitar for 7 hours a day, five days in a row), directly to the Canterbury Folk Festival, and finally home. It was a pretty hectic couple of weeks.

And then, just like that, it all came to a screeching halt. Three weeks with no gigs. I almost don't know what to do with myself.

But it will all change again in about a week, when I’ll get on a plane and head to Nova Scotia for the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival. A few days after that, I’m in Owen Sound for the Summerfolk Festival, and then a few days after that I leave for five days for The Woods Music and Dance Camp, where I’m one of the main organizers and I teach a guitar class.

It’s an embarrassment of riches, really, because festivals are fantastic gigs for musicians. It’s a chance for us to perform in beautiful environments, for people who truly appreciate the music. And probably best of all, we get to hang out with each other-- a rare treat in a business where we are often criss-crossing the country on our own, rarely seeing or talking to each other.

But I can’t help thinking about the "feast-or-famine," pendulum-swinging existence I seem to live most of the time. Finding the balance between the different aspects of my work and personal life is not easy. When I’m in an intense period of performing, I’m not able to do much of anything else. And when I'm not intensely performing, there is usually a host of other things I should be doing. There's booking gigs, writing songs, recording, applying for grants, keeping my web presence up-to-date, following up on connections made at festivals or other gigs, practicing, running the office, being my own manager, planning, and so on. But to be honest, after an intense few weeks like I just had, when I find myself with unstructured time, it's pretty hard to put my nose to the grindstone and get down to all the things that need to be done.

In short, I don’t think I’ve yet managed to find a good balance between performing, teaching, writing, practicing, recording, running an office, booking and managing myself, not to mention relaxing every once in a while. I wonder if I ever will.

It doesn't help that the lines between my personal life and my work life are now blurred beyond recognition. Once upon a time I worked normal, nine-to-five jobs, where I showed up at a workplace and I had stuff to do every day that fit into a larger structure. Then I went home and had a personal life. It's not that I wasn't working hard, but I had a sense of work time separated from personal time. Now I have to create my own structure. Sometimes I’m better than at other times, but generally I’m a pretty un-disciplined person. I'll jump from one thing to another, never quite completing anything, and since I don’t have to work at particular times, I find myself working at very odd hours sometimes.

And sometimes, when I should be working, I goof off. I admit it. I don't have anyone looking over my shoulder, and it's hard to be motivated when I don't have a deadline.

And my latest epiphany: modern technology does NOT help with this problem of work/personal balance (I know, I know, where have I been the last ten years?). Ever since I got a laptop and we put a wireless router in our house, I can work or play from anywhere, leading to the “I’ll just lie on the couch and answer all my email” syndrome. I find myself responding to work emails or updating my website while I’m watching TV, or just before I go to bed (which leads to the equally egregious “I went to sleep at 3 am because I thought I’d just check my email before bed” syndrome). Am I relaxing? Working? I can't always tell.

I know I'm not alone with this dilemma. A quick search revealed a few different bloggers writing about this very issue, here and here. Seems we're all trying to figure out where work ends and play begins.

I love what I do, and I know I’m lucky to be able to do it. I try to remember that when I find myself clinging for dear life to that swinging pendulum, struggling to keep all the balls in the air.

OK, enough kvetching. Time to go book myself a gig. Or update my website. Or finish that song. Heck, maybe I'll goof off...

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Blogger Lynn Harrison said...

I think you're doing really well, Eve! Besides, when we're in the midst of all the chaos that is life (an artist's, or anyone's really), it's hard to recognize all our accomplishments. I agree that technology sometimes create more problems than it solves--too much distraction and a constant feeling of being "on", for one--but at the same time it seems to me you're using all your resources with great intelligence, grace and spirit. So, play on...or indeed, loaf away!

July 28, 2008 4:18 PM  
Blogger Eve Goldberg said...

Thanks Lynn,

On my better days I can recognize my strengths and forgive myself my weaknesses. At other times, everything seems totally out of whack.

But it's nice to know that other people think I'm balanced!

July 29, 2008 12:17 AM  

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Name: Eve Goldberg
Location: Toronto, ON, Canada

I'm a musician and songwriter based in Toronto.

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