The Balance of Creativity + Health

What is it like being a creative business owner who also has to deal with an incurable disease? 

I'll be honest, there are challenges that others who do not manage long-term health issues do not understand in full. This is part of the reason why I first applied to lead a TuesdaysTogether group through the Rising Tide Society just for creatives with chronic illness. It's been more than a year now since I made the leap to focusing full time on my painting. I figured I would share some of what it's like being a chronically ill creative in the business sense.

Managed Expectations

One of the first things you're supposed to do when venturing into a business is set short term and long term business goals. Setting goals when you are simultaneously managing an unpredictable health situation can feel a bit like trying to nail a wet noodle to a wall. So while I do set goals, I also have some basic guidelines that help me maintain perspective and balance in managing my business. 

  1. Be realistic - know your limits. I try not to feel hindered by the physical limitations of my disease. I also know that in order to be sustainable as an artist, I have to be realistic about the amount and type of projects I take on. The timelines I give for projects are generous in an effort to under promise and over deliver, and to mitigate any disruptions that unexpected flare ups or treatment complications may bring. It is great when I can deliver a finished piece early. If my health means I can't deliver early, I've already been up front about my typical turn around time so my customers are in the loop and don't feel that I'm falling behind on work.

  2. Give grace - forgive yourself. This one is hard. There will be times when all the planning in the world cannot account for the unexpected. You may disappoint clients, co-workers, or yourself. Your goals may remain in the future, or feel unattainable. You might have to adjust your business plans. That is part of doing business, even as a healthy individual.

  3. Re-evalauate often. I opted to pay my sales tax monthly so I can regularly evaluate my business and schedule. When I pay my estimated quarterly taxes, I take that time to review my cost of doing business and my profit/loss report to gauge how I am doing from an administrative perspective. This also helps me evaluate the way my health is impacting my business, and gives me insight on how to improve that balance.

  4. Remember why. Why did you start this business? For me, it came at at time when my health cost me my job. I had gone from full time to part time, and eventually my symptoms became too much for me to perform my job. When I realized that I had run myself into the ground by trying to keep up with the perceived expectations of a 20-something college graduate, I decided to take a step back. I know that right now, my art work cannot replace that income. It was a very hard decision to make to adjust and budget for this new adventure. When I remember that I'm not in this to replace my old income, but to prioritize my health and invest in an opportunity that gives me purpose - that is when I feel most at peace with myself and my business. It's not the typical response of an entrepreneur, but something I have found is a common thread of truth among creative business owners who are managing chronic health issues. Often times the circumstances surrounding our health directed us to choosing to pursue our creativity as a career.

I've found that my story is not actually unique. There are many of us who are doing the best we can to balance our creative endeavors with the emotional, physical, and financial burdens of managing chronic illness. While I am far from an expert on the subject, sharing about my experiences in our TuesdaysTogether group and on my social media platforms has been an important community-building experience for me. I'd love to hear from you and know how you have found ways to balance your creative business with the demands of your chronic illness.