"The practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks."
"The silliest word ever invented."
It is easy to get lost in the practical aspects of life. Organising our finances, doing the weekly shopping, making sure the home is tidy… all of that is important, and it can make our lives better. However, it is paramount to bear in mind that adulting is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
When we think of a stereotypical genius, it often comes to mind someone who is so engrossed in their own passion that they put to the side all the other aspects of life - a painter who paints for days without eating, a writer who lives in a messy studio, a scientist who doesn’t know their own children.
It is easy to see how ignoring one’s responsibilities can be tempting. However, in the long term, this is likely to lead to a life of starvation, messiness and general discomfort, all for the sake of our calling - unless we’re so lucky we have a personal assistant, or so selfish we let our loved ones take care of our burdens in life.
What shall we do? On one hand, we don’t want to waste our time with all the boring stuff; on the other hand, we have little choice but to waste that time. I have thought about this dilemma and compiled a list of attitudes that can be of help. Enjoy!
1 - Be efficient. do the mundane activities in such a way that they improve your life in more than one front.
Doing daily chores in a calm, deliberate manner can be an excellent way to decompress and clear your mind. Thich Nhat Hanh, on his book “The Miracle of Mindfulness”, recommends washing the dishes and washing clothes as exercises in mindfulness. (I highly recommend that you read this wonderful book and learn how to wash the dishes the right way).
Listening to an audiobook during your commute can be an excellent way of using your time and improving your artistic self, if the book is about your preferred art form.
2 - Get rid of gimmicks. Gyms, smoothie machines, home made bread - if it complicates your life and doesn’t give you pleasure, get rid of it. Go back to the basics. How many gimmicks do you really need for a better life? Is there a simpler alternative?
If you can walk or run to work, why spend one hour on the tube and another extra hour at the gym thread mill? If making a smoothie every morning is too much trouble, why not have the fruit in its natural state? If you can get fresh bread from the bakery next door, why go to the trouble of making your own?
Companies often try to convince us to do something easy in a more complicated way, because the complicated way involves buying their products.
3 - Pay for it. If you can afford it, it might be worth paying to get rid of some tasks you dislike. If you hate going to the supermarket, do your shopping online. If you abhor cleaning the house, get a cleaner - they’ll do it faster and better. Very important, never rely on unpaid help (your partner, your parents, your flatmates) to do the boring work for you. It is very selfish to expect people to take care of your responsibilities out of love or exasperation.
Of course, if you live alone or if you can forget some chores without making an impact on other’s, that would be perfectly fine.
4 - Always make space for art in your life. If art is important to you, treat it as a vital necessity - as much as eating your dinner and brushing your teeth. Put some time aside every day to do what you want to do. Treat it as part of your adult responsibilities.
5 - Understand which parts of adulting are actually helpful in your pursuit of an artistic mind. If you need outer order to unleash your creativity, make sure to keep your work space tidy and clean. If your bed is uncomfortable and doesn’t allow for a good night of sleep, do a bit of research on new mattresses or mattress toppers. If cooking an elaborate breakfast is the best way to get you inspired on the weekends, go ahead and put on your apron!
6 - Think like a hero! Think you’re on a mission, and the mission is to develop the artist inside you. Think of the big picture, of what you want from life as a whole. Where will you be in ten years time? What did you will wish you would have done now? This frame of mind might help you when deciding - should I spend the next half hour sketching or choosing a new door mat?
I am sure there are plenty of other strategies to balance the call of mundane tasks and the pursuit of a creative mind. Feel free to leave your ideas on the comment section below!
As for this week’s homework, here are my suggestions:
1 - Think of one task that gives you less benefits than working on your art, and consider how to avoid having to do it, or how to spend less time doing it.
2 - Think of another task that you can do in a more efficient/ pleasurable/ creative way.